Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CItation Nation

Since citations have so recently and suddenly become a part of my life, I thought I'd direct you to an interesting development: The latest MLA handbook now has a style of citation for graphic narratives. Dr. K takes a look -- and comes up with a few improvements.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Better Living Through Euphemism

For your edification, the Ministry of Community Wellness and Public Service presents CanadianSexActs.org.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In Which My Dirty Mind Wanders

So I've been looking at scientific journal citations for eight days straight, and it's starting to take the color out of the world. And, as all the articles I'm dealing with are in the same field -- neurology -- I've been recognizing the same names for quite some time now.

So, as I see a familiar scientist listed as the author of yet another article, with many of the same people he or she has worked with in the past, but in a different order, with a few new names thrown in for good measure, I do what anyone would do:

I pretend they're all having sex with each other.

The history (dare I say the annals?) of neurological pathology and experimentation has some of the kinkiest partner-swappers the world has ever seen. In my mind, the citations read like this:

North, P., Jameson, J. Jeremy, R. Giovanni, A., and Lee, H. 1992. Repeated exposure of pizza girl and pool boy to latex, baby oil, and various syrups available at the International House of Pancakes: A study in endurance and stimulation. The Secret Journal of a Horny Housewife, Vivid: 69-L7.

You should see the abstracts.


Monday, March 23, 2009

More Exciting Citations From The World of Science!

This is the sort of thing I'm typing all day:

Rydmark, M., and Berthold, C.-H. 1983. Electron microscopic serial section analysis of nodes of Ranvier in lumbar spinal roots of the cat: A morphometric study of nodal compartments in fibres of different sizes. Journal of Neurocytology 12:537-565.

It is now all too clear to me why scientists go mad.


In Which Rob Gets a Bad Case of the Creeps

After a hike yesterday, Kathy and I stopped in to a convenience store to -- well, to completely obliterate whatever health benefits we achieved by hiking. (Still, it's good for the soul, right?) But as I roamed the aisles for a snack, I noticed what will possibly be the most disturbing thing I'll see all month. (And this is likely the month we do our taxes, so that's saying something.) What caught my eye?

The Magazine Rack of the Damned.

It wasn't much of a magazine rack -- just a wire, free-standing job. And it had only three magazines on it: One issue of Penthouse and two copies of Seventeen magazine. Right next to each other.

And in this shady little store that seemed to do most of its business in lottery tickets, I had to wonder: How many of its customers were picking up both?



Friday, March 20, 2009


As much as it galls me to say it, I think the 80-some Republicans who voted against taxing the AIG bonuses* at 90%** are right, in their stopped-clock kind of way. The tax is a Bad Idea.

Granted, it's a Bad Idea that feels good -- I don't want the folks responsible for burning down our economy to get a trophy and a pat on the back, let alone millions of bucks for the experience. I spent all week being pissed off at those bums. But the more I think of this 90% tax, the less I like it.

I should be clear: I'm absolutely fine with a progressive tax system. If you have more, give more. I'm cool with that, and I'll try my hardest to be cool with that once I make my millions.

But this? It's not saving us a considerable amount of money. I mean, it'd be quite a bit if it showed up in my bank account, but compared to the overall cost of the bailout, it's a drop in the canyon.

No, this is revenge. It's using taxes as punishment. And that's not what taxes are for. I'd have no problem with regulations preventing bonuses like these from happening again. But taxing the bonuses that have already legally been given out? It's effective, and it's clever, but it stinks.

Worse yet, it's what the Republicans *say* Democrats use taxes for: to "punish the rich." Which generally isn't true, but in this case, well... yeah it is. Because this branch of AIG deserves punishment in such a big bad way that half the Republicans voted for the same damn tax. But come election time, this tax will be hung like an albatross around a lot of necks. So not only is it bad policy, but I think long-term, it's bad politics.

It's not about the money; it's about spite. That's no way to govern. Obama and the Democrats are on the wrong side of this one. Granted, the right side -- letting them have their bonuses -- well and truly sucks. But just because it's not fair doesn't mean stopping it by any means necessary is the right thing to do, even if it feels good at the time. If you're going to make a bunch of puppet companies, it's best to have all the strings attached from the beginning.


*and the bonuses at all TARP-assisted companies.
**if the employee's household makes more than $250K a year.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rob Pokes Fun At Someone Smarter and More Accomplished Than He Is

While tooling around the Internet doing a work-related search, I found this guy's website/resume. And although he's written dozens of scientific papers and contributed to tons of studies that I--and I'm not joking here--have no doubt are making the world a better place, I am amused to no end that he's set the background of his professional accomplishments to a repeating-brain pattern. And, even better, he highlights the letters B-R-A-I-N in his name. In his defense, he's a neuroscientist--it's not just that he thinks that highly of himself and his mighty cerebellum. So those might not be *his* brains in the background. They could be anybody's.

His web page (updated as recently as 2007) looks for all the world like the old Chester the Smokin' Pig website I used to have on Geocities, which I would link to except apparently the Web ate it. But my website was centered on a cartoon pig. This is essentially his resume.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Get drinkin', amateurs.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Rob's Temporary New Adventures

Yesterday, my mom told me I should blog more. Since my posting has dropped off, she has no idea what's been going on with my life. So, by popular-mama demand, here are today's Adventures in Temping.

It's my first day at this place, so I really don't want to be late. I wake up early (on my drive to the train station, the raido told me what time the sun would be rising) and take a train that will get me into the city an hour before start time, allowing me time for a leisurely breakfast at the shop where I would get my traditional Steve McQueen before going into work. New work, same shop -- I just turn left and walk two blocks. It's good to see the owners and cooks, and for once I have a coffee and sit down, and work on a little One-Eyed Jack to get to Mike. Then, sandwich eaten and coffee half-done, I stand up to get to work a little bit before on-time.

And the belt buckle pops off my belt. Or rather, the edge of my belt that's supposed to stay affixed to the buckle comes free, leaving the belt hanging awkwardly open around my waist. It's happened before, and ever since it was first fixed it hasn't gripped as well. So I leave the shop and pull the belt off on the sidewalk. I try to fix it right there, but can't manage it, so I stuff it in my bag, hoping to fix it later in the day.

Happily, my pants stay up.

I get to work, and to my relief, the job I'll be doing is a sitting-down sort of job. (Otherwise I'd be working all day to make sure no one saw my Simpsons boxers.) What I'm doing is examining neurological textbooks, going illustration-by-illustration, determining which of these charts and diagrams and photographs need to have their reprint permissions secured before the books are posted online. It's not hard work, but it has to be done with care, since the citations I'm transferring to the art log can come attached to five authors and are citing journal articles with titles like "Recovery from axial apraxia in the lateral hypothalamic labyrinthectomized rat reveals three elements of contact-righting: caphalocaudal dominance, axial rotation, and distal limb action." (My doctor pal Christoph knows I'm not kidding, and is probably shaking his head in recognition. He has my deepest, deepest sympathies.)

On the plus side, I learned the word "labyrinthectomised," (possibly with a Z, as it was spelled in that title), which as far as I can tell, means taught to run through a maze. Or maybe "removed from a maze" (since the ecto root means removed, if I recall correctly). Or heck, maybe "having had a maze removed from one's body". Which seems impossible, but I bet ER surgeons can tell you stories: "Yeah, last Friday this guy came in, he had two dozen word searches shoved up his ass. Not one of em completed."

So anyway, I did that for a while. Pretty much all day. Which is why when I got home, I cracked open a beer pretty much first thing.



Saturday, March 14, 2009

A True Survival Story

Kevin Church helps us all face the horror.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh Mardi Gras, Oh Mardi Gras....

I don't think it's that unusual for people to recognize elements of their own lives in a Simpsons episode. The show's been running for 20 years, after all.

But: This. Was. Uncanny.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Black Hole in a Wrapper

Just a hunch, but I have a feeling that the Snickers bar is the densest of all candies. When you select one from one of those spiral vending machines, the clang it makes when it drops to the bottom can be heard for the length of a football field.


"Hmmm... sounds like Staeger needed an afternoon pick-me-up."

A Snickers bar could stop a bullet if you let it. Teflon-jacketed, if it's King-Size.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Down With Nixon

When I surf, I mostly go to comics pages and political blogs. And it's a little disorienting to go to the political blogs I visit and find posts on Watchmen.

(Haven't seen it yet.)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Synchronized Flushing

I've been reading My Boring-Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith for a while now, mostly when I'm on the toilet. I tell you this because, well, nearly ever diary entry so far begins with Smith's trademark candor: "I wake up around five, take a dump, let the dogs out, and check the boards and email." Or some variation thereof. And because of my own circumstances as I read the book, I'm beginning to feel a certain kinship with Smith that I haven't felt before, even though we're about the same age, we're both geeks, and his movies always crack me up.

In short, I feel like we're on the same poop schedule. It's kind of creepy.


Because You Need To Laugh When Your Kids Or Boss Aren't Around


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Innovation That Can Save the Media

Jimmy Fallon & the Roots slow-jam the news:



I probably linked to this when the show was actually running, but better late than never. Here's a review I did for TheaterOnline.com for the short play "Tape."


Rob Watches.

Despite my occasional bouts of freelancing, I’ve been living in the TCM/TiVo/Unemployment Nexus, so I’ve had a chance to see some movies I’d never seen before. I thought I’d run through some of my thoughts on them here.

I love film noir, but still haven’t seen all the classics of the genre… but I finally peeped Double Indemnity a couple of weeks ago. Fred MacMurray plays an amoral insurance salesman who schemes with Barbara Stanwyck, a sultry, bored wife, to knock off her husband in the perfect murder. It’s funny – after their first meeting, which MacMurray uses to justify tempting himself over the line, the murderous couple don’t have the sort of steamy chemistry you might expect from a movie like this. Instead, the most important relationship in the movie seems to be between MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson, an insurance investigator and his mentor at the company. He’s a father figure who he desperately wants to put one over on, precisely because he has so much respect for him.

A few days before the Mardi Gras party, I stayed up watching Easy Rider. I didn’t amend the party plans to include violent beatings, shotgun blasts or taking LSD in a graveyard, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t impressed. For as much as the movie has seemed into our collective consciousness, I really didn’t know any specifics. All I knew were motorcycle riding scenes, other scenes of smoking pot around a fire, and of course the final scene. What’s strange about the movie is you always feel these characters could come to a bad end, but the randomness of it takes you aback (even if you know it’s coming). It seems more likely that Dennis Hopper’s loose-cannon character would lead them down a dark path. He never gets the chance. Jack Nicholson is really terrific as the boozy young lawyer who decides what the hell, he’ll ride with some strangers to Mardi Gras. Standing slightly apart from Peter Fonda and Hopper’s characters, he’s the one who manages to articulate the stresses and fear the hippies inspire in the straights. He’s really the only one who could: Hopper is too whacked out, and Fonda is riding that reticent cool as far as it goes.

Last night I saw another Nicholson movie, Carnal Knowledge, with Art Garfunkel, Candice Bergen, Ann-Margret, Rita Moreno and even a moving cameo by Carol Kane. The film follows Jon and Sandy (Nicholson and Garfunkel) from their years as underclassmen in college through their married and dating life in the decades afterward. Nicholson is a bastard with women (and to his so-called best friend Garfunkel, whom he cuckolds with his first girlfriend in college), and frankly Garfunkel isn’t much better – a so-called “sensitive guy” who you can tell would love to be the type of heel Nicholson is, but he doesn’t have the guts.

Ann-Margret is phenomenal—her churning relationship with Nicholson is the centerpiece of the movie, and there’s a moment early on where you can see in her eyes that she knows she’s taking a huge risk, suggesting they move in together. Turns out she doesn’t know the half of it. The movie was directed by Mike Nichols and written by Jules Feiffer. Feiffer’s fingerprints are all over the movie – the characters regularly deliver monologues to the camera where you aren’t sure exactly who they’re talking to at first. It’s like a Fieffer cartoon come to life.

Also last night, Kathy & I watched Harold & Maude, where young, death-obsessed Bud Cort begins a surprising relationship with Ruth Gordon, a septuagenarian concerned with living life to its fullest (as demonstrated by fast driving, auto theft and olfactory art-making). I’d first seen the movie in high school, but it didn’t make the impression on me that it might have, due to my habit of drifting off to sleep whenever it gets dark. But it really is a fine movie, with some great comedic scenes. There’s a masterful sight gag when we meet Harold’s one-armed uncle in the military, and there are some real gems in Harold’s staged suicide attempts. (“Were they all for your mother’s benefit?” his psychologist asks. “I wouldn’t say… benefit,” responds Harold.)

Harold’s relationship with his mother is interesting and seemingly one-sided. He appears in numerous scenes with her, and yet he only speaks two lines to her – one in the very beginning of the movie, when he says he’s not speaking because his throat is sore, and the other at the end, when he makes a momentous announcement . That’s not to say he doesn’t communicate: when he pretends to hang himself, or floats like a dead man in the pool as his mother swims by, or remakes his new jaguar into a souped-up hearse, it all communicates the morbidity that she just can’t understand or accept in him. It could be that it seems like it’s the only thing worth saying.

The movie made me want to revisit one of my favorite movies, also from that time, The Ruling Class with Peter O’Toole. The ornate house Harold lives in brought to mind the estate inherited by Jack, the fourteenth Earl of Gurney, and his predicament is similar, but opposite. His mother can’t deal with Harold’s love of death, while the relatives in The Ruling Class are rejecting Jack's embrace of life (since he also fashions himself to be a sort of hippie Jesus). Each one is “cured” in one way or another; watching the films back to back could be either a hopeful or horrifying double feature, depending on the order.


Monday, March 02, 2009

You Know... For Kids!

The Coen Brothers -- known at this blog as The Finest Filmmakers In All The Land -- have shot a commercial for Reality, the group pushing back against the coal industry's "clean coal" branding effort.

Thought you'd wanna see it.


Be Amazed! Watch As Rob Jumps Through Intellectual Hoops In Order To Justify Watching a Movie with Karate Kicks and Explosions!

I've finally found the answer to my Watchmen dilemma. I've been worried about the movie for a while -- not so much because I think it could suck (although it certainly could); I've been more worried that it'll be mediocre -- or even that it'll be good. I've been worried that the images I'll be exposed to through watching the movie will replace the images Moore and Gibbons fired into my brain back when I was in high school. Because of Zack Snyder's avowed fidelity to the source material, I'm actually worried that it will supplant the source material in my head.

I don't think the movie has to be particularly good to do this -- although the better it is, the greater the danger of this happening.

But instead of avoiding it wholesale, I've decided on another approach. Jean-Luc Godard wrote that the best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie, and I'm opting to think of Snyder's Watchmen in that way -- not as an adaptation of Moore & Gibbons's Watchmen, but a restaging of it. Sure, there'll be the visceral thrill of Dr. Manhattan striding across Vietnam, or
Nite Owl and Silk Spectre evacuating a burning building. That seems to be the engine the movie's built upon.

But in watching this restaging of the basic plot, what can I learn about the original? What's missing thematically, that stands out to me? What gets shed without me noticing? What do the emphasized elements say about the mass moviegoing audience versus the comic-book audience of 1985... and the hundreds of thousands of readers since then? I've read a lot of commentary on Watchmen (and even written some for a class a while back); that certainly informed my reading of the book, even if I didn't always agree with its conclusions. Why should a movie be any different?

I'm still going to worry that the next time I read Watchmen, I'll see some of the images from the movie, or hear the actor's voices. I don't want that. But, knowing me, Watchmen is a movie I'll likely watch once. It'll take more that to wipe the comic book images from my mind. They're as indelible as the charred shadow of lovers, embracing when the bomb hits.