Monday, November 30, 2009

Tuneful Movie Review: The Princess and the Frog

I was interested to see The Princess and the Frog, because I like to know what Disney's up to and to not give them any money in the process (I'm still bitter about the fact that they get to rewrite copyright law whenever Mickey Mouse is about to enter the public domain).

As you may know, this film has already been much talked about because this is the first black Disney Princess (copyright, trademark, insignia, coat of arms).

They didn't really get into race relations or anything (the movie basically glides over that whole issue, imagining that people 'from every walk of life' live in harmony--which I suppose may have been closer to true in New Orleans than in a lot of places in the 1920s), but I thought Tiana made a fine addition to the Princess line (as far as that goes, and not getting into my mixed feelings about said Princess line itself).

She's admirably spirited, hard-working, not inclined to lie around waiting to be rescued, puts a lot of importance on family, has an ambitious dream, and doesn't get intimidated by royalty or let herself be pushed around.

The story takes place in New Orleans, and of course depicts it beautifully. Lots of gorgeous scenes, lively music, etc. These animators can draw a nice picture.

In case you want a little plot summary: Tiana is a young woman who dreams of owning her own restaurant, and is working two jobs waiting tables to save up money for it. Her friend Charlotte, daughter of the Mardi Gras King, throws a masquerade ball in order to meet Prince Naveen, in town from his far-off land. Prince Naveen, who's a little short on cash, makes an unwise deal with the Shadow Man, who knows mysterious magics and has 'friends on the other side.' Prince Naveen becomes a frog, mistakes Tiana for a princess and gets her to kiss him hoping it will change him back, but instead she turns into a frog herself...and antics ensue as the two frogs head off into the bayou for a series of adventures.

I don't think that gave away anything that wasn't in the preview.

It seemed like there were kind of a lot of musical numbers, which for me means that they didn't all really grab me, but there were some nice showy ones. Fireworks, glowing flowers, etc.

There were the usual comic relief sidekicks (in this case a jazz-loving alligator and a Cajun firefly). The kids in the audience seemed pleased with them. The villain, as usual, had somewhat more flair and punch than many of the sympathetic characters. He also had some great creepy shadows running around to do his bidding. I want shadows to do my bidding!

I appreciated the fact that Tiana's competition for the hand of the prince in the story (Charlotte, a wealthy southern belle) is not presented as being a horrible person. She's a bit shallow, with that whole prince-marrying obsession, and a bit clueless about other people, but she's basically a decent person and Tiana's friend. It's nice to see some indication that female characters can be friends in the movies. (I do wonder idly if she might have been more classic-evil-stepsister-y horrible if she weren't white. Is the movie trying to give us a sympathetic white character in case we can't handle a black--though sometimes frog--main character? Or just trying to show that rich white women and poor black women can totally be best pals?)

The prince also had a bit more character than they sometimes do...he's a playboy and lay-about, but develops, learns and improves through the trials of his adventures with Tiana. Being a frog is good for the soul.

I did not observe a library, or any particular health tie-in, so I'm kind of at a loss there, but no matter. All in all, it was certainly a worthy addition to the Disney Princess (copyright, trademark, insignia, coat of arms) lineup, with a wholesome message about love and hard work and not giving up.

If you have a kid, and you're not totally boycotting Disney, you might as well go see it.

The tune I'm left humming is actually from that Simpsons episode where Marge is in the musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire: "Home of pirates, drunks and whores, New Orleans! Tacky, overpriced souvenir stores!"

But that's just because my mind tends to wander to Simpsons quotes at any excuse.

As my viewing companion said, "Disney may be evil, but they make a great cartoon."


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Don't Forget to Write

I like this post on Slate's doubleX blog, in which Mimi Swartz talks about using some of those nifty new technologies kids these days like to keep in touch with her son in college.

As she says, when we were in college back in the old days, you called your parents now and then, on their landlines of course since that was all there was, and maybe wrote an occasional letter, using the post office of course since that was all there was (well, in my day we did have email), but really regular contact wasn't common.

Now, it seems, Facebook, text messaging, etc. let you stay a little more in touch with family members in other places--not like long fireside chats every evening, but you can casually check in whenever the mood strikes, keeping caught up with the this-and-that of life. I think that's cool.

Of course, by the time today's wee kids go off to college, we'll be keeping in touch via telepathy-chips that will make Twitter look like notes in bottles (I guess it's kind of like notes in bottles already, except that anyone who wants to can fish them out of the ocean anytime), but meanwhile...we make due.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gaining Insanity Points

I vaguely recall signing up for a account with a weird little site called Sanity Score about two years ago. It's main feature is a quiz that asks you to rate the extent to which you agree with various statements about your mental state, so it can tell you how insane you are. (I'm not sure that's the preferred terminology for diagnosing mental illness these days, but it actually says right on there, "How insane are you?")

When I first took the quiz, I got a score of 14 out of 288 (a number that precise has to be meaningful). I just took it again, 'cause why not, and got 19.

I can't like this trend, since I'm clearly getting more insane at a scientifically calculable rate of 2.5 points per year, but I guess I do still have a little bit of leeway before I need to seek treatment.

It reminds of me those Lovecraft-based games where you investigate horrible occurrences and usually lose your mind. In those cases I think you generally start with a certain number of points worth of sanity, which you lose as you witness more and more hideous things from beyond the bounds of nature.

But losing points, gaining points, whatever, I'm just glad there's a tracking system.


Friday, November 27, 2009

What About Our Martian Colonies?

I see on MedGadget that there could be problems with reproduction in low- or no-gravity environments. It's only fair to note that no one has actually tried to conceive and bear young in zero-g as far as I can tell from other peoples' investigations, but recent experiments with in vitro fertilization in mice suggest that:

microgravity had minimal effects on fertilization. It may prove detrimental to subsequent development, however. Microgravity-cultured embryos successfully reached the two-cell stage and yielded viable offspring upon implantation into female mice, but at a significantly lower rate than their 1G counterparts.

Scientists are planning further experiments at different levels of gravitational pull, so we'll see whether or not the moon or Mars might make good places to develop viable offspring, even if zero-gravity isn't great.

If we're going to send an ever-growing army of the not-dead (by which I mean the living) to colonize the stars, this is important information to have.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Questioning Trucks

I'm oddly puzzled by that new Dodge Ram commercial, where a sort of stoic (possibly grizzled), old-fashioned-manly-type voice says "My name is Ram," and introduces himself, as this description explains:

After intoning, "My name is Ram, and my tank is full," the commercial keeps going (and going, and going) with stuff like "I am fueled by optimism, driven by passion and stopped by nothing," and "I am built to reward the doers who climb behind my wheel every day by working even harder than they do."

Then at the end it repeats "my name is Ram, and my tank is full," which sounds a little like something you shouldn't really promise in an ad, unless Dodge has actually perfected an endlessly self-refilling gas tank (which would certainly be something worth advertising).

I mean, I guess maybe it comes with a tank of gas, and all the ad is speaking for is the brand new model moments before you drive it away, but this phrase also raises questions for me about the extent to which the Natural State of an automobile could be considered to be 'possessed of a full tank.' I don't quite buy that this is one of the inherent qualities of a truck.

I would say that an inherent quality might be 'possessed of a gas tank which must have some gas in it in order for the truck to run.' That makes sense. But if you're going to claim that the vehicle's Natural State is full-tank, then does your truck become less Rammy if you happen to let it run down, in the course of a hard day's work? (During which you will not, however, be working as hard as your truck is. 'Cause that's how this truck rolls. On wheels.)

"I was driving a Dodge Ram, but I ran out of gas, so now it's just a hunk of worthless metal. Better get a new truck!"

The tone of the ad kind of reminds me of those Levis commercials that use Walt Whitman poems, with the flat, matter-of-fact-ish reading and the man's voice, so I also start to think "does this truck claim the soul of an unconventional poet, on top of all his other fine qualities?"

I'm inclined to look a little askance at this Ram character, to be honest. Just not quite seeing how all these pieces fit together.

Not quite sure, I guess, what advantages this automobile has over, say, a train, which I could also afford.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's like Friday! Whee!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

O.M.G. [Slump] Movie Review: The Road

A word I have often heard people use to describe the novel The Road is "bleak." I have not read said book, but I think I can safely say the movie does a pretty good job of capturing that general mood.

Another thing I can safely say is that, unlike in the last post-apocalypse movie I reviewed (Zombieland),  the moments of levity in this one were few (though not non-existent). I can further add that, as in the last movie I reviewed where coughing was a major plot point (Bright Star), in the post-apocalyptic world it will be possible to catch your death of cold.

This is not one of your happy-go-lucky "the apocalypse was just a bunch of zombies, no big" type movies. This is more a "got your soul-crushing hopelessness right here, buddy," type movie.

In case you're not familiar with the story, this film is about a man and his son heading south through a blighted landscape after some unspecified apocalypse. We don't know what happened, and it really doesn't matter. People are freezing, starving, and resorting to cannibalism; are specifics really crucial? To the characters, I expect not. Whatever it was, it killed pretty much everything and the whole world is now gray, wracked by earthquakes, and getting steadily colder.

Judging from the age of the boy, who was born shortly after the event, this film takes place 8-10 years out from apocalypse, and things are not going well. Nothing seems to be alive except a few people you don't really want to run into, the cars and buildings are mostly wrecks, and there's hardly anything to eat.

The movie does an excellent job of depicting this bleak world, such that walking off into the winter night without a coat, rather than continuing the struggle to survive, seems like a pretty reasonable option.

We follow the nameless Man, played by Viggo Mortensen, and his son, the Boy, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, as they head south (because you've got to head somewhere). They run into various people along the way, and the man's distrust of strangers is generally proven well-founded.

And soul-crushing hopelessness ensues, spiced up by moments of horror and occasional small triumphs that really sort of just underline the general hopelessness, so you're not quite sure they're doing anyone any favors.

There was no mention of libraries, which I suspect would have served little purpose in the film's world other than as a place to hole up and die (again, not an unattractive option!), but there was the nagging health issue of that cough, as well as some good do-it-yourself medical uses for staplers and duct tape.

I thought it was quite good. Well acted, moving, with lots of stark, soul-crushing cinematography. And was that a possible glint of hope? You should totally check it out.


Monday, November 23, 2009

On the Lookout for...Vikings?

I am not alone in my desire to look to the future when worrying about monsters! Well, sort of.

Aunt B. at Tiny Cat Pants points to this post by Shane Rhyne suggesting that the next big thing should be vikings. I'm with him about the need to look beyond vampires and zombies, but I think the casual focus on making a buck, as opposed to surviving the apocalypse, is dangerously misguided.

I expressed on Twitter the desire to create a new trend that I could cash in on. Zombies are starting to pick up serious momentum, but a true trendsetter is able to look beyond the immediate needs of the consumer and anticipate the next big thing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for cashing in on trends, but you have to be thinking about how you're going to be fleeing/fending off whatever it is that's going to be chasing/attacking you, as well as raking in the big bucks.

Also, vikings? I dunno. I guess they could bring about the downfall of civilization, but...

My money is on ogres.

Or dragons. Dragons may be due for a revitalization. Remember that movie, Reign of Fire? That tried reviving the terror of dragons back in 2002 and it was bad and hilarious.

Although I did actually like the beginning, where they had some characters acting out a crucial scene from The Empire Strikes Back for the kids who presumably had never seen it or any other movie. It was an interesting idea about how popular stories become legends that kind of define culture, and can carry on into other forms.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

It All Works Out

Recall how I decided to watch New Moon instead of Money-Driven Medicine last Wednesday?

I lamented the necessity of this difficult choice, on account of I really wanted to see Money-Driven Medicine, which is relevant to my professional as well as personal interests, but all is well! I have just seen on The Health Care Blog that the film may be viewed online this month at the Money-Driven Medicine website as part of a nationwide Watch-In.

I'll have to give it a look! I love it when things come together.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Girls Are So Weird, Right?

Having just recently been to see New Moon, and having chided myself for shallowness over it, I was interested in this piece from The American Prospect (you must also admire the punny title, Girls Just Wanna Have Fangs).

The article talks about the way that our culture sort of broadly derides the Twilight books/movies/overall phenomenon, perhaps not so much because they're poorly written/problematic in their presentation of relationships (which is not disputed) as because girls like them.

And anything meant for girls, and that girls like a lot but guys don't get, is bound to be pretty silly, isn't it?

This is an interesting (though not novel) point.

After all, it's not as if a lot of the stuff intended for guy consumption is high art. Nor, to be fair, is it as if it's presented that way--there was plenty of well-deserved projectile vomiting over the second Transformers movie too--but somehow it's not universally considered to be just plain frivolous the way Twilight is, although giant robots shambling through a half-assed plot that I suspect was pieced together from bits of 15 randomly selected other bad movies is in fact pretty frivolous.

I guess it all comes back to the way that we do tend to imagine the 'default person' as a male person. Ridiculously over-the-top movies aimed at guys are just ridiculously over-the-top movies. And I enjoy some of these as much as the next person. They're fun to watch, applaud dramatic explosions in, snicker at, and talk about later.

Ridiculously over-the-top movies aimed at girls are chick flicks. And I enjoy some of these as much as the next person too, but there sure aren't as many 'next persons' to enjoy them with. Because the 'default person' doesn't care about them. Only girls.

It almost makes me want to root for New Moon to become the biggest movie of the year, the one everybody has to see or be hopelessly out of the loop, just for some balance (darn it, I want to be able to dissect every hilarious slow motion sparkle with everyone I know!), but...enh. Maybe not quite.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Paths to Popularity

Another nice example from Sociological Images of how beauty standards change, with an ad advising that "if you want to be can't afford to be skinny!"

One way or another, it's all about changing something, isn't it? I guess there are a lot of things it would be tough to sell stuff to people by telling them things are OK the way they are.

One thing that we see doesn't change is goofy names/spellings for products: the one in the ad referenced is cleverly called "Wate-On."

Of course, phonetic spellings of words related to the product's intended purpose seem kind of retro at the moment--right now, we like to leave the initial letters off anything with an X in it ('Xtreme' is very hot) or attach any sort of masculinity-related term to pretty much anything marketed to men ("Dude-Wear Clothing!" "Bro-othpaste!" "Man-larm clocks!" "He-lium Balloons!").

This will seem very old-fashioned one day. Tomorrow, with any luck, because I'm already tired of it.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guiding Lines

Everyone is surely riveted to the kerfuffle around the recent change in the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations on mammograms.

I must say that my own immediate response was one of pure delight. I can wait until age 50 to be squashed and x-rayed?! That's much farther in the future than 40! Win!

But apparently I was missing some of the details, since there are plenty of people who are pretty perturbed about it.

I was filled in by some fine posts on the subject, to which I here give full credit:

Orac at Respectful Insolence has a well-reasoned post explaining the new guidelines, and another addressing some of the objections to them. (It's actually partly due to reading Orac's previous posts on the often-fuzzy issues around preventive screening that I reacted so casually.)

Christine C. at Our Bodies Our Blog also covers the new guidelines in a clear, straightforward way.

And finally, if you need any more, Naomi Freundlich at Health Beat has excellent details.

Something all of these posts explain is that  no one is telling women they can't get a mammogram before 50 if there's a reason to think they may need one. The new guidelines are just saying that in general, if there are no risk factors calling for increased watchfulness, you don't need to feel you're neglecting your health unduly if you wait.

After doing this reading up, I can say that I personally remain comfortable with the idea of forgoing the mammogram until age 50, unless something about my circumstances between then and now suggests I'm at increased risk of breast cancer and should do it sooner.

I'll be totally cool with it if that doesn't happen.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

O.M.G. [Swoon] Movie Review: New Moon

So this movie? New Moon?--everything I expected. Take that as you will.

We saw it with an entertainingly enthusiastic preview audience, so the showing was punctuated with applause, laughter, raucous hooting, and the occasional shout of "take it off!"

Seriously, I am not even going to run over the plot, because if you don't already know, you don't care. The story follows the book quite closely, as far as I recall (I read the book, but it was a year or more ago, so I can't swear to my memory of it).

But here are some general things you can expect if you choose to go see this film:

  • Lots of longing glances
  • Lots of hesitations before speaking (also long pauses!)
  • Lots of well-muscled, shirtless guys
  • Lots of attractively moody scenery (I did enjoy this)
  • Lots of extremely pale, moody people
  • Only moderately cheesy giant wolf effects (I do enjoy giant wolf action)
  • Some fairly heavily cheesy gothic vampire characters
  • Ever so much seething romantic tension! Seething, I tell you!

A few injuries and references to people getting sick, but no one spends any time in the library. Sigh.

I thought the character of Bella came across as less whiny than in the books, which was a plus. I also give the movie major props for the way they cover the movie that Bella goes to see, which was hilarious. (Face Punch! Best action movie title ever!)

It was two hours and felt slightly longer, but didn't make me actually check my watch.

Brief wrap-up: if you liked the first movie in this series, you'll probably enjoy this one.

If you don't know what the fuss is about but are curious, you probably want to see the first one first (and/or, just read the books a few times), on account of this one doesn't fill in the backstory for you.

But if you just want the giant wolves and seething romantic tension, dive right in.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Essential Shallowness Revealed

There's a screening of Money-Driven Medicine tomorrow at Northeastern University, which is practically down the street from me. It's based on the book by Maggie Mahar of the awe-inspiringly informative Health Beat, and promises to be both interesting and educational.

I really want to see this movie!

But...I also have a pass to a preview screening of The Twilight Saga: New Moon tomorrow. And you know which one all the kids will be talking about in the halls on Thursday.

I gotta see New Moon. And why?

Because I love the books? Tee hee. No.

Because I love the idea of elbowing my way through crowds of swooning teenagers? Well, kind of. I do like to elbow.

Because I know teenagers who will be swooning and want to be able to relate to their experience? No, I don't currently spend much time with teenagers.

Because I love handsome, sparkling, angst-ridden vampires? Not particularly.

Because this movie is getting a lot of hype and I want in on it? Yeah, pretty much.

So there you have it. I want to see this movie, rather than a no doubt much more intellectually stimulating movie with more redeeming social value, because media buzz has told me I do.

I am shallow. Sorry, Money-Driven Medicine. If you show up on Netflix I'll rent you, I promise.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Bad News About Bats

I've heard a bit about the mysterious bat die-off before, but this story from the Boston Globe Magazine has distressing details.

Entire species of bat are on the verge of dying off, which is bad because they play a major role in the ecosystem, eating all those bugs, and it could have seriously unbalancing effects if they disappear: "Kunz [a bat expert] estimates that there are 694 tons of insects loose in the environment now that would have been consumed by the estimated 1 million bats that have already died."

That's a lot of tons of insects. And a lot of dead bats.

This is also bad because bats are super cool, with their flying and their sonar and their insect-eating, and I just like their adorable hideous faces.

Good luck with this mystery, bat scientists, and good luck with the fight against extinction, bats.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ruling the Internet

Yowch. The Distant Librarian has news about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which I have to confess I was really not paying attention to, but which apparently could have a lot to say about copyright.

It's a treaty and is still in negotiations, so all information must be rumors at this point, but it doesn't sound great.

One of the leaks around ACTA suggests that there's a provision which will require ISPs around the globe to monitor and adhere to takedown notices upon mere accusation of copyright infringement, as well as a three-strikes and you're off the internet forever.

I should probably pay more attention.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Latest Horror Update

Hank at Dangerous Intersection reports on an investigatory mission relating to one of the many gathering threats that menace our fair world: killer robots. The intriguing title, In Which I Render God Speechless, gives a certain optimistic tone not borne out by the remainder of the piece.

While God (the name of a robot with whom the author exchanges words) may be speechless now, surely its descendants will only use the information gleaned from the post to design better, more lethal conversational ploys.

What makes it especially alarming is that Hank convincingly argues that the zombie invasion, which we all assumed would be bad enough, will be only a prelude to the super-intelligent robot attacks!

Buckle up*, everyone. It just gets more exciting from here.

*Your belts. Because the middle of a zombie and/or robot crisis is the last place you want to be distracted by ill-fitting trousers.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Things That Haunt Me

That pile of loose, jumbled pennies on the mini-dresser beside my bed, waiting for me to bundle them up into one of those paper tubes and take them to the bank.

Also, the fact that I can't think of a good word for that mini-dresser. End table? No, it's not a table, it's a little thing with drawers, the right size to sit next to the head of a bed and hold sleep-related knick-knacks. Like my night guard.

Also, the fact that I've chewed big dents into that night guard. I didn't know I grind my teeth, but apparently the dentist was not making it up when she said there were 'signs of wear.' So, fine, I guess I'm OK with the fact that I now sleep with a mouthful of plastic. Should I be worried about whether it has BPAs in it?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Benefits of Magazine-Reading

I was reading my American Libraries on the train on the way home from work this evening, and the woman next to me, noticing, asked where I was a librarian. It turns out she's a librarian at the university one stop down the line.

Then the man sitting across from us turned out to be a librarian at the university a bit over. It was the academic librarian car! Or, as another woman said, "the smart peoples' car." (I much appreciate that characterization of librarians, ma'am.)

This seemed like the right point for a rousing musical number, so we'll keep that in mind for the dramatization.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today I'll hail my grandfather, whose heavy wool coat from the Marines I proudly wore for a few years (until it started to look a little fragile), and still have in my closet.

I also like this post by meloukhia on this ain't livin', which nicely expresses the way we honor military veterans for their service, regardless of how we feel about any given conflict.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Letters Aloud

For some reason I was thinking this afternoon about the way that it absolutely did not compute, when I was younger, that in some places the letter Z is pronounced 'zed.'

I grew up pronouncing it 'zee,' and then we spent some time in Canada, and it just made no sense. How can you call it something besides 'zee'? That's its name! You can't just change the names of things!

I was aware that people spoke different languages, and sometimes had different accents even when speaking the same language, but for some reason the names of letters were non-negotiable.

That thing is a 'zee,' damn it, that's part of its essential nature, and I will brook no opposition. I mean, I will concede that in Nova Scotia people call it 'zed' for some unfathomable reason, but they're wrong.

Not necessarily wrong in a malicious way, you know, just horribly, horribly mistaken.

It made me think about how we attribute characteristics to things, and can come out of habit to see these characteristics as immutable, even if they actually look quite different from another angle.

Yeah, there really wasn't a moral there, I was just musing.

I would like to note that I've matured somewhat since then (getting older than nine will do that for you), and I currently have no objection to alternate pronunciations of the letter Z. Call it what you will, good people. The important thing is that we all use it to spell 'zebra.'

Now if you want to introduce an alternate spelling of zebra?--oh, you're wrong.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Peeking Over Walls

I was a callow youth 20 years ago, so while I remember the news when the Berlin Wall came down, I didn't really know what it meant. Berlin Wall?

What the hell is that, some kind of Wall in Berlin?

Jeff Fecke gives a nice summary of the historical background, and some personal perspective, on Blog of the Moderate Left.

I definitely remember the sense of unease he describes, of Us and Them dividing up the world, and what if They send bombs? It was no more than a vague backdrop for me, being callow and young and with no real understanding of history or politics, but it was there.

Interesting times. But then, all times are interesting, aren't they?


Sunday, November 8, 2009

This You Must See

The Slate review of the movie The Box includes this intriguing sentence:

There's also a very frightening sequence in the Richmond Public Library (played ably by the Boston Public Library), in which Arthur is pursued by Steward's slack-jawed henchmen as he desperately tries to remember how the Dewey Decimal System works.

Well, gee, I might just have to go see this movie now. Dewey Decimal Classification as a plot point? Filmed in a library I know?

That's a hard thing to resist. At the very least, it will have to go on my Netflix queue.

Besides, I do enjoy me some slack-jawed henchmen. It's actually a long-held dream of mine to have several of my own. I would also like some hired goons, for that personal touch.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Readin' Comics

Interesting xkcd comic today, reflecting on what happens after we're disassembled into our component parts and tossed into the bin.

From xkcd, under Creative Commons license

I don't at all remember which of his books it was, but I recall Isaac Asimov made an argument similar to this, using the idea of building an intricate castle out of wooden blocks and knocking it down, and explicitly discussing how this compares to human consciousness and death.

All the bits are still there (blocks, neurons), but the castle (or the person's consciousness) no longer exists. It existed as a combination of specific materials organized in a specific form. The castle was real, unique, magnificent perhaps depending on much effort you put into it, but once it's in pieces, it's gone.

It can linger as a memory, in pictures maybe, in legends of block construction to be passed down to future generations of builders, but there's no afterlife of wooden block castles where it still exists.

And if that's true of human consciousness, then indeed, we've got no real reason* not to check that 'organ donor' box. Someone else may as well get some use out of those component parts I no longer need. (This is not to say that I think believing in consciousness that persists after death means someone wouldn't check that box--this is certainly not true.)

*Well, some of us may have poisonous organs and wish to spare others from their terrible curse. That's a pretty good reason.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Random Updates

Eyeballs sore and itchy. Hate these seasonal allergies. New glasses pretty fabulous, however.

Spouse was sick today, but apparently it's not the plague since he's still capable of walking and eating some soup and toast. The flu may have bypassed us for now.

Gotta get up unpleasantly early tomorrow to go to a baby shower. That's just not right on a weekend, you know. Baby showers should be scheduled for 8pm, so I can sleep in and still get to Connecticut in time. Just keep that in mind when you invite me to one, oh legions.

Speaking of baby showers, you may recall my extensive rant on the doggerel associated with the invitation to one. Just because I happened to think of it the other day, I would like to share a bit of dreadful verse I myself wrote in my youth.

My sister and I had decided that our deity would be a silk flower that had been pinned to one of the bedroom curtains, and I composed this moving hymn:

Oh flower on the curtain,
Hear my prayer to thee.
Oh flower on the curtain,
Listen please to me.

Oh hear my faithful prayer,
That I am praying now--
Oh flower if you care,
Oh hear my earnest prayer,
And how! And how!

Oh yeah, that's magic. I mean doggerel. Many 17-year-olds write florid love poetry, you know.

I think in some way that excuses this.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

More Voting

Not only did I get to vote on Tuesday with my fellow citizens of the U.S., but now I got to vote today (or anytime between yesterday and December 8, but I got to it today) with my fellow members of the Medical Library Association.

I'm just bristling with exercised franchise.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yay, Sports! Movie Review: The Blind Side

I got an email that mentioned "tryptophan and other myths about turkey," and wondered idly "why are they talking about Thanksgiving already?"

Oh, right. It's November. Remind me again how that happened?

Oh, right. The inexorable passing of time.

Anyway, I saw The Blind Side tonight. It was surprisingly enjoyable.

Surprising to me, anyway, since I thought it looked a bit saccharine from the previews, and I don't care about football (the Crimson Tide excepted, of course).

If you're more into sports and heartwarming true stories, you may have thought it looked grand, and you will probably not be disappointed considering that even flinty old me enjoyed it.

Sandra Bullock does a nice job as the classic lovely Southern lady with a spine of steel, and Quinton Aaron is sweet as heck playing Michael Oher. There was a lot of humor, some fairly well-handled pathos (you have to do that right in heartwarming true stories, or else true or not it comes across as just soupy), likable characters that you basically root for. Plenty of fairly standard sports/bio movie moments (challenges, pep talks, triumphant scenes), but well done.

I've got nothing against standard material if you do a good job with it.

Also some lively sports action about which I will say nothing since I am in no way qualified to say whether it was well done or not. OK, I can say this: I'm sure it would have meant a lot more if I knew anything about football, but it was filmed and presented clearly enough that I could at least tell when something bad/good was happening for our hero.

They mentioned a library, since you have to keep your grades up to keep a football scholarship. Woooooo!!! Library!

Drug abuse featured in passing, but I didn't note other health connections, although watching people bash into each other did remind of the current research into whether repeated concussions contribute to dementia. That's well beyond the scope of this movie, however.

In closing, see this film for maximum heartwarminess.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Here's Money: Clean My Clothes!

We have new washing machines and dryers in our apartment building, and they are super cool and high tech.

In the old days of last week, we had coin-operated laundry equipment, with the old familiar slot that you drop quarters into one at a time, listening to them clink and jingle down to join a pile of other quarters (and filling us with the desire to crack open that box and steal them ahahahahahaha!!!!--oops, my criminal inclinations are showing).

The new machines are not only Energy Star rated, they have card readers in them, so you don't have to add quarters (and can't be tempted to steal the quarters back). You just add money to this card, which can even be done online, and then you swipe the card and the machine reads it and deducts the cost of a wash or dry, and there you go.

OK, it turns out the bar for super cool high tech in laundry machines is pretty low in my mind.

Nevertheless, I am moderately pleased since at least we no longer have to hoard quarters like precious jewels. We used to always be thinking of how to pay for things with strange amounts of change that would result in getting a quarter back.

I am less pleased that the company that provides the machines has taken this opportunity to raise the price of its services, but it remains more convenient than going out to a laundromat, so while I'm still going to complain about it, I won't actually resort to vandalism. (Laundry really brings out the petty thug in me.)


Monday, November 2, 2009

Here's Money: Give Me an Article!

I like this post from Sarah at Librarian in Black about DeepDyve, a new service that provides limited time access to online articles at the low low price of 99 cents.

She notes:

While I like the idea of being able to purchase articles one at a time instead of having to buy a yearly subscription if you don’t want one, it saddens me that services like this exist…and get subscribers. If only their customers would get library cards (for free) and access the articles they need for free from the library’s website. The success of a service like this speaks to the horrible job we’ve done as a profession of getting the word out about what we do.

Good point, that. I too appreciate the fact that a service exists to provide affordable access to a single article if that's all you want (it hearkens back to my deep-seated longing to buy a single cable channel), but it's certainly true that we'd like a person's first thought to be "does my library have access to this journal?"

I am definitely going to be looking closely at DeepDyve as an option for those occasions when it turns out we don't have access to the journal a patron needs, though. Because sadly those occasions do arise, and I hate to disappoint the wonderful, library-literate people whose first thought actually is "does my library have access to this journal?"

It seems likely that DeepDyve would cover a lot of the big, popular journals that we're likely to subscribe to, so I'll have to try to think of something we don't get that people ask for before I can test its value as a backup for our collection. And of course right now my mind is a blank. But something will come to me in time.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Not Just One Saint

Well, here it is November. All Saints Day! That's got to be way cooler than Some Saint's Day. Time to party!

I party in celebration of the return of Drugs and Poisons, a nifty little blog about, well, drugs and poisons, which is presently discussing mouthwash. I don't generally use mouthwash myself, but I like those bits Wired does on "What's Inside" various things, and I'm likewise pleased to know that mouthwash is not poison.

If anyone in the world reads blogs but does not have an RSS reader, I would highlight this as a fine example of something they do that's good: a blog can lie quiet for months, but as soon as something new is posted, I've got it!

Now if I had been just going to look at the site every so often like an RSS-less mariner drifting on the internet seas, I would have been disappointed many times by now, and perhaps even given up.

This particular blog, which is rendered in white text on black, also makes me grateful for the ability of feed readers to make everything come out in a uniformly readable way. White on black looks cool and all, but I swear it makes me a little cross-eyed after I read it for a while.

Speaking of eyes, I also party in celebration of the fact that I finally got around to buying some new glasses. It's only been since July that I had my eyes checked to get a new prescription. And since April before then that I barely passed the vision test at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and narrowly avoided having to come back and wait in line for three hours again to get my license renewed.

I think no one would imply that I don't get stuff done. Sometimes. Eventually.

I also party in celebration of the end of Daylight Saving Time, which promises a little more light in the morning. Getting up in the dark is just no fun.

On the other hand, this also promises that soon it will be deep night by the time I get out of work, but these are the trade-offs we must make.