July 25th, 2004

pod

It's not really about the Benjamin, baby. In-jokes galore.

I am constantly worried about my health. Not in rational ways, like that I'm fat and fucking with my joints, but in paranoid unreasonable ways. I get pains in the back of my head, followed by warmth, and I assume that I'm having an aneurysm burst on me. I know it's extremely unlikely, there's no strong history of strokes in my family, I'm young, my doctor told me that my cholesterol and the rest of it were okay (and that was before I started dieting and eating much less of that crap) etc...etc... It's not impossible though. People have aneurysms all the time, and many of them are people outside high risk groups. Statistics are fine predictors of aggregate incidence of disease, but they don't assure that you won't be the outlier. We are all outliers in some statistical analysis or another, nobody is average in every way, and someone's got to be 22 and having lots of mini-strokes. The chances of that someone being me are low but not ridiculously so. It always shocks me when I learn the incidence of a given rare disorder. People say "It's a very rare disorder, only 1 in 10,000" and I think "Jesus (the false messiah, not the hispanic gardener)...those are not ridiculously long odds." Everybody is going to beat those odds at least a few times in their life. I know it's paranoid, but I have an obsession with false confidence and the fact that people never expect that bad things are going to happen to them, so I feel like I have to be paranoid myself just to avoid being hypocritical.

Along with the fear of aneurysms comes the fear of reduced mental function. This is something that's plagued me since I learned that brain mass doesn't increase beyond 13 years of age (It's a really complicated formula to determine when we have our strongest mental faculties and it varies by individual of course, but there's something interesting about the fact that our brains stop growing before the majroity of us have even started to use them on a regular basis.) I've always been smart, really smart. Other people have accused me of genius (and more than a few times idiocy) but I don't like to think of it in those terms. Comparing people's intellects is always a difficult and in some ways an impossible task. All I know is that I've always been satisfied with my mental function, and I've rarely, if ever, felt inferior to someone when dealing with a subject where I've had any experience or made an effort to have competence. This has defined my life in a lot of ways, from where I've gone to school to who my friends have been (to a degree; I don't eschew relationships with people I don't consider bright, but I don't like spending time with people with wildly different and non-convergent interests, which is fairly normal.) It's my stongest positive attribute. Naturally I'm constantly worrying that it will leave me, like women who obsessively check the mirror for wrinkles or athletes who bristle whenever it's implied that their current poor statistics are the result of increased age rather than a normal slump. fumoffu has frequently said that I was funnier and smarter in high school than I am now. That's not true, he just has a preference for immature humor and as I've aged and become more knowledgeable I've developed a tendency to make slightly more esoteric or abstract jokes (For those who've read my script, you'll recall John Glennamoto.) It still angers me when he says it though. I think accusations of declining faculties are always hurtful, even moreso when the person being accused is young and hasn't done anything with his talent yet. That's one of the reasons I'm so driven to at least start my career in my mid-twenties (the early twenties are in my rearview mirror at this point, and I've come to accept that.) I don't trust that I'll be capable in my thirties, even though that's really when most people hit their intellectual peak (sometimes this peak can last for decades, but it's unusual for someone to be terrible at something in their thirties and become great later on, unless they didn't put in any effort when they were younger.)

My life is full of these bleak and black thoughts, surging into my head at inopportune moments. Yesterday I got up in the wee hours of the morning to drain the lizard and get a glass of H20 (I think of it as maintaining the body's natural filtration system.) As I was going back to bed a disturbing mental picture flashed through my head. I saw myself lying in bed, with my eyes shut, and next to me lay a horrible creature. It was female (that alone is enough to send chills down anyone's spine) and slimy, like some sort of humanoid fish creature. It was coal black and had long silver claws. Its mouth was like that of Geiger's Alien and it was distinctly smiling, in preparation for the kill. Needless to say it took me about half an hour to calm down and get to sleep, and even then it was less restful than it could have been. I don't know why my mind does these things. It's something I like to chalk up to my creative nature, but at times that feels like a cop out. Yes, Terminator was inspired by a bad dream that James Cameron had, but there are millions of people who have nightmares and hallucinations that don't fuel anything at all except for sleeping pill sales.

sable_twilight recently accused me of not thinking of women as people. I found it quite amusing, because when talking to my male friends I'm often the one who points out that women aren't merely agents of our mental and emotional destruction. They're also like real people with uhh feelings and stuff too. It's something that's easy to lose track of when they're lying to your face, yanking your still beating heart out of your chest, throwing it on the ground, trampling on it, and spitting acid on to the bloody, pulpy, remains of the organ that used to be the powerplant of your circulatory system. Ha ha, I'm just kidding. They spit acid before they stomp, that way they can grind it in with their heels. Anyway, women are definitely people too, what with the 46 chromosomes and opposable thumbs. The thing is, it's become something of a taboo among certain segments of our population to make fun of them, and we can't be having that, now can we? Man-bashing is a time-honored art among females, you can even major in it in college (where they call it womyn's studies because having the letters m a and n consecutively in writing is a symptom of patriarchal control, plus it's easier to get a grant when you don't explicitly state that it's so you can try and find a legal loophole that would allow you to castrate young boys without going to jail for it.) Woman bashing is just as fun, and as long as it's not done with too large a club I see no reason why it should be restricted. There's this curious claim that many 'minorities' make that seems to say "We are competent, relevant, intelligent, strong people who are the equal, if not the better, of anyone else. Also, if you say anything negative about us we will wilt like the delicate daisies we are and collapse in the corner crying, so don't because we can't take it when you call us weak." I don't subscribe to it. I think that putting any group out of bounds for mocking is condescending towards them. There's a large difference between denying gays equal rights and jobs and making fun of them (on the other hand I don't like, or even recognize, the use of the term "gay" to mean "bad." I think that's a lot more detrimental than any skit about a super-swishy hitler could ever be.) Jokes like "What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?" "Nothing, you already told her twice." may be crude, but they're also funny, and funny trumps crude in my book. I wouldn't tell them at a rape survivor meeting though. At least not if I was there to pick up chicks.

fakingsincerity called me from the road telling me he was going to drop in on his ex-girlfriend unannounced. He asked me to talk him out of it, with full knowledge that there was not a chance he would listen to reason. This is one of the worst decisions in the history of mankind, up there with "Oh, it's just an iceberg, I'm sure we can just plow through it" "Why SHOULDN'T we assassinate the Archduke? Got nothing better to do." and "I'm sorry Adolph, you're not good enough for architecture school. You're going to have to find some other vocation." Not only will he have a horrible time OR fall back in love with the girl who breaks his heart so often she could teach a course in it, but he's gleefully sacrificing the moral high ground by going to her when she made it pretty clear she wasn't overly interested in seeing him. It's also costing him money he doesn't have, which makes it sort of the triple threat of poor decision making. If he could only figure out a way to get arrested for it even the East German judge would give him a 10.

I was talking about the mayfly like life-span of the modern marriage recently, and as if to illustrate my point Ricky Williams has called it quits from football. It seems unlikely that the Dolphins will give him the Stadium, but he might get visitation rights with the mascot. If you don't get this joke then you haven't been paying attention to ESPN the Magazine (Can't believe nobody called me on the Sports Illustrated gaffe) and you have sources of humor besides my journal that you probably should be relying on. Like math, or the stars.
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Ranting about women, ranting about women, spam, movie critiques, ranting about women.

Someone sent me a blank email from an address at "Lovecat.com," which is apparently an email server for bestiality enthusiasts. It was totally empty, just their email address with no subject, message, or even "to" line. Stupid easily falsified internet email protocol, makes it too easy for spammers and virus senders to disguise themselves. I'm not sure whether this particular email was spam, but those blank ones always make me a little uncomfortable. The address it was sent to has been spam free, so far, and I really hope this isn't the start of a trend. On the other hand it could have been someone trying to contact me for some reason or another, who just forgot to put a message down because, well, I'm not going to speculate. Those kinds of things always set my mind off on all sorts of tangents.

The worst part of watching bad films is seeing good elements go to waste because of problematic areas. For example, good deliveries of really bad lines or poor direction fucking up a quality script. Even high quality design work can be depressing. Millions of dollars and thousands of man hours spent to create convincing sets, which then go completely to waste thanks to a few people who don't know or don't care what they're supposed to be doing. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle cost $120 million to produce. It has some good elements among the squalid mish mash that results from the film's more problematic elements. I've never been able to sit through the whole thing because it has just about everything I despise in a movie. Bad acting? Check. Unreality in a film that's meant to have at least some semblance of a connection to the real world? Check. ADDHD direction with far too many closeups and plenty of poorly executed camera shots? Bingo. Some of the set design is good, though. There are some reasonably well-executed performances, and Bernie Mac shouts "It's raining white women!" I just don't understand how, for $120 million the film could come out so shoddily. Someone should have said. "Hey, umm...yeah...McG dude. That CG looks like pimply, hairy, thoroughly unpleasant ass. You might want to reconsider its use. Maybe a nice blue screen, some miniatures, or a rethought of the sequences would be in order." You'd think that in a film that exploits the sexual attractiveness of its stars, while constantly making an attempt to recognize girl power by making men look like complete buffoons (rant about this located lower), could make a Cameron Diaz Demi Moore fight at least a little bit sexy. Or at least not unsexy. You'd be wrong. Meanwhile, Rob Reiner's spectacular decline continues with Alex and Emma, a movie that's competently produced but has absolutely no reason to exist. It doesn't do anything that hasn't been done before and better, and isn't even bad enough to mock. It's the filmic equivalent of a gray, headachey, day It just drones blandly on with all the charm and wit of a 1930's algebra textbook.

When you've got that much money you shouldn't fuck up, at least not that profoundly. Screenplays sell for 6 figures, and there are plenty of good ones out there not being produced, or being made on a shoestring budget. How hard is it to see that something that might cost millions of dollars to do is either unnecessary or just a bad idea? Not very. Every multi-million dollar blockbuster should be forced to hire someone for about $75,000 called a reality checker. He'd be a guy with an IQ around 120 and an excellent head on his shoulders. Someone who might say "Okay. That line's cornier than a supercombo from the local multiplex, fix it." or "So she's going to punch a shark, in the nose, underwater, while carrying him to safety? No. That's NOT what she's going to do."

Big celebrities should be required to have their own personal reality checker, who should have the right to smack the celeb right in the face if he decides to do something outlandish. "Hey, I think I'm going to take this Gigli job." *WHACK*

"No Ben. You aren't."

"It would allow me to work with Jennifer and..." *SMACK*

"I've read the script, Affleck. Come on, say it again. I think the left side is a little redder than the right. Give me a chance to even it out."

How much good would this do for Hollywood, and our culture in general? Is there any downside? Wouldn't the savings in terrible movies be more than worth the hiring of these guys, who WOULD get health benefits? If anyone who reads this lives in California I request you to put this on the next referendum. Seriously, it's desperately needed.

I'm going to see Love Story tomorrow, a movie I hate not purely out of principal. I'm going because it's a chance to spend time with friends, and outside, and it might be fun to mercilessly mock it. Getting out and about is good for me. Expect a scathing review on Wednesday, possibly full of profanity and an accusation of satanism leveled against poor Allie McGraw.

I have had a reasonably good summer. I haven't written as much as I'd have liked but I've spent time with friends and thought about things and relaxed and even had fun from time to time. I think that I will get that publishable piece ready for the website. I'm planning on writing about how the Founding Fathers were liberals and adhered to liberal ideals. It'll take some research, but I think it'll be interesting and needs to be said. Conservatives have laid claim to the spirit that this country was founded with, but that's bullshit. It was founded by radicals and hellraisers. The true America is manifest in big protest rallies and angry screeds against opression, not big business and well-packaged propaganda for the masses to zone out on.

(And now the parenthetical remark is continued)Man-bashing is something a remarkable number of "Girl Power" entertainments or slogans do. I'm always severely irritated at "Anything a man can do a woman can do as well or better" because it's sexist and false. If it was "anything a man can do a woman can do as well" then it would be well-intentioned, and wrong. Look at the Tour De France, despite claims by women that they have superior stamina and lower body strength no woman has ever mounted a serious challenge in the tour, and I sincerely doubt that the best woman on earth could be anything more than a margianal competitor at that level. In Golf, a much less physical sport, everyone's gaga because there are a few women who can sort of kind of hang with the men. Women and men are different, and that ought to be okay. There's lots of stuff that women do better than men, like having babies and certain memory tasks and laundry. Women can't do everything men can do, men can't do everything women can do. Anyone who says otherwise is living in fantasy la-la land along with people who believe in tarot cards and guys who think that it's not the size of the ship but the motion of the ocean. What's important is that women be allowed to attempt everything that men are, or at least almost everything (There are areas of extreme complication, like combat positions in the military) and be given a fair shake at it. We need equality of opportunity, and it's true that we don't have it yet.

The thing is, you don't measure opportunity by outcome. That doesn't work. The argument that if there were equality of opportunity in every realm then there would be equal representation of all groups in every realm is so simplistic and unconvincing that it wouldn't even pass muster with Klaus, the dumbest kid in the fourth grade special-ed class at P.S. 98. You know, the one who always has to wear the helmet and the leash, even when he showers. I am always surprised when someone makes this argument and then doesn't proceed to bash their head into nearby objects uncontrollably. Women are going to have different priorities from those of men, partially due to differences in brain chemistry and thinking styles and partially due to various social pressures. For all the talk we hear from the loonie lefties (and there are definitely some out there) about diversity they sure can't stand it when diversity manifests itself as difference. Women are perfectly capable of hijacking the political process if they want to, since there are more female adults than male adults. They choose not to. Some say that this is because they've been bludgeoned into submission by the evil patriarchy. That may account for part of it. On the other hand, women also tend to be more nuturey (Right. Minorities can have differences from white men if they're positive. I forgot.) and it may be that a lot of them focus their energies on their communities and families rather than the country or the state level, which is abstract and probably less important to loved ones, at least in terms of the impact an individual has. I say that we allow an individual to make such choices for herself, even if they are partially culturally determined. It's not the responsibility of reasonable people to force our value systems on others merely because they happen to have been inducted into another value system. We should argue with them rationally and provide solid reasoning as to why they ought to change their values, but ultimately it is their decision (This is why I resisted responding to kesmun's most recent post with the smarmy but hilarious "Simple solution. Stop going to church." . If women choose to participate in smaller numbers and different ways, that's fine. We only need to assure that they will have the opportunity to do more should they, as individuals, make that decision. This is why quotas like "At least half the delegates at the democratic convention have to be women" really rankle me. They are essentially saying "Individual choice isn't all that important, what's important is the aggregate so we'll take less qualified or involved people if they are in a certain demographic." That's not about fairness, it's about quotas. I don't like quotas. I also find it interesting how there is are certain areas where society deems equality is important and others where it is not. Academics must be equal! Income too. Sexual experiences, that one can be fudged. I'm really good at school and my family has a decent amount of money, I don't need much help in those areas. Now you want to talk about social and sexual affirmative action for abrasive fat Jews, that's something I could maybe use. Some of those traits are genetically and socially determined, but no, when it comes to scoring poon we're left entirely on our own without a single government or institutional program to help us. I'm being faceitious, of course, I'm sure if I submitted the proper forms a hot young chickadee would arrive at my doorstep with a slot in her schedule just for me, but the point is not entirely a silly one. Why does society feel responsible for certain aspects of people's lives and not others? It's hard to say where the line should be drawn, but I think it's best to err on the side of caution.

All this is not to say that I think that there isn't discrimination out there, I know there is. I don't think the way to fight discrimination is at the outcome, though. I think it's at the level of opportunity. That's a lot harder to figure out, but so what? America's turning into a "If it's hard we shouldn't do it" country and that's bullshit. Plus, to be honest, there is an advantage to diversity and discrimination. Discrimination has inspired some of the best art and some of the hardest work we've ever had. That doesn't mean it's a net good, and that art and hard work could have been inspired in other, more constructive, ways. But you take away people's responding to hard situations by fighting back and replace it with their whining for a handout...that's bad magambo. The equal outcomes movement has done its best to destroy femininity. It wants everyone to be masculine, damn the consequences. What has this resulted in? More women in the workplace and a whole lot less social responsibility. Women used to be the social conscience of our civilization, now they're expected to be out there jostling and fighting with the rest of us. If some of them want to be that's their choice and they should be allowed, but it shouldn't be presented as the only good option or even necessarily the best one. There's profound value to staying home and taking care of a household and children. Value that can't be matched by economic gains or anything else. Do kids whose mothers are waiting at home with love and discipline when they come home from school go out and shoot other kids on the playground in the same numbers as those whose mothers are raiding corporate boardrooms or working 12 hour days at the local hotel? I don't know the answer to that, but it's something we don't talk about enough. (I'm not going to get into the debate that stay at home parenting should be equal outcome either. That's back to fantasy la-la land with the purple fairies. There ought to be stay at home dads, even significant numbers of them, but it's never going to be equal. Not as long as you leave people with that pesky thing called individual choice.)
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