“Bouncing Off the Walls”

Welcome to my WebLog.  (I won’t call it a “b–g”; I don’t like the word.)  Way too much information about my life, my thoughts, my fears, and my ever-evolving politics.  For those of you who care (or for those who just accidentally found this page due to a web search).

Note that the parent site for this WebLog is designed for “mature audiences.”  So if you can’t handle kinky sexuality and adult language, or if you are a current or prospective employer, don’t go poking around.  You might want to leave right now, in fact.


12:23 pm / Thursday, March 30, 2006

Everything is a Moral Issue

This article showed up in the Seattle Times on March 29.  (If that goes away, try the original from the Chicago Tribune.)

To summarize, 1502 people were asked to define whether each of a set of current issues was Morally Wrong, Morally Acceptable, Not a Moral Issue, or It Depends.  Here’s how things broke out:

Not a
Moral Issue
Cheat on Spouse
Cheat on Taxes
Get Drunk
Have an Abortion
Smoke Pot
Be Homosexual
Tell a Lie
Have Premarital Sex
* – Inferred from the numbers listed, but not specifically mentioned in the article.

Almost 1/3 of the population (assuming it’s a statistically sound poll) believes that overeating is a moral issue?  (That is, it’s a sin.)  Well, I guess gluttony technically is one of the Seven Deadly Sins…

But what this indicates to me is that there’s a sizable chunk of the population for whom any “societal ill” or otherwise controversial issue is a “moral issue”.  This is the same chunk of people who will perpetually keep Bush’s approval rating above a 25% minimum: because he’s their President and a religious (and therefore “moral”) person, he can do no wrong.  Presidential Infallibility, if you will, parallel to that of the Pope.

Seriously, I would have loved to see some less obvious questions (even some very light ones) on that survey, just to get a real picture of what the population thinks is moral:

  • Looking at porn
  • Masturbation
  • Not attending church
  • Hip hop music
  • Country-western music
  • Appreciating surrealist art
  • Wearing colored contacts
  • Fake-n-bake tans
  • Not brushing your teeth after a meal
  • Eating beans for dinner
  • Belching in public
  • Knowing what’s up with Bennifer, Brangelina, and Nick and Jessica
  • Cell phones ringing in the move theater
  • Cell phones ringing in church
  • Reading other people’s blogs and Live Journals

Some of these may seem flippant, but I’ll bet you would hit at least a 10% Moral Issue on every one of these.  Probably higher when it comes to Hip Hop Music, Cell Phones in Church, and Brangelina.  God knows, I think those are sins.

Maybe not Deadly Sins, but at least Maiming ones.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

5:48 pm / Friday, March 24, 2006

Torture: It’s in the Blood, and the Body, Broken for You

In this blog entry (click for blog entry), Andrew Sullivan seems boggled by the results of this poll (click for poll results) which indicate that Christians are more likely to accept or even approve of the use of torture, and Catholics moreso than Protestants.  Here’s what I wrote to him:

I’m not sure why you find it surprising that Christians of various stripes, and Catholics more than Protestants, are willing to accept torture as part of the way we conduct this war, and others.

Think about the core of Christianity: Christ died via torture, and He transcended it.  Everything about Christian culture rotates around someone being hung until his lungs and muscles and entire body gave out, and becoming holy because of it.  We positively venerate torture.

(And Catholic churches are more likely to have imagery of the crucifixion around.  Protestants look at the cross in isolation, not with a body hanging on it, which puts them one stepped [sic] removed from the immediacy of Christ’s torture.)

It’s not just in death that Christians celebrate torture.  Baptism, at its root, is not simply anointing someone with drops of water.  That’s symbolic for nearly drowning them, giving them a near-death experience to be “reborn” from, holding them under water until they see visions due to the lack of oxygen.

Sure, Christianity is a religion of love (in theory), but it’s tough love.  You can’t really live until you nearly die.  And what was good enough for Christ is good enough for us all, right?

My father was a Methodist minister.  (Methodists picture the cross with a flame wrapped around it, representing [if I recall correctly] the risen Christ.)  Although I’m certainly not a practicing Christian these days, it colors how I think.  Not being a practicing Christian also colors how I think, of course, letting me look at these rituals and symbols from an educated distance.

I wonder if there’s an aspect of religion informing this administration’s thoughts on torture. “We’re Christians.  We know what torture is.  Christ was tortured.  Stripping you naked, pouring water on you, beating you bloody…. pfft!  That ain’t torture.”

[Weblog title reference: From the communion liturgy, from I Corinthians 11:24: “This is My body, broken for you.”]

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

3:11 pm / Friday, March 24, 2006

Musical Commentary: The Wedding Singer

Back in February, we went to see the new musical version of The Wedding Singer at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre.  By now, the show is about to start previews on Broadway in New York, with a formal opening date in late April.  The 5th Avenue is pinning their hopes on this being a success, since they have had two other shows premiere in Seattle and go on to win Tony Awards on Broadway: Hairspray and The Light in the Piazza.

But is The Wedding Singer any good?  Well, um, er… it depends on what you are looking for.

First off, it’s based on a romantic comedy movie, so it’s not like there’s a lot of depth in the subject matter.  (And it was a movie starring Adam Sandler, to boot, something which doesn’t exactly inspire visions of greatness.)  Anyone with the barest knowledge of the type of source material knows the basic flow of the plot.  As such, the show has to transcend that foreknowledge.

For those not up on the plot details, though: the story takes place in 1985, centering around the lead singer of a band which primarily plays at wedding receptions.  The singer is something of a loser in love, and the female lead is a waitress at the wedding hall who is involved with a jerk.  As I noted, you can tell where this goes even if you haven’t seen the film.

As a result, the success of the show has to come from the secondary characters, the music, and the references.  On the matter of secondary characters, the show wins with some very fun supporting roles: the gay keyboardist in the band (looking very much like a clone of Pete Burns from Dead or Alive), the singer’s grandmother, and the singer’s hard-rocking ex-girlfriend.

In terms of the music, things aren’t as strong.  Set in 1985 and centered around a singer of pop hits, you might come into the show expecting New Wave Hits of the 80s, maybe one of those “tribute” shows like Mamma Mia! or Movin’ Out with a bunch of mid-80s hits and a few new songs.  (After all, that what’s on the soundtrack from the movie: 80s hits plus a couple songs sung by Adam Sandler.)  You would be wrong.  None of the songs are covers of your favorite hits (due to licensing costs as much as anything, I’m sure), and perhaps as a result of expecting such familiarity, there’s not a lot that is especially singable or hummable in the show (which feels really odd in a show about a singer).  On the other hand, the overture and incidental music and such is positively loaded with references to 80s music, sections just a measure or so long which are sooo familiar, but which stop just before you can identify the song they are from (and probably just before they would be hitting copyright issues).

References?  That’s what this show is built on. Throw enough of them at the wall and a bunch of stuff is bound to stick.  Loverboy t-shirts.  Dance moves from Banarama and hooker wear-era Madonna.  Ivan Boesky, Imelda Marcos, Tina Turner from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.  Ronald Reagan’s jelly beans.  The collector in me was making a mental list of everything I could remember from high school and early college (I was a college freshman in 1984-85) and checking them off as I went, getting a number of surprises along the way with things that I had forgotten about.  A few things become running jokes, and there are cutely prescient references to things that would happen post-1985.  Of course, the Virgo in me was also thinking “Hey, wait, didn’t that come after 1985” in a few places.   I saw what I read as an reference to Lambada, the Forbidden Dance (1990) or maybe just to Dirty Dancing (1987, which is still out-of-period), and there is a rap sequence which read as a Beastie Boys reference (“Fight for Your Right” is from 1986), but could have been Run DMC (who premiered in 1983).  Most of the mistakes are probably mis-reads on my end, though, because using references in a period piece which is in such recent memory had better be completely accurate.  (Shouldn’t it?  I remain unsure: Imelda Marcos left her shoes behind when she fled the Philippines in 1986, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome barely scrapes by with a July 1985 release, making that reference a bit unstable next to things like Billy Idol and Mr. T who were more clearly imbedded in the pop culture consciousness at the time.)

Final result: The Wedding Singer is light fare, fun enough for a night out but nothing worth going to see repeatedly, and questionable whether it’s worth the $65 per seat ticket price we paid to see it.  (Why not rent the original film at $3 for 5 days, eh?)  This may play well to the stereotype of the “bridge and tunnel crowd,” suburbanites looking for entertaining fluff, but it doesn’t rank up there with the depth of Sondheim, the breadth of Lloyd Webber, or even the layers of racism and classism that flavor Hairspray.  Look for The Wedding Singer coming to community theater and high school gymnasiums near you real soon.

(Speaking of things to questionably look forward to, I see that a stage musical version of The Lord of the Rings is opening in Toronto this spring.  Hello?  It took Peter Jackson 11 hours and world-class special effects to tackle this on the movie screen.  Doing this in 2.5 hours on stage sounds like a train wreck waiting to happen.  Wonder if it will use the songs from the Rankin-Bass cartoon, though: “Frodo of the Nine Fingers and the Ring of Doom” or “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way”.  <shudder>)

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

5:45 pm / Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Movie Commentary: Brokeback Mountain

What can be said about this movie which hasn’t been said better already, by others?

It was asked, “Were Ennis and Jack gay?”  In part, that is a trick question: being “gay” as we think of it today really is a choice, requiring a mental concept and a community to be gay in.  Those don’t seem to have existed Ennis and Jack’s world, and thus while they were perhaps homosexual, they weren’t gay.

So were they homosexual?  Ennis was not, in a strict “only same-sex sexual relations” manner, since he had relations with his wife, and presumably continued to have them in between “fishing trips” with Jack.  Jack was who he loved – who he came to love during their summer on Brokeback Mountain – but there is no indication that he had other male/male sexual relations.  You could say that his sexual orientation was “Jack”.

Jack, on the other hand, cruised the rodeo cowboys, sought out male prostitutes in the back alleys of border towns, and eventually died as the result of an apparent gay bashing.  He was the instigator of the relations with Ennis, and given the “spit” scene, he had such relations before.  Further, there was the comment about his wife “phoning in” their marriage (or whatever the exact phrase was).  There’s no firm indication that he and his wife ever had sex again after that first time; it’s entirely possible that he got her pregnant on that first encounter, did “the right thing” by marrying her (or was forced into doing so), and never had sex with her again.  (She may have even preferred it that way.)

So I would say that Jack very likely was homosexual.  He had one documented heterosexual relation, with someone who could ride as hard as any of the cowboys he was watching, at a time when he was both horny and drunk, and he ended up married because of it, as that sort of a culture demands.

(I can see where Gene Shalit may have got the “sexual predator” comment from in his review of Brokeback Mountain.  Jack was the “predator”, the one who tracks down what he wants and takes it, rather than having it spring upon him unawares.)

I was dismayed that Brokeback Mountain didn’t win the Oscar for Best Picture.  But not because I had seen the other four nominees and truly felt that this was the best of the five, nor simply because it’s a gay film.  No, I was dismayed because Crash may have won via a marketing tactic more than just on its own merits: reportedly, Lion’s Gate sent a copy of Crash on DVD to every voter in the Academy.  There are apparently no rules forbidding this, but for whatever reason (expense, return on investment?), it has not been done before.  But the perceived success of the action – we don’t know if it really did push Crash over the top – will color all future Academy Award nominations.  Now it will be de rigeur for the production company to do that, which of course increases costs post-release, and may need to be budgeted in early in the project, inflating film budgets that much further.  Sigh.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

3:16 pm / Thursday, March 16, 2006

I Don’t Hate My Job (Anymore)

This follows up on two earlier articles: this one and this later one.  This is a lot longer than it should have been because I didn’’t get around to writing a version of it a year ago as originally planned.

I don’t hate my job anymore.  And no wonder: I don’t have it anymore.  Adobe Systems canned me (er, “laid me off”) on December 9.  Best damn thing that could have happened to me.

I had worked for the past couple years on Adobe Bridge, part of Adobe Creative Suite 2, and before that, with largely the same team, on Version Cue, which is also part of the Creative Suite.

Without revealing internal details of that team and how it and Adobe operates, let’s just say that there was friction between me and the team management.  I did not agree with decisions they made regarding the product direction, and I was willing to tell them so.  (Repeatedly.  In several different ways.)  The reaction I got from my direct management chain and my peers: “Yeah, you’re right, but that’s the decision they made, so what can we do?”  (How about not giving in quite so easily?)

The most classic example here is that they weighed the feedback from external pre-released customers more heavily that the team’s own testers, such that usability-type bugs would not be addressed unless the customers complained.  Tell me again why I should bother doing the job you hired me for if you’re going to ignore the issues I raise?

Needless to say, when you don’t agree with the product direction and you’re told that your opinions don’t matter, it affects your job performance.  Over the course of time, I ceased to care about the project, since my feedback was apparently not valued.

Add into this the salary issue at Adobe.  I got a small raise over my previous job when I came back to Adobe in 2001.  In 2002, they decided that, based on cost of living in Seattle vs. the Bay Area, Seattle employees were overpaid relative to their counterparts elsewhere (and this may well have been true) and would get minimal raises that year to cause salaries to adjust; I got an “excellent” rating and only a 2% raise.  In 2003, I had been swapped to another project, and in the process they had reassigned my job number (without telling me), which put me in a lower salary category, one which I was already at the top of; I got an “excellent” rating and a huge (not) 1% raise.  In 2004, the company decided I was above the top of my category and they needed to bring me down into it, with as much as a 20% pay cut!  My manager protested that and it had to go all the way to the CEO for approval; “very good” rating, 0% raise.  In 2005, my performance was slipping due to all the issues above; “adequate” rating (or something like that) and 0% raise (but a small stock option allocation).  Further, I was given the opportunity to comment on my performance review and I did… which proceeded to get me a reprimand, because my comments were not in agreement with the review contents.  (I was not overly defensive or denying what was said in the review, but I laid blame for some of the called-out items on the team management and direction decisions.)  Nothing like a company that values the feedback it asks its employees to give, is there?

So come the summer of 2005, after a good eight months of being distinctly unhappy with and feeling unvalued on the project – try working for months without getting anything but negative feedback from management and see how happy you are – I was expressing the desire to get off the team.  (I don’t like to jump ship mid-project.  If I’m going to depart, I prefer to finish a project and not leave others in the lurch.)  What am I told?  I’m told that I can only transfer to another group internally if my manager okays the transfer, which can only happen if my performance improves.  (And if my performance improves, doesn’t that mean I’ll be too valuable to be allowed to transfer, not to mention that would mean I was happy with the project and thus why would I want to transfer?)

Then came the acquisition of Macromedia.  Wham: freeze on all hiring and internal transfers.  So now I couldn’t switch groups even if my manager would let me.  The freeze started in August, with a projected end date of mid-October… late-October… November… Thanksgiving…

Net effect: my performance is shot to hell.  I don’t like where the project is going, I haven’t received any salary boost in years, and I’m not allowed to leave the team I’m on.  Does wonders for the performance, to the degree that my manager threatened me twice with firing me if my performance didn’t improve.  (Once because I went offsite for lunch for 45 minutes on a day when we were tying to hit a self-imposed weekly deadline.)

Seems like the only way out would be to quit.

Well, almost: acquisitions inevitably mean layoffs.  Engineering usually isn’t strongly hit by layoffs, but there’s typically at least a small impact, if only to spread the agony through the entire company rather than just in small groups.  So I figured I would try to wait it out: keep my performance just high enough to not get fired, and hope to get caught in the layoff with a nice severance package.  And thus be free of the project from hell with what almost amounts to a reward.

And it worked, more or less.  The days of hefty severance packages for employees are gone.  A decade ago, fourteen years seniority should have got me close to a year’s severance, plus accrued vacation time and such.  I only got about a third of that, but hey, I’m not going to complain.  (In the back of my head, I’m pretty sure my manager knew that I was looking toward a potential layoff, and she probably saw it as the best way out as well, and wrangled things to make it happen.  I like to think so, anyway.)

I took the rest of December off, didn’t even start looking for a new job.  Then in January, I passed my resumé to my friend Michael, who got it to the Quality Assurance department where he works and boom-da-da-<slow>-boom-<slow>… a month later, I landed a six-month contract there.  And now I’m a month into it and things are going fine.  Rusty says I’m generally in a much better mood than I used to be, too.

Well, except for this bout of bronchitis, but that’s another story.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

11:49 am / Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Movie Commentary: Troy

Back in December, we pulled in Troy from NetFlix.  (I had heard it was schlocky, but that Pitt and Bana were nice eye candy, so how bad could it really be?)  Thank god we didn’t pay to see this monstrosity in the theater.  I mean, really: when was the last time you were watching an action/war film and you fell asleep midway through?!  We did.

Early on, we get this view of Achilles as a superhuman fighter, with a slo-mo FX shot of him slicing through a giant of an opponent.  Cool effect, okay as a character building exercise, never brought up throughout the rest of the film.

The real problem I have with the film, though, is the scope of time.  See, I’ve been reading Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze, so I have a handle on how long the Trojan War lasted for: decades.  In this movie, we blithely skip over getting the Greeks all on the same page and waiting for the winds to turn – which took years – but I’m sort of okay with that because I realize that that part of the tale is not heavy on action and would bore an audience to tears (or at least to leaving the theater).  But then we get to the Siege of Troy.  A “siege”, that’s where you blockade a city, keep it from getting supplies, and wait for the citizens to get hungry or thirsty enough to give up, right?  Should take months, maybe years?  In this movie, though, let’s see: the Greeks attack, then the Trojans counter-attack and kill Patroclus (end of day one); Achilles gets all pissy and fights Hector one-on-one, kills him, and drags his body around (end of day two); the Greeks give the Trojans ten days to mourn and celebrate Hector, then seemingly retreat (but no one thinks to look in the next bay over) and leave a wooden horse behind, and take over the city.

End of siege.  Twelve days.  Twelve fucking days, and the city of Troy falls.  I guess this is why the called the file Troy and not The Trojan War: the “war” wasn’t long enough to warrant a full twelve letters in the title.

We’ve got Alexander somewhere in the queue.  A Scotsman (Colin Farrell as the Macedonian conqueror, and Angelina Jolie as his mother?  Can it be any worse?  (Don’t answer that.)

(Interesting: they list the cast of Alexander by order of appearance at the Internet Movie Database, and the adult Alexander is the 20th named character, which means Farrell doesn’t even get listed as part of the cast on the front page for that film.  Which has the effect of distancing Farrell from his involvement in it.)

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

1:32 pm / Monday, March 13, 2006

Eddie Bauer Bait & Switch

About six weeks ago, we went up to University Village for brunch and some shopping.  As part of that, we went into the Eddie Bauer store, where Rusty decided to buy a belt or a shirt or some such.

At the counter, the checkout girl (woman?  Person?  What’s a term here that is both politically correct and comfortable to say?  Or is “comfortable to say” inherently opposed to PC?) asked if he would like to open an Eddie Bauer credit card and save 30% on his purchase. Sure, sounds great!

Five minutes later, the credit application has been completed and she rings up the sale… without the 30% discount.  Turns out that the application has to be approved first, and for whatever reason, Rusty’s was not.  (Was it because this was a Sunday?  Because they didn’t like Rusty’s credit score?  Because the application was filled out by hand and thus needed to be hand processed?  No way to know, since all the info we got back was “Approval pending.”)

“Well, once it’s approved, you can come back.  The discount will be good for 24 hours.  Now how would you like to pay for the belt?”

Sorry hon, and sorry Eddie Bauer, but we’re here now, and we want the belt now.  Will we be able to come shopping again in a 24-hour window once approval happens?  Who knows?  Will approval happen tomorrow, or a week from now?  Will we be notified by phone, e-mail, or snail mail, and will we catch the notification in the 24-hour window?  She couldn’t answer any of these questions, rhetorical or otherwise.

Maybe some of this is a problem on our end, but really, it felt like a bait & switch: “Would you like to get a big discount on what you’re purchasing?  Here, fill this out.  Oh, we can’t give you the discount now, you’ll have to come back later, but since you’ve already picked these things out, let’s have you pay full price for them.  You can come back later and buy more stuff (but less than now, and thus less of a total discount) once the approval is in ”

We let the manager have an earful and left, without the belt.  We didn’t need it badly enough to overcome the bad taste left in our mouths.  And we took the filled-out application with us: the hell if they’re going to stiff us on a promised discount but still get our personal info to spam and junk mail us later!

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

11:59 pm / Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Idling in Neutral in the Culture Wars

There was a big flap in December when Ford decided to kiss up to the American Family Association and pulled its Jaguar and Land Rover advertising from gay publications.  The shit hit the fan in the press and Ford quickly met with gay organizations and reversed its decision.   Read about it in The Advocate.

The most interesting quote in the matter was from AFA head honcho Donald Wildmon.  (You remember him: the guy who was convinced that Mighty Mouse wasn’t sniffing a flower, he was snorting cocaine.)  Wildmon said:

“All we wanted was for Ford to refrain from choosing sides in the cultural war,” Wildmon said in a press release.  “And supporting groups which promote same-sex marriage is not remaining neutral.”

Of course, Wildmon is lying.  He doesn’t want “neutral”; he wants “biased against gays and in favor of Christianists.”

“Neutral” would mean treating everyone the same.  Since he clearly doesn’t want Ford to advertise in – and give money to – gay publications, where balance would mean also advertising in Christianist publications, the only other thing “neutral” could mean would for Ford to do the reverse:

“Okay, Donald.  We’ll remain neutral here.  We won’t advertise in gay publications, we won’t give domestic partner benefits, we won’t lobby for gay rights.  We also won’t advertise in Christian publications, we won’t give Christian festivals like Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter as paid holidays, and we’ll remove religion from our Equal Employment Opportunity policy (since after all, religion is a choice and thus should not be protected under the law).”

That would be “neutral”.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

3:47 pm / Monday, February 6, 20062006
Comment Added: March 28, 2006

Cartoon Violence

Looking at all the news stories about the Islamic protests over the Danish editorial cartoons – which are problematic, in case you’ve avoided the matter, because they depict the prophet Mohammed, something which is not allowed under Islamic law – I am left suspecting that 99% of the Muslims protesting about the cartoons have not seen the cartoons themselves.  They are protesting – and getting violent – because their leaders have told them to.  Not because they believe that the cartoons are blasphemous and deserve such a reaction, but because they have faith that they do.

The violent protests are fundamentalism at its worst, and at its most clear: they are certain that they are right, they will stamp out all dissent, and they don’t need to think about the facts.

If you fish around online, you can find the cartoons.  Islamic law and the depiction of the prophet aside, a couple of them are pretty good, but several are pretty lousy – not funny, not enlightening, and not well drawn.  With all but a couple of them, the only way you can tell that the beard Middle Eastern is Mohammed is because he is labeled as such; he could otherwise be a generic Middle Eastern man, at least to Western sensibilities.

I cannot say outright that the protests themselves are wrong.  In the States, we have the Freedoms of Speech, Press, and Religion so internalized that it is hard to imagine protesting over, equivalently, poorly drawn and unclear cartoons featuring Christ.  We don’t have that sort of iconoclasm in Western society.  Even the Christian Fundamentalists are starting to recognize that protesting something like The Last Temptation of Christ or Brokeback Mountain, no matter how much they dislike it, only makes more people seek out what they are protesting, to see what the hoopla is about.  But we cannot judge these protest by American standards, and thus need to support the right of these people to protest what they see as a true transgression against their religion.

But I think we can decry (a) the protests becoming violent, and (b) protestors who have only heard about what they are protesting, not seen it themselves.  If you cannot be bothered to research something, I cannot be bothered to listen to you gripe about it.

Comment by Troy J. (Seattle, WA)/ received March 3, 2006:

Actually, something that has been missing from the debates is something that the great museums of the world know very well (and in fact, it is a total fluke that they didn’t have any on display) and that is that pictorial representations of Mohammed, and people in general, are only outlawed in the tradition of some parts of the Muslim world.  Respectful images of the prophet have a long history in the Islamic world.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

10:49 pm / Friday, January 20, 20062006
Comment Added: March 28, 2006

What Were They Thinking?: What’s Grosser Than Gross?

Click here for the previous entry.

AshtrayMouth.com billboar mockup

This is an approximate rendering of one of the billboards from the “Kissing a Smoker is Just as Gross” campaign from AshtrayMouth.com.

Back away from the computer screen a couple feet and try to decipher what the doll is doing.  She’s eating a rat, but from any sort of a distance or with any sort of movement – such as in a car, which is where you’ll see most billboards from – it becomes indecipherable, just a smear on the doll’s face.  Only if you are close to the billboard (50 feet or so) and stationary can you figure it out.  ( There’s a second one where a male doll has a lobster coming out of its mouth, or something like that.  Even from a stopped car, I can’t tell exactly what it is.)

I’ll grant you: big-eyed child dolls with weird stuff on their faces is pretty gross.  But I don’t know that it will make someone not want to smoke; just avoid weird ass dolls.

There is an art to billboard design.  The imagery needs to be identifiable in a glance.  The text needs to be large enough and limited enough that a driver can read it and get the message without distracting him from the road.  (They succeed in the latter of these but fail miserably in the former.)  This ad campaign makes you say, “What the fuck is that?”, which distracts the driver’s attention from the task at hand.

There’s apparently a TV campaign that goes with the billboards, based on what’s on the website.  In a sample ad, two dolls are walking along (pretty gross right there), then one goes and stuffs a rat in its mouth and wants to kiss the other one.  The other doll just silently wanders away.  The lack of expression on the doll’s face is the only thing that’s really gross in the ad, as though the second doll was thinking “Oh, Susie’s eating rats again, I think I’ll water the plants.”

Who in their right mind thought this would be a successful anti-smoking campaign?  RJ Reynolds, maybe?

Comment by Kate W. / received February 19, 2006:

I happen to like the ads.
As a former smoker, it’s true.
Kissing a smoker is just as gross.
It tastes like something died in your mouth.
I think these ads are a great way to show that.

I also, believe that the next time a non-smokers goes to kiss a smoker, they will have that image in their mind, and may choose not to kiss them.
With that, the smoker will not get any kisses and will cut back or quit smoking.

Update from March 28, 2006:

Here’s another one of the ads, this time not a billboard mockup but something off a website.  What the hell does that doll have in its mouth?  (A sweat sock, I think.  Kissing a smoker is on the same level as chewing on a sock?  By extension, is getting licked by a dog “just as gross”, since they often chew on socks?)

These ads are both unclear and inaccurate/inflammatory.  And useless.

AshtrayMouth.com ad

Click here for the next entry.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

12:37 pm / Friday, January 20, 2006

Movie Commentary: King Kong

I had to wrangle to get Rusty to go to this movie, but we finally did, the day after Christmas.  (We also – horrors – went to the mall.  On the day after Christmas.  But we limited ourselves to just JC Penney, so it wasn’t too bad.)  He didn’t need to see the film, he argued, because he already knew how it ended: the monkey dies.  (And he wasn’t happy about that part of it, either.)

Now, it’s true, I think that musicians recording a cover of someone else’s song really need to do something unique to it, or what’s the point?  The same thing goes for movie remakes: just adding modern effects and the like isn’t enough.  But I had faith in Peter Jackson.  His stellar work on Lord of the Rings bought him an automatic “worth a shot” on King Kong.

There were a couple story bits which were annoying and unnecessary, most notably the teenage boy.  There were allusions to there being something significant with him – he was a stowaway with no past – but there was no follow through on them.  The entire character could have been removed with no loss, I think.

The ice skating scene did not work for me, because I lost the sense that Kong and Ann were still in the city.  The scene ended up feeling like it was on a set (which it was, of course), not in a real world location, and that broke me out of the film.

Where did the third T-Rex go during the fight?  Maybe I missed it, be it seemed to just disappear when they fell into the canyon.

What was up with the characters running all over New York, in the middle of the night and in the middle of winter, without a single puff of breath fog?  And especially on top of the Empire State Building?  Rusty and I were up there at Christmas 2004, in the middle of the day, and it was fucking cold, even in leather jackets, scarves, gloves, and stocking caps.  Not to mention the wind.  Sorry, Ann, but you froze to death up there in your thin gown, and then your corpse blew off the top of the building long before Kong fell.

Andy Serkis did a great job as Kong, of course, just like he did with Gollum, and doing double duty as the ship’s cook, he got a great death scene from the leeches.  (Which Rusty missed due to a bathroom break.  But no loss, because he also missed most of the bugs, and he’s not a big fan of bugs crawling all over the place.)

Jackson did a great job with this film.  His love for the material showed through, and he didn’t do just a slavish imitation of the previous films with better special effects… he added new stuff to the tale.  (And moreover, new stuff which worked.)

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

11:30 pm / Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Comment Added: March 28, 2006

Movie Commentary: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

We went to see this the day after it opened, back in December.  And frankly, (pun intended) it left me cold.

The biggest piece of that is that I am intimately familiar with the books.  I read them as a pre-teen.  Cover to cover, all seven books, repeatedly.  I think it was something like 15 times that I’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (and 11 or so for the other 6 books).  And the movie just didn’t live up to what my mind had put together.

One of the annoyances was Aslan and his constantly moving fur.  Jesus Christ (ahem), make it stop!  Is Narnia always that breezy, or is it a sign of his supernaturally?  Or just digital animators in love with their tools?

The battle scenes – which I don’t recall as quite so prominent in the book, but I can forgive a bit of padding in that arena, in order to make the movie – fortunately missed suffering from Lord of the Rings-syndrome.  You know, the myriad of human(oid) armies colliding with one another; TLTWATW escaped this by having few human(oid) characters.  Needless to say, Kingdom of Heaven and Troy did not escape so easily.

I was pleased that they got Turkish Delight right; American audiences can find it on the shelves as Aplets & Cotlets.  When I was a kid, though, I had no idea what it was, so I seized on “Turkish” and imagined it to be like my mother’s Thanksgiving stuffing.  (Which is delightful, of course.)

Two scenes I fondly remember from the books didn’t make it in.  One is where the Witch finds a group of animals having a party, with treats provided by Father Christmas.  She immediately turns them all to stone, and in a great tragedy, Aslan never finds them and restores them to life.  The other is during one of the battles, the Witch turns herself and her dwarf into a stump and a boulder, allowing them to escape.  I hope that both scenes were filmed and cut, to be restored on the DVD next year.  (And please, do a Peter Jackson and insert them into the film on DVD!)

I think I was also affected by how every story about the film discussed the Christian allegory as though it were deeply pervading every frame of the film.  It isn’t.  Not nearly.  Other than the resurrection scene, the movie doesn’t particularly wear those biases on its sleeve.  (Neither does the book.)  But having been told so many times that it would, I watched the film expecting to find them, which distracted from the experience.

I should have been an ideal viewer for TLTWATW – I was for Lord of the Rings – but my personal background and biased advanced press would not let me be.  It’s a shame, really.  (But I will still go to see the next 6 movies, if they are all made.  Especially Voyage of the Dawn Treader.)

Comment by Troy J. (Seattle, WA)/ received January 25, 2006:

I always imagined that Turkish Delight was sort of like Chicken a lá King or a really creamy tuna casserole like dish.  I have no idea why, but I always saw it as a savory dish of some sort rather than a sweet one.

Bounce Your Thoughts Off Me

11:59 pm / Tuesday, January 3, 2006

What Were They Thinking?: Truth in Advertising

Click here for the previous entry.

Faberware ad in Seventh Avenue

This showed up in a catalog from the home furnishings company Seventh Avenue.

I’m not sure why I would want to buy cookware with lousy (“poor”) lids, but it’s sure nice of them to identify the weaknesses in big print in the ad.  Now, if the pans had little spouts on the sides so that I could keep the lid on but pour out the sauces, that might be great.

Sure, this is just a typo, but they can be fun when the typo creates another word (which is how it gets through into print, because people spellcheck but don’t proofread) which changes the meaning.  I saw this recently as well with a headline from the final episode of Smallville Season One, about a LuthorCorp plant being “sited” (located) for something, when they meant “cited” (noticed).

I’ve also been going through a book on Cascading Style Sheets, Stylin’ with CSS, with the goal to shortly shift this weblog over to a CSS formatted layout (among other purposes).  It’s a pretty good book, at least for my purposes; unfortunately, the code samples are rife with typos as though they were never proofread.  Which is the biggest mistake you can make with such a book: since you are encouraging readers to retype and build on the sample code, it needs to be even more free from error than the non-code content.  (I have not checked, but I would expect that the companion website has had all those errors fixed.  There’s an errata page listing a bundle of corrections, some of them fairly subtle.)

Click here for the next entry.

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