It's like Mardi Gras meets the bombing of Dresden...
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The reason I haven't posted lately after a flurry of activity two weeks ago is this: I have not had internet available at my place. The wireless network aptly named "Boobies" went down while Time Warner Cable struggled to switch the bill from the former payer to the person currently responsible for paying. I have not posted from work for the obvious reason that I A) am much too busy at work to rush one out and B) I'm trying to keep the two as distinctly separate as possible.

This isn't a real post either- it's just a quick update, a picture, and then a quick something for you all to weigh in on. Everything above the picture is the update, and everything below will be the latter.Now I need some input: There is what appears to be a homeless man (he may or may not be homeless, he is most definitely a man) who networks for dollars outside of my office building frequently. Rather than the usual aggressive technique common to such in my area, he sits piled under blankets in his wheelchair with an open coffee can, and plays his saxophone. I most certainly would make an effort to give him money (most likely regularly because I prefer his approach and have sympathy for his situation) except for one thing- he's absolutely terrible at the saxophone. For someone who has an inordinate amount of time to spend practicing, he is the least accomplished player I've seen since the kids in Junior High who take band to get out of health class. If his work ethic for music is anything similar to his work ethic for work, then it is no wonder he wound up homeless. So my question is this- do I give him money? My current solution has been to bring my lunch to work and avoid the decision altogether...
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Snow Day!
While we didn't get 14-22 inches of snow, we did get enough to get this kid out of work today, and I'd like to thank the City of Cleveland. The roads, while bad, are completely passable now that the plows have gone through. However, since I live in the city, I have to park on the side of the road, and when the plows went through, they created a nice two foot high birm of ice and snow on each side of the road, making it completely impossible for my Civic with a ground clearance of about four inches to make it out into the center of the road.

Here is a short list of things I plan on doing today while home:
1) Enjoy my fireplace.
2) Read through two annual reports, six quarterly reports, 20+ earnings calls.
3) Take a nap.
4) Play Gears of War.

I also plan on doing these in reverse order.

Where you goin? Nowhere!
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Snow Day Tomorrow?
Sunday, February 11, 2007
I went and saw Babel the other night with one of my friends. Why Babel? Here's why:

Friend: "What's the rating of the new Hannibal movie? One and half stars? What else is out?"
Me: "Ummm..."
Friend: "We could go see Stomp the Yard."
Me: "Shut the hell up! What about Babel?"
Friend: "What's it about?"
Me: "I don't know, but Brad Pitt is in it..."

That's all I knew, but it was enough. Brad Pitt (along with Edward Norton, Matt Damon, Jeremy Piven and a few others) is an actor for which I'll attend almost any movie, regardless of how little I know about it. After Babel, I'm seriously rethinking that policy.

So what's wrong with Babel? With a Golden Globe win, seven Academy Award nominations, and an excellent cast, it seems like that would be a difficult question. Short answer: This movie is the 2006 NY Yankees- All the pieces work, they just don't add up to much.

My biggest problem is that the movie just doesn't make any sense if you're watching it. It isn't hard to follow, or confusing, it just doesn't make sense. Without knowing beforehand what the movie is trying to accomplish (hint: it's part anti-globalization, and more about difficulty in communication, hence the title), none of the stories tie together very well, and there are four of them. I'd give you a warning that there are spoilers ahead, but in this case, they aren't spoilers. Knowing what this movie is about would make it a whole lot more enjoyable to watch, kind of like taking time to learn the language before going to an opera. This movie is about knowing what happens next, about reconciling a bunch of seemingly unrelated events into something understandable.

Story 1: Moroccan man buys gun, gives it to his sons to shoot jackals threatening the goat herd, sons shoot at tour bus, hitting an American tourist. Police come to arrest shooter (using overhanded third world police brutality) end up in unnecessary shootout with Moroccan man and his kids, killing one.
Story 2: Man (Brad Pitt) and wife (Cate Blanchett) are riding in said tour bus, on vacation to try to cope with the death of a child from SIDS, and trying to sort out the complications in their marriage resulting from this event. Wife gets hit in the neck with bullet, no medical help immediately available, American government labels this terrorism, Morocco insists it isn't, and won't let American choppers fly in to provide medical assistance. (Swipe at US Government) Other people on the tour bus refuse to stay, leave man and wife with Moroccan locals, who help (kind of). (Swipe at industrialized peoples in general)
Story 3: Children of said Americans on vacation in Morocco are staying in the care of illegal alien caregiver. Mexican caregiver has son's wedding to attend, can't find someone else to take care of the kids, parents largely unsympathetic to her plight (Swipe at US arrogance) so she takes them to Mexico. On her way back, she is stopped by a-hole border patrol agents, prompting her nephew (driving the car) to make a run for it and drop them off in the desert. She eventually leaves the children in the desert to go find help, finds help, results in her deportation back to Mexico. (Less specific swipe at US border policy)
Story 4: Asian deaf-mute teenager coping with suicide of her mother and the resulting gulf between her and her father fights handicap using exhibitionist behavior (i.e. She attempts to sleep with everyone and anyone) and is unsuccessful. Her father happens to be the tourist, who while in Morocco, left the gun with a local guide as a tip.

Exhausted by reading that? I'm tired out just by writing it. The two real focal points of this movie are the gun, and the Asian girl. The gun is the vehicle for the anti-globalization message, and it goes something like this. American gun exported to Japan, Japanese man uses it for trips taken to escape from the problems at home, leaves gun in Morocco where teenage boys use it to wound an American tourist (resulting in the death of one and the probable destruction of their family), wounded American tourist and her husband can't find someone to take care of their kids, prompting the Mexican story that results in deportation for the Mexican nanny, and probably jail time for her nephew. The only story that ends happily is the American one- man and wife reconnect over trouble, kids end up being rescued in the desert. All of the non-American stories end in tragedy, with the exception of the Japanese one, which doesn't end badly per se, just nothing is resolved.

If the point of this whole thing is that globalization is bad for the world with the exception of America (and somewhat less the Japanese), then I can accept that. I don't agree with it, but I'll concede that the movie is powerful in its attempt to convey this message. My problem is that unless you majored in allegory at the University of Colorado, you aren't going to pick this up just from watching the movie. You're going to have to search the internet for a couple hours trying to find some reason not to label the previous two plus hours a total waste of your life.

The other focal point of this movie is the story of the deaf-mute Asian girl. Whereas most of this movie is murky and unclear as to what it wants to accomplish, practically anyone (with the exception of a possible blind-deaf person) can pick up on the damage that being unable to communicate can cause to a person. I'm not going to spend much time on this part for two reasons- 1) This post is already way too long and 2) I need to do some laundry and go grocery shopping before heading down to Quicken Loans Arena for Cavs-Lakers @ 3:30- but I will say this, there are a couple parts of this story that are brilliant. Example- One scene shows the girl entering a club, and alternates between third person shots of the action with the pounding music overlayed, and first person shots with all the sound muffled close total silence, and the camera focus switching to flashing lights. For a second, my sympathy for deaf people changed to empathy, but then I remembered how miserable this movie actually was to watch, and I went back to just feeling sorry for myself.

Conclusion: this post needs to be rewritten at least once, and don't go see Babel, unless you're J. Morgan and you pick up on all the subtle symbolism the first time.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Sorry Steve Jobs, I'm Giving My Soul Back to Microsoft
I wrote a screenplay today. I didn't intend to write one, it just sort of came to me while I was driving, so I jotted it down. It's a pretty timeless story of love, deceit, betrayal, and jealousy. It is a screenplay about movie cliches, except the characters chosen to play the leads are actually electronic devices such as laptops and media players. Confused? I'll explain.

For the lead role, that of the hard working boy from the wrong side of town, growing up disadvantaged, raised by foster parents, and with some sort of emotional disability as a result, I've chosen my old PC desktop. For the arrogant, upper class prick, who dresses in ultra premium denim and attends the finest boarding schools, I've gone a different route. For this upper crust asshole, who eats lobster and shits in gold toilet boils (figuratively of course), I've chosen my Mac Powerbook G4, and for his slightly less good looking stooge, who ends up being twice as mean to Johnny Try-Hard (played by my desktop), I've chosen my 60 Gig Video Ipod. Don't get the symbolism yet? You will.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: my old PC was a piece of crap. It was ugly and bulky and slow, and it wasn't without the occasional freeze-up, but I knew it was junk, and it never tried to pretend it wasn't. For the most part, it did what I wanted it to, and when it got too full of spyware and malicious processes started to overwhelm its capabilities, I broke the seal on some free internet system tools that didn't do a great job but kept me running. It never wanted to be in the audio-visual club, or in a fashion show, but it could run four screens of party poker at a time if I wanted it to.

My Mac, on the other hand, is the opposite. It's pretentious and showy, and intimidates people at the coffee shop into thinking I've got John Lennon playing on iTunes, or that I'm about to open-mouth tongue kiss Hermann Nitsch and than drive off in my Toyota Prius. What they don't see is that my Mac was actually the child of a single parent who was too busy with work and forcing accomplishment on his/her son (my fictional parent needs not be gender specific) to go throw a baseball or teach him how to grill a steak (my fictional parent just became much more gender specific). He/she wasn't too busy to tell him that the smoke from fat dripping into open flame increases the cancer risk, or to make a sizeable donation to get him into an Ivy League school. Basically, my Mac looks the part, but doesn't offer much in the way of qualitative difference between it and my old desktop. Furthermore, it's more infuriating when it does break, because it shouldn't due to the structural advantage it enjoyed. Yes, my Mac freezes occasionally, the battery life sucks, it never really ran that fast (I mean, c'mon, in my analogy it is a privileged white kid from Connecticut, who can't really run without tripping over his Burberry scarf) even though I acted like it did. The worst part is when it does crash, the arrogant pricks who designed it didn't include any tools I know of for a quick fix. It's the Titanic of the digital age.

When my PC locked up, I just hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete, closed some non-responding programs, shut down a few processes that sounded like they weren't important, and got back to looking for pictures of Jessica Alba. When my Mac freezes, I don't have such options. It wants me to Ctrl-Click the program icon down in the dock, or click on the Mac logo in the upper left corner, but I can't, BECAUSE MY FREAKING MOUSE CURSOR WON'T MOVE (i.e. the definition of a computer freeze). I've got to hold the power button down and start over. Granted, it may not lock up as often, but it shouldn't, and I don't expect it to, so when it does, it's much more frustrating.

As for my iPod, it suffers from the same defects. Here I am running Apple proprietary software (iTunes) on my Mac laptop, connected with a Mac issue cord to my Apple iPod, and my iPod still locks up. It probably does it at least once a week. The battery isn't low, I didn't leave it out in the cold, I didn't throw it down a flight of stairs or take it scuba diving with me. I listened to it at work, put it in my pocket, walked down to my car, took it out of my pocket and *BAM*, the screen is locked up. Can I reset it? No, there is no button to cut power, and the battery isn't removable. I have to take it back and plug it in to my laptop and hopefully it will reset, or wait for the battery to die on its own if that doesn't work (what I'm doing right now and hoping it works).

Do I care that my electronic devices occasionally don't work? Not in the least, they're complicated, and fragile. What does bother me is the fact that I pay a premium for their supposed quality, watch their smarmy television ads, and listen to every Apple-phile (present company excluded in terms of my ill-will) tell me how flawless Apple technology is, and how ignorant everyone else is to go buy a PC that will do everything a Mac does for 2/3 the cost.

Sorry J. Morgan, Redhurt, Mair, Standingout and whoever else told me to get a Mac. I tried your Kool-Aid, it tastes like expensive piss.

Now- more pictures of my condo.
I just looked at my credit card statement, and it looks like I ate at Chipotle a total of 16 times this month. Total calories: 24,000+. Total fat: 1,100 g +. Total deliciousness: priceless.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Industrial Wasteland
I downloaded and installed Camino, and it's awesome. Well, at least, I haven't had any major problems yet, which makes it better than Safari and IE for Mac.

Anyway, I moved. I no longer live with my friend's parents forty-five miles outside of the city, I live in a new condo development roughly in the city, and one mile away from my place of employment. In case you're wondering what $800 a month can get you off Craigslist, it will get you roughly this: