Saturday, December 05, 2009

Richard Todd 1919-2009

I loved him in three of Disney's earliest live action pictures: Rob Roy the Highland Rogue, The Sword and the Rose, and especially The Story of Robin Hood. A shame to see he passed away. I understand it was cancer, which is no way to have to shuffle off. Rest in peace, sir.

My 2009 Christmas Banner

Merry Sithmas

For Meme Services

Via Jaquandor and Roger

1. What is the color of your toothbrush?

White with a sort of red-orange stripe. It's one of those collapsible travel dealies. I just got weirdly uncomfortable with my toothbrush just hanging around there in the bathroom and decided I'd get one I could close and stow it in the medicine cabinet.

2. Name one person who made you smile today.

Hayden Panettiere. I was watching a very dull movie this morning, but she was bright as ever.

3. What were you doing at 8 am this morning?

Turning on the computer.

4. What were you doing 45 minutes ago?

Posting to my various Tumblr blogs.

5. What is your favorite candy bar?

Watchamacallit, which I think I've said a few hundred times on these things. I just love them. Always have.

Bonus Question Jaquandor Made Up: What no-longer-available candy would you bring back?

Grape Big League Chew. Or Grape Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape. They're the same awful, gut-rotting, heavily-sugared candy, but I never see either one anywhere anymore. Disgusting, but kind of wonderful.

6. Have you ever been to a strip club?

Yes. Also kind of wonderful if you go in with the right attitude. Sure, it's all a cynical act, but there's no reason a cynical act can't be fun.

7. What is the last thing you said aloud?

"Love you" to my wife.

8. What is your favorite ice cream? How to choose?

Chocolate.

9. What was the last thing you had to drink?

Water.

10. Do you like your wallet?

I was thinking I'd like to get a new one at some point. I always get the tri-fold wallets, but I was thinking of getting something smaller since I don't keep too much in my wallet anyway.

11. What was the last thing you ate?

I actually haven't eaten yet today.

12. Have you bought any new clothing items this week?

No, but I really need to buy some socks and underwear. I am literally down to my last pair of socks with no holes in them.

13. The last sporting event you watched?

How long ago was Chicago in the Super Bowl? That year.

14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn?

I don't care much for the popcorn flavors. I just like it not too buttery and not too salty, otherwise I get sick and woozy.

15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to?

I don't text.

16. Ever go camping?

Wow, not since I was a Boy Scout. I always loved camping, though.

17. Do you take vitamins daily?

Yes. I take a multivitamin every morning, Niacin every night (doctor's orders) and one of those fish oil capsules (also doctor's orders) twice a day. That's in addition to three blood pressure pills (one twice a day, one thrice a day), Lexapro, and Prilosec. Jeez.

18. Do you go to church every Sunday?

No. I'm an atheist.

19. Do you have a tan?

No. I live in the Midwest. One of the local Chicago news anchors has a fake tan, and it's creepy. There's nothing creepier on a guy than a fake tan. Especially in December in Chicago.

20. Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza?

No. I like Chinese food (the waiters never are rude), but I LOVE pizza.

21. Do you drink your soda with a straw?

Not at home, but in restaurants and fast food places, sure.

22. What did your last text message say?

I don't text.

23. What are you doing tomorrow?

I don't know. What are you doing tomorrow?

24. Favorite color?

Purple.

25. Look to your left; what do you see?

The television and our Christmas tree.

Friday, December 04, 2009

I Improbably Got Nominated for a Drysdale Award

And I can't quite figure out why. But if you'd like to vote for me as Blogger of the Year, I'd love you for it.

A Couple of News Gripes

All of my pending Random Thoughts were lost in the crash, but a couple of things really irritated me the other day.

1. The couple that crashed the White House party. I get that this is a security breach and it needs to be investigated. At least it was a couple of idiots and not something worse. But is it such a big deal that the party planner isn't testifying before Congress? Who cares? This is a major problem for the security staff, not the person who planned the party. Someone needs to lose their job over this, and it's not the person the media seems intent on blaming for it.

2. Tiger Woods. I... don't care. I never cared about Tiger Woods before, and I don't care about him now. Did he have an affair? Probably. But I've been hearing whispers for the last decade or so that he constantly cheats on his wife. What I don't understand is how it's any of my business what he does with his penis. This has given me a few laughs, though, and not because Tiger Woods had any affairs, but because this is yet another example of the media dancing with glee around the hate maypole that they get to tear down someone they spent so much time building up. They're cynical laughs, but laughs nonetheless. Why do people insist on making people who make a living being good at hitting balls with sticks into heroes? Big deal, the guy's really good at golf. I don't buy hero worship of athletes, because all I can ever see is every asshole jock who ever made his way through high school by tormenting smaller kids. The media wants to frame this as though one of our heroes has totally betrayed us by being a human being after all. Get over it, America. You've got much bigger problems.

3. Speaking of media perceptions, there were some photos yesterday of Miley Cyrus in a bikini in Miami, and some people were throwing a shit fit over the fact that she has a tattoo we didn't know about. I really resent this idea that just because a girl has a tattoo and a nose ring and a belly button ring that somehow makes her immoral and unwholesome. I also resent the idea that just because a 17 year-old girl is a media star, she's somehow supposed to be a role model for your children and we're all supposed to be really fucking angry with her for being a person instead.

4. So, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Madonna all tongue kiss each other on television in yet another of Madonna's desperate attempts to hold onto her youth, and it's the hottest thing ever... but Adam Lambert grinds some guys and kisses a guy on the mouth on an awards show, and he's not allowed on TV anymore? Really, America, your pathetic fear of boys kissing each other used to be childish and asinine, but now it's just fucking sad.

Things Even Out Slowly, But They Do Even Out

Well, my computer at least works now. In fact, it probably works a little better than it did before, since there's barely anything on it now. I think the destruction of my computer was the result of a virus or malware that I couldn't find, but which might have been that Google Redirect, because I was having especially bad problems with Google searches.

I do have an external hard drive, so most of my stuff was in there and is perfectly fine and accessible. I blame myself for not seeing the problems I was having with the virus and not immediately backing up everything I already had. I should've known better. That's part of the reason I have the damn external drive in the first place. In the end, I only lost two months of work, and that can mostly be reconstructed. I don't think I permanently lost anything truly important.

If there's one lesson I've had to re-learn far too often in my life, it's that my C drive is temporary storage only. In the future, I'm going to try to keep very little on it and back up to the external and to flash drives.

So, except for the fact that it took me an hour to get a picture on my dying monitor this morning, everything is okay with the computer.

Thanks Kraxpelax, Tonio, JA, Cal, Keith, Devilham and Shawn for the encouragement in the comments section (although I lost your comment because of some Blogger error, Kraxpelax), and thanks for the email, Johnny. Sympathy and encouragement are always helpful. I've got a lot to hold on to here: I still have a home, I have my wife, I have my pet, I have a car that runs, and I have a usable computer once again. Hell, I have cable TV (for now) and I think I can breathe at night again with the new CPAP machine (got that on Tuesday). I'm losing weight and I'm not starving to death. We're barely getting by, but at least we're getting by at all.

Sorry to clog up Electronic Cerebrectomy again with more of my whiny, self-pitying crap. Sometimes I need to vent. And I think I will try meditation. I do feel like I'm slowly gaining control of my issues with weight and sleep, and hopefully that'll lead to me being more engaged again.

Thanks, guys.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Frustration and So On

I hate living in the digital age sometimes. It seems like whenever things break down there's no real explanation for it, and that can be very, very frustrating. I remember when I had my first car. It would break down--a lot--but at least when it did I could figure out why it did. Now when our machines stop working, they just seem to stop working for reasons all their own.

It's been a really hard couple of days because of this.

Yesterday afternoon, my computer crashed. Windows would not re-open. I couldn't get it to recognize the last known good configuration, and I couldn't get it into safe mode. There ended up being nothing I could do but reformat my hard drive and reload my operating system. So I lost everything that was on my computer.

It sucks. And it sucks that I can feel such a psychological blow losing things that are ultimately frivolous and unimportant, but things that I've taken the time (or wasted the time) to work on.

At least I'm not starting over from square one. I had most of my stuff on my external hard drive, and I think I only lost about two months of work. Computers are the most frustrating thing on the planet, and I hate that we rely on them so much for what we do. I really wish I could afford a new computer--or at least a new monitor, as this one is just breaking down--but the $2 I have in the bank are telling me no.

So much shit, all piling up, and it's making it really hard to get to where I need to be. I may not get back into school because of financial aid problems. I got a bill for my sleep study that's around $700, which I have no hope of paying. I don't know how much longer I can put off my student loans, especially if I can't get back into school. I have to get this CPAP machine and I'm very worried about how much that's going to cost me after insurance. Shit, I don't even have socks anymore. I'm wearing the last pair that doesn't have holes through them. This fucking sucks.

(I'm just venting here. I know people are less fortunate than I am, but that knowledge does absolutely nothing to help me right now.)

I might have to throw some ads up on this site. Every little tiny bit helps.

It would be a lot different if I had a job, but I'm still so drastically underemployed. Competition for sub jobs this year has been horrible, and I've only worked one half-day this year. No one is hiring for even the most bullshit job.

On the good side... well, the therapy is helping, although I don't know how much longer I can afford to go (it's a $40 co-pay every time, and with me not getting to work, that's a sizable chunk). With the Lexapro prescription, that's another $25 a month I've got to spend on medicine. But the Lexapro seems to be helping, too. Again, despite the incredible frustration of what happened yesterday (and I did not handle it well, I promise you), I don't quite feel like I'm starting over at square one. But it does feel like a major setback to me.

I also did lose some weight in the last month. 13 pounds. So that makes me feel a little better, too.

Posting might be light for a little while as I try to get everything back to where it should be. Well, as much as I can. Because I really, really just want to work. If only.

Nothing like the holidays, is there?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Snoopy Cartoons

I was watching Snoopy Come Home this morning on ABC Family. I hadn't seen it in years, and I found myself really engrossed in it. I think the old Peanuts cartoons are easy to take for granted, what with so many of the TV specials becoming holiday staples, and as a result, I don't think they're given enough credit for how good they really are.

In fact, I've read a bit over the years about how badly animated the Peanuts cartoons are supposed to be, but I really disagree with that assessment. Yes, they were made pretty inexpensively, but Bill Melendez, the director and producer behind them, was a veteran of UPA. And as UPA became famous for doing, Melendez turned his cost limitations into a kind of stylization. I think the character animation combined with the sparse and stylized backgrounds creates a minimalism that becomes sincere. It would be so easy for these cartoons, with their look at childhood and their unpolished kid actors, to be overly earnest and far too precious. But somehow the tone is perfect.

Added to the stylized look is the groovy color design. They take the negative space and paint it all kinds of pinks and reds and purples. Again, it's a very UPA sort of look (there's a dream sequence in Snoopy Come Home that looks like it could have come out of a John Hubley cartoon, particularly Moonbird). Added to that is the great jazz music by Vince Guaraldi, which makes everything so mellow. (Although Snoopy Come Home, although one of my favorite Peanuts cartoons, is a bad example there, because the music is by the Sherman Brothers.)

Snoopy Come Home in particular delighted me with its quiet. It's not so loud and situational as most animated pictures tend to be. It takes its time and enjoys itself, with lots of character bits that I guess could be padding, but didn't feel like it to me. I was enjoying it too much to care.

I think they finally ruined the Peanuts cartoons in 1983 when they did It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown and tried too hard to exploit a fad. After that, they started letting us hear Snoopy's thoughts, and that just sealed it for me. That's why I tend only to like Peanuts cartoons from 1965-1983 (starting with A Charlie Brown Christmas and ending with the film Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown). I know that Snoopy's rants are a signature of the comic strip, and I love that, but I also loved the pantomime of the cartoon. It was just so much more expressive than mere words, and when they finally incorporated a voice to his thoughts, it was weird and disappointing (I felt that way at age 7; his voice didn't match for me, and I think robbing us of imagining Snoopy as ourselves is part of what killed the interest in the animation specials).

I like the Peanuts cartoons a lot, and I loved them when I was a kid. I identified way too much with Charlie Brown. I don't know why they're so often derided as being cheap and insubstantial. I think they transcend what they are and deserve more recognition.

Song of the Week: "Fireflies"

I don't know who Owl City are, but I really love this song. The official video is pretty cool, I think, but Universal won't let anyone embed it because, I guess, they don't want anyone to be able to see it. But here's the song, and it's probably my favorite single from 2009.

Twilight Summarized by a Smartass, Chapter 21

I have to hand it to Stephenie Meyer with this chapter. I mean it. I really mean it.

See, when we last left Bella, she was hiding in a hotel room, waiting for something to happen to her. And, actually, as this chapter begins, she's... hiding in the hotel room, waiting for something to happen to her. That's one of this book's many, many troubling flaws, which is that Bella just sits and complains and waits for something to happen to her. She's no Harry Potter. Harry Potter was proactive. He mastered his own destiny. Sure, he had help--who doesn't?--but Bella Swan is just someone who sits around and passively watches life unfold for her and decides to stop thinking objectively and respecting herself the minute she has a boyfriend. Wonderful lesson for teenagers.

Anyway, in this chapter, at least Bella starts to resemble a thinking, independent person again. After Alice had the vision in the last chapter about James coming to find Bella in some sort of room, she's been drawing what she saw. Now that it's finished, Bella knows that it's her mom's house. Alice calls Edward to tell him, and Edward and Carlisle are supposed to fly in from Seattle to take Bella somewhere else to hide her.

Bella is finally chafing at all of this, upset that both of her parents are in danger now, and that she's also put the Cullens in danger. She doesn't want to hide for the rest of her life. Hey, actual character stuff is happening! You can almost--but not really--forgive the way Edward blamed her for this entire situation for "smelling so yummy" or whatever stupid bullshit he was spewing. Because at least Bella is trying to figure out what's happening to her and how she can deal with it, instead of just being led around like a child.

(It is way fucking overdramatic, though, for Bella to sit on the bed, staring at the wall, rocking in a ball for three and a half hours. Come on, let's get a move on, idiot. Can we have a single chapter that doesn't wallow in how much Bella feels sorry for herself.)

Anyway, what turns all of this around and almost makes it seem like a story is unfolding is when Bella gets a phone call from her mother. Bella left her mother a message to call her and not go back to the house, but James has already gotten a hold of her. With her as hostage, he gets Bella on the phone, tells her exactly what to say so Alice and Jasper won't be suspicious, and tells her exactly what's going to happen to her mother if Bella doesn't give herself up to him. It's all just talking to one another, but for once, the dialogue is actually saying something and characters are actually relating to each other instead of just talking at each other. Meyer is, for the first time in over 400 pages, creating emotional content. What's happening to Bella finally feels scary, and she's finally realized she can't keep running and putting the people she loves in danger.

So she agrees to give herself up. And now, in order to save her mother, she's got to find a way to give Alice and Jasper the slip and get to her mother's house. I wonder if Meyer will be able to write that in an exciting way, or if we're back to emo mopery...

The brief excitement I had by the sudden appearance of plot and character was killed, however, by Bella's letter of goodbye to Edward. Well, not the letter itself, but the final line of the chapter: "And then I carefully sealed away my heart."

Clunk!

Anyway, check out Bella's video blog. MC pointed this one out to me, and it is hilarious. This is exactly how I feel about these Twitards. There's an extra bonus, too, because the comments are absolutely hysterical. Twitard after Twitard so butt hurt that someone would rank on their precious surrogate identity, with people with user names like "OfficiallyBellaSwann" telling this gal that she's ridiculous.

Yeah. That's perspective for you.

Enjoy. And check out her YouTube Channel, there's a bunch more.

Sunday Hottie 252

TORI AMOS