“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).
11:59 pm / Tuesday, June 27, 2006
This week, I finally started riding my bicycle to work. I’ve been wanting to and planning to for nearly three months, but you know how things conspire. First it was the weather, and then it was a flat tire, and I’m sure there must have been some apathy in there somewhere. But I got the tire fixed, and yesterday was perfect weather (warm and minimal wind), so off I went.
I don’t actually ride the whole way. My basic route is up Rainier Avenue, down Jackson Street, and along Alaskan Way. It’s a bit under 6 miles each way, and there’s a hill where Rainier goes up to meet Jackson (and I’m not in biking shape yet, so I can’t bike over most hills without walking the bike). So my current route is to bike from home to the bus on Rainier, take the bike on that over the hill to the start of the Free Ride zone on Jackson, and bike from there to work.
The first day, this worked fine going to work: I caught the #7 bus right on time, etc., and I ended up shaving ten minutes off my usual walk/bus-to-work time. Coming back, though, I was going to have a 10-plus minute wait for the next bus, so I walked the bike up to the crest of the hill at 12th and Jackson (and just missed catching the running-10-minutes-late #7 which should have already passed 8th when I left there), and then biked the rest of the way home (down a hill and along a lot of flat).
This second half wasn’t too bad, although I prefer less traffic, obviously, and putting the bike on the bus would have been faster. I took to the sidewalks a few times; illegal, but I felt safer than on the rough-paved edge of the road.
Today, not as good with the time, because I hit the first bus stop five minutes after the previous bus, so rather than hanging out there for 10 minutes, I rode up Rainier a ways, and waited 5 minutes there for the same bus. This trip took about the same as my usual commute, which is fine: no time loss and more exercise. I don’t plan on dragging the bike over the hill on my way home tonight, though.
Assuming I do this 2-3 times a week as I plan, my hill climbing should get better and my speed should get faster. If I’m doing no worse than same commute time now, after a dozen commutes, I’ll probably be regularly shaving 10-15 minutes off even when I don’t catch a bus at a handy time. (Hmm, I wonder if I can take Dearborn and 3rd at the bottom of the Rainier/Jackson hill and bypass most of the hill completely. That would be cool.)
The title of this post, though? I bicycle commuted to work a few times when I lived in the Bay Area, San Mateo to Redwood Shores, but that was miserable for the last mile or so due to prevailing winds off the Bay. And the last time I did it, I think, the bolts holding the seat steady loosened on me, so the seat was moving all over the place, like it was balanced on a pole. (Or a vertical broomstick. Insert joke about gay guy and stick in the ass here.) Unfortunately, this is the same bike and the same seat, and it started doing that on me yesterday (but not so bad as the last time). I tightened things up this morning, but it started loosening on me in the last mile coming to work. I put the wrench in my backpack this morning, though, so I’ll tighten it before I leave work and I’ll be fine. Looks like I’ll have some very regular maintenance to do, though.
Additional fallout of this: my butt muscles were sore this morning from fighting the seat last night, but only where I was actually on the seat. Other than that, no horrible aches and pains from yesterday’s ride. I’m not in too bad of shape to be doing this, I guess.
6:06 pm / Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Spoiler warnings on this commentary…
I’m always somewhat reluctant to watch films adapted from classic science fiction stories, and more so today in the era of the summer blockbuster, because you just know they are going to mangle the plot, themes, and characters of the original in order to replace philosophy and depth – and internal consistency and logic – with THINGS BLOWING UP!
I, Robot was no exception.
Many of the original Robot stories were logic problems, thought experiments taking a rigid set of rules – Don’t hurt people, Obey people, and Protect yourself – and find workarounds and loopholes. The chief outcome of this is the 0th Law of Robotics, superceding the others: Don’t hurt humanity. In the basest sense, this law remains at the core of the movie.
I will admit, tortured logic puzzles don’t usually make people spend money at the movie theater, as least not on the scale summer blockbusters need. THINGS BLOWING UP! is the core goal of summer blockbusters, and thought experiments always lose out in that battle, so I fully accept the need to add to the plot with action and suspense (and THINGS BLOWING UP!). But plot holes large enough to drive US Robotics delivery trucks through?
Need a way to get the heroes into the building, past the army of evil robots (you know they are evil robots because they glow red) and past the sensors of the (evil) master computer? Send them through the service areas, and declare that the (evil) master computer has no sensors there (and make sure you cover your ass, er, mention that early in the film, so the semi-sentient summer blockbuster viewer can think “Ah, yes, they mentioned that early in the film”). Never mind that the areas which technicians go in to service the (no one knows it has turned evil) master computer are the areas where sensors would be the most important, to keep tabs on industrial espionage and stuff like that.
When the hero goes to investigate the dead guy’s house – a mansion filled with wood paneling, furniture, books, electronics, personal effects, and with all the electricity still on, and with his cat still there – and the automatic demolition equipment turns on 12 hours early and nearly kills the hero as it rampages through the building like a two-year old having a tantrum, why does no one say “Why the heck are they demolishing the guy’s home before his corpse is even cold? Are they trying to hide something? ” or “Shouldn’t his heirs have a chance to clean out the estate?” or “Since when do hyper-efficient robots demolish buildings by stomping them flat and kicking the debris around, rather then taking things apart piece by piece so it can be repurposed and reused later?”
When all the outmoded robots are seen living in shipping containers in the dust bowl/desert of the Lake Michigan landfill, in the shadow of one tower of an uncompleted bridge, why is there no dialogue to explain why Lake Michigan is completely dried up just 30 years from now.
When all the earlier model robots are being replaced by the (soon to be evil) NS-5 robots, why doesn’t anybody say “I don’t want one of these new robots” or “Jeez, I just paid off the loan on my NS-4, I think I’ll keep it around for a while” or simply “Man, talk about your waste of resources, shouldn’t they at least be recycling the old ones rather than just pushing them to the landfill and not even turning them off?” (Oh, wait, was that a subtle metaphor for what we do with computers and televisions and microwave ovens today? A subtle metaphor, in a summer blockbuster? Come on.)
(I’m not complaining about everything, though. I did get a kick out of the very brief shot of the helicopter-like vehicle ripped off from Terminator. In-jokes about other evil robot movies are cool. And hey, Will Smith’s character didn’t try to upload an old Windows virus into the evil master computer this time around. He used trendy nanites instead!)
In the end, the credit line at the end of the film says it all: “Suggested by the stories of Isaac Asimov.” Yeah, that describes it: suggested.
3:41 pm / Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Since I just saw Avenue Q on Broadway a week before the review in your April 14 edition, I was interested to read what your reviewer had to say about a show that I laughed throughout and came away from singing several songs. Phrases like “Sesame Street on crack” or “Muppet Rent” do a great job of setting people in the right mindset to enjoy this show.
If you’re going to pan a show, wouldn’t it make sense to get your facts down pat, so that people can believe that your review is worth considering? Did she even actually see the show? Or more to the point, did she listen to the songs? I don’t think so.
The “Grinch-like” character (Trekkie Monster) does not watch porno on his television. His main song (and the most singable, memorable song from the entire show) is “The Internet is for Porn.” Her review also mentions a character in love with his gay roommate. Rod is in love with Nicky, yes, but Nicky’s big song is “If You Were Gay,” with the repeated lyric “But I’m not gay.”
Are these trivial complaints, nitpicking her review? I don’t think so: as I said, these are the signature songs for the characters. And they are things she chose to mention in the review. If you miss the content of the songs, you miss the characters and their relationships, and thus you miss the show. Maybe if she had been paying more attention to the show she was viewing and less time thinking about Patti LuPone’s lip action on a tuba, she would have gotten her facts right, and she would have enjoyed Avenue Q.
I’ll eventually be writing a Musical Commentary entry on the show.
(The Patti LuPone bit is a reference to her role in the new rendition of Sweeney Todd, also reviewed in the same issue of the paper but apparently not available online.)
11:33 am / Wednesday, April 5, 2006
A week ago, we went to see Wonderful Town, a new version of the Rosalind Russell vehicle from the 1950s, based on the “My Sister Eileen” stories from the New Yorker. Rusty and I had the opportunity to see the show on Broadway a year and a bit ago, with Brooke Shields in the title role (but I don’t think this is a touring version of that rendition), but not knowing anything about Wonderful Town at the time, we opted for Whoopie Goldberg, Dracula, and Lone Star Love: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas instead.
This is a classic old school musical, with a plot that bounces merrily forward with a few subplots riding along as sidecars but never veering things off course. Each of the primary characters gets a standard “here’s who I am and what I’m about” solo piece, there are a few duets, and there are several full-company dance routines. In this case, there’s a Conga number, an Irish dance piece, a swing, and a ragtime piece. There’s nothing offensive or racy or sexual going on in the show (except for one tame hooker character), as befits a show from the 1950s.
The 5th Avenue has a deal going that you can see a show a second time, if seats are available, by bringing in your ticket stub and paying $20. Since I had another event to attend on Saturday, I suggested that Rusty take his 12 year-old son. We didn’t know if Josh would even want to attend – this would be his first taste of musical theatre, at least with stuff aimed at adults – but it was worth seeing if he was interested, since the source material would be fine for his age. (And since the Thursday show we had been to was only about half as attended as The Wedding Singer and Sweeney Todd had been, I expected that Saturday night seats would be available.) Josh really enjoyed the show, and his favorite scene and character ended up being the same as mine – “Conga!” and Bob the editor.
Three things struck me about the show:
In the end, Wonderful Town is a nice light show, family friendly (in the good sense), with fun dialogue, big dance numbers, and a couple catchy songs. Nothing to write home to Ohio about (ahem), but fun for a night’s entertainment.
2:30 pm / Saturday, April 1, 2006
Click here for the previous entry.
This came from the back of a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats. And what a deal it is: buy five boxes of cereal (at $3.50 or more per box) and send in the coupons to get… woo! Movies nobody wants to see!
Seriously, I’ve never even heard of some of these films, and the best known one, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, doesn’t even get a picture on the box to remind people that it stars Marilyn Monroe.
Let’s see what reviews from RottenTomatoes say about these films:
Woo-whee, a big old bunch of mediocre (or worse) movies there! (RottenTomatoes tags anything under 60% positive as “Rotten”, so films in the 30-60% range are probably ones that would be fine as cheap rentals but not worth buying or seeing in a theater. Of course, only 3 of these 9 make it to the 30% mark!)
Fox must have had some overstock they needed to clear out, stuff that they couldn’t move any other way.
For further adventures in fun, the side of the box continues pushing the movies, with cover shots of three pre-teen baseball flicks (The Sandlot 2 [no rating] , The Sandlot [57% – pretty good!], and Rookie of the Year [35%]… never heard of any of them). The cover shots for these are larger than the ones of the flicks on the back of the box. But then there’s this: “NOTE: These DVDs are not part of Kellogg’s Movie Lovers Collection program.” So why the f--- did you put them on the box?
[Weblog title reference: Like Publisher’s Clearinghouse, where you can subscribe to dozens of magazines that no one would want to read.]