Archive for June, 2010

Asked and Answered
26 June, 2010

Mentalist Derren Brown shows how he would craft pickup lines for three women in a club. Some of the comments on the video display the familiar refrain, “Why can’t a guy like me who’s not good-looking get together with a gal who is?”.

I would ask why would a not-pretty person be interested in a pretty person? They are two different tribes and, while some kinds of opposite may attract, history has shown very cross-pollination between the two. Some part of being pretty is the amount of time, money, and effort a person is willing to spend on being pretty. But ultimately we all have about the same number of character points to spend and what gets spent in COM must come from somewhere else.

None of the women’s responses impressed me with either their discernment or authenticity. None of the pretty people who said they wanted a sense of humor seemed to think my sense of humor (generally regarded as above-average) sufficient. I doubt that the blonde in the video actually gets together with people whose main virtue is a sense of humor. In my experience the only way to be part of the pretty tribe is to either be pretty or have scads of cash.

But that’s all right as the only way to be part of the smart-and-funny tribe is to be smart, funny, or both. It’s the same for the athletic tribe, et cetera. While I think it’s a good idea, I’m not advocating being more concerned with what’s on the inside than the outside because evidence shows that a whole lot of people care about what’s on the outside. Rather I’m advocating everyone knowing what really matters to them (looks, laughs, loyalty, whatever) and associating with those as share that concern.

Be true to yourself. Everyone can be a part of that tribe.

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When in Rome
20 June, 2010

When in Rome is light-hearted romantic comedy that puts equal emphasis on the comedy as the romance. This film aspires to be fun and succeeds.

Kristin Bell (formerly of Veronica Mars) and Josh Duhamel (formerly of Las Vegas) play the romantic leads. (The crew did an admirable job of accommodating the 14½-inch height difference between the two.) Bell and Duhamel have chemistry together and display talent with the physical comedy. Don Johnson looks and sounds strikingly like Phil Harris in the role of the father of the bride.

I laughed out loud several times. I recommend When in Rome for those in the mood for a light rom-com.

The Karate Kid
20 June, 2010

The Karate Kid endeavored to remake one of my favorite films, the classic The Karate Kid. Other than moving the setting from Reseda to Beijing, the plot remains faithful to the original. But the magic is absent.

Jackie Chan gives a performance that is the highlight of the film. He plays Mr. Han as more tortured and less stoic than Pat Morita‘s Keisuke Miyagi. There is one classic Peking Opera School fight but his role is much more dramatic than comedic. I found the character of the mother to be irritating and the titular kid to be unbelievable. (To be fair, Jaden Smith was half the age at filming that Ralpha Macchio was.) Although only 11% longer than the original, the film felt quite long, I think because it gets bogged down in Act II.

If you are in the mood for The Karate Kid, watch the original.

I Hate the Shakes
6 June, 2010

Ten days ago I took the day off from work to photograph an event for one of my kids.  As we were leaving the school, I was following my spouse in a separate car but had to wait as there was oncoming traffic. After I had entered the road, a pickup towing another pickup pulled directly in front of me from the stop sign on a side street. It was so close all I could do was swerve into the next lane; luckily there was no oncoming traffic.

My spouse had to get some ice so I parked in the parking lot of the store, in part so we could resume our caravan to the event and in part to calm my nerves after the close call. I was already in Code Orange; when I saw the pickup pull into the parking lot I went to Code Red. A woman in her thirties got out of the pickup, walked over to my car, and stood there expectantly, so I lowered my window.

She proceeded to yell at me about “showing more respect”. I pointed out that she cut me off, at which point she claimed that I ought to have yielded to her, suggesting that I check the driver’s manual. I did: it says “you must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic until it is safe to turn” and “To avoid the risk of a crash, never insist on the right of way; be a courteous driver”.

Now she was really starting to lose her shit. I again pointed out, now matching her volume, that I was the oncoming traffic to which she ought to have yielded. She said that there was a school nearby. (Since she meant the school from whose parking lot I had come I must assume she never bothered to look for oncoming traffic.) She went on to say something about having kids in the car. I figured that having your kids in the car was a reason to be more careful, not more reckless.

She threatened that “next time” she would just wreck me. (Given that she had almost wrecked me this time, I can not see how this is any different from the current state of affairs.) I observed that if I had my kids (students at the school in question) in the car then she would be committing the same foul deed she was charging. At which point she promised that she would. I replied with what has to be the least imaginative and most cliched thing I possibly could have said: “Bring it!”

To be fair, I had shifted into Code Black, not known for its erudition, when she transitioned from yelling to shrieking. Nothing about her movements or posture suggested that she was a skilled hand-to-hand combatant although she certainly could have weapons concealed in the pockets of her jacket. The more direct threat came from any tough guys in her pack. Rundown, fifteen-year-old, lifted, four-wheel-drive pickups are often the property of blue-collar blokes in the physical trades that have seen their fair share of scraps and are not averse to another.

At this point my spouse ran off the crazy woman by hilariously shouting, “Dude, give it a rest!” I know it was hilarious because other guys in the parking were laughing minutes later. Fifteen seconds after she had disappeared into the store (still ranting about “showing more respect”) I saw a blue-collar bloke slink from her truck into the store. In retrospect I think he was more worried about getting run over than anything else.

Given her obvious irrationality, I doubt the crazy woman had any idea how far she had escalated things. She had absolutely no idea what she was instigating when she stepped up on me. (Given that I was driving the Prius, I assume she thought I was a guilty pushover who does not believe in fighting back. Or maybe her step-dad drives a Prius.) She had no idea of what kind of person I was: I could have had homicidal rage issues, been drunk, or even just looking for a fight. She had no idea of what advantages I would bring to the fight: weapons, hand-to-hand skills, or even just brute muscle mass. Even if she mistakenly thought she was in the right, she put her life in jeopardy by picking a fight with a complete unknown.

Though I acquitted myself well, I hate going to Code Black. I hate being threatened such that it is required. I hate the fear that such threats engender. I hate that there are people who think that threatening others is acceptable. I hate people putting me in a situation where I have to choose between my wellbeing and theirs.

My body’s stress response is both quick and prodigious, which is helpful for combat but necessitates an uncomfortable recovery afterward. Even though I am rarely cold unless ill, I get the chills. I feel something like nausea, although it extends beyond my stomach so perhaps general malaise is the better term. My arms and legs quiver from the copious amounts of adrenaline dumped into my system to facilitate quick gross muscle movements.

I hate the shakes.

Leap Year
6 June, 2010

I like rom-coms and enjoyed Amy Adams‘ work in Enchanted and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. (Even though Dangle and Junior got fired from the script.) So I thought I would like Leap Year.

Not so much.

Using John Lithgow‘s dialogue to explain the titular conceit was too on the nose, especially with two voiceovers. But the fundamental problem was the lack of inevitability. I never felt like the two must get together by the end of the film, which stems from the male lead. Casting an Englishman in the role of an Irishman did not help. I understand that sometimes the romantic leads clash when they first meet (NB: When Harry Met Sally) yet I felt like Goode’s character not only clashed with Adams’, but actively hated her.

I can see how the script could have read well. (I wish I could read Billy Mernit‘s coverage.) But I found the film very disappointing.