Tuesday, July 31, 2007

stupid nerds.

I like to avoid link blogging and said like filler, but I also like to waste time today, so...Dirk Deppey at the Journalista blog had an entry today (under comics culture) that referred back to a New York Times article that is the very definition of filler for the paper which discusses nerdiness as an expression of hyperwhiteness and nerds as specifically "refusing to exercise the racial privilege upon which white youth cultures are founded." Some of the weaknesses in that vein of argument are in called out in Deppey's piece. I'm personally trying to figure out if I've misread my childhood and becoming a nerd was some sort of active rebellion as opposed to a defensive posture. And while joining any group while young is partly a defensive move, I don't recall "I want to be a nerd" being a rallying cry the way even preppies might have had it. Of course, that means that every exclusively white youth culture is either an absorption of African-American culture or a rebellion from absorbing it.

I'm especially thrilled that this racial reading of subculture (not inherently a bad mode to be) involves deracinating Asians as a group (oops). Possibly, our nerdlike cultural typing has either having been absorbed as whiteness or is not counted outright. I know our nation discusses race in black/white primarily...but you spring up from California with this stuff then you got to cast a wider net. I'm sure I'm leaving folks out too, but then, I haven't written a book yet. So, filler, and embarssing academia. Awesome.

EDIT: Someone other then me's actually coherent response to the article.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

In Dubious Battle

So, for Duvall, Jonny, and I, this article might strike a chord. Of derision. I trust that at the least it will inspire snickering.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An Old New Yorker Comic

I find myself thinking about this one New Yorker comic a lot recently. Two people are walking down the street, with one of them shivering and saying "I feel like I've just been Googled." Well, in the interests of narcissism, I tried Googling us.

Obviously, there's us. Then there's Warren. Then there's a Chinese girl called Marylu whose page is down, but you can find it cached. Her cached page is apparently the closest description of our site from the search results. "Three collaborators blogging about love, democracy, and Chinese labor." (By the way, Marylu, if you're around, it should be four collaborators - and thanks for your interest in the blog).

Edit: re: Duvall's comment, I will modify my meaning on this last line:

In general, it was a little weird googling the blog itself. I mean, I've certainly googled my own name, but there was something surreal about seeing our names in the virtual lights. Or really, not seeing it up there.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Food and Sleep

If there was one moment when I could say that I felt like I was finally beginning to settle back into my USA life, it would have to be the day I got my gym membership. That was back in March. At that time I had been working for a month, I was basically finished setting up my apartment, and I really needed to settle into some kind routine that was completely unrelated to work. Exercise was a good bet for me because I have always been interested in physical fitness, and I know how to set up an intro routine having been in and out of shape about a dozen times over the last 15 years.

With my longish commute in mind, there was really no way for me to combine a strength and an endurance program. I only have 45 minutes of time to spend every morning, so it had to be one or the other. The lack of runable parks around here made my decision easy. I joined a gym and began a strength routine.

Now, three months later my results have been frustratingly modest at best. Sure, I went through the initial two-month surge. Most exercisers see significant gains throughout the first few months of exercise because lazy muscles respond to just about any stimulus. But, three months in I have already plateaued and I don’t see myself breaking through it. Why the pessimism? Because I know that my intensity is not the problem. Even though I hate it, I have been able to drag myself out of bed every morning at 6 am to go throw the plates around for an hour. The real culprits in my overmodest gains are my uneven diet and sleep patterns.

Sleep is a panacea for many ills and it can really hurt you when you can’t get enough of it. If you are trying to exercise (or sit through boring lectures), then don’t expect to improve unless you can get enough sleep. This was a serious problem in high school when I suffered from insomnia. I remember then hitting a certain exercise wall that I couldn’t go past. The problem I’m facing now is that I can’t go to bed early enough. 10 pm should be my absolute ceiling for bed time, but I’m lucky if I can be in bed by 11pm. Not only does this make getting up at 6 am bloody murder, but it just sucks the life out of a workout and it kills recovery. While recovering from a strength workout, every hour of sleep is precious. If you can’t get enough sleep, then your body cannot keep up repairing the damage that you are doing to it. This is when you plateau and you notice your strength gains start to dip.

My dietary habits have not been so hot either. I tend to make three good healthy meals for myself every day Monday through Friday. Sound good? It isn’t. There should be at least five meals a day to keep my insulin levels fairly even and my metabolism up. But frankly, I can’t keep up. One solution would be to split my lunch in two, eating part of it around 10 am and the other part around 2 pm, but my work schedule does not really allow for this. What happens is I end up tanking three large meals a day, and this has not been beneficial to my waistline at all. Also, weekends have proven to be killers with frequent trips home and meals out. As tasty as it is, Mexican food is a fat bomb and Chinese restaurants use too much oil (I am not singling out Chinese restaurants. Most restaurants up the oil/fat content of their food to make it taste better. I just happen to eat Chinese a lot.) Even at home, I tend to snack around on sweet things on the weekends. We still have a full cake in the freezer that I haven’t touched. That’ll have to go somewhere soon. We also have honey-covered almonds, candy, chocolate, and other stuff just sitting around. When I go home, my mom unloads this junk on us and temptation is too much to refuse.

So that’s the way it is. Strength gains are hugely reliant on consistent diet and sleep. Does this mean that you need to measure your food out with a measuring cup? It sure does. Otherwise you end up eating too little, not recovering, and wasting an hour in the gym.

Well, what else is there to say other than life improves with better time management. Something I definitely need to learn.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Incredible Rats

What can I say? After a month or more of not writing, Duvall's inspired me to pick up the electronic pen again. That, and I'm a bit tipsy.

Anyway, I've been meaning to write this post for some time, but my thoughts don't seem to coalesce meaningfully. GF and I saw "Ratatouille," which was absolutely great. Excellent animation, which then recedes as you get absorbed by the plot. As a sign of all this, I actually felt hungry after seeing a movie about rats in the kitchen.

But, I was wondering if the director, Brad Bird, was softening on his somewhat Objectivist tone laid out in "The Incredibles." There, the catch phrase was "when everyone is special, nobody is", which is oddly depressing for a Disney venture (except for the fake ending at the end of Pirates 3 - which, by the way, don't see). In Ratatouille, the phrase is "anyone can cook", but as none other than Peter O'Toole intones, the meaning is not that anybody can cook. Rather, it's that truly great cooking can come from anywhere.

A softer tone to be sure. But I wonder if Brad sells the power of learning and practice too short. After all, the "natural endowments" of the brain are increasingly being shown to be a product of application and hard work, not "natural" abilities. But Bird tends to cast these things as significant, but perhaps not important. *spoilers* Remy, the main rat, has a natural gift, it is implied. But the female sous chef - who has worked her ass off to get where she is - is several times upstaged by Remy or him controlling his human puppet. And while I don't doubt that genius can be a matter of inspiration, it's also very much a product of knowing enough to do something with that inspiration.

Which is not to say that I didn't find the movie compelling, funny, and entertaining. And yes, I choked up a little at the penultimate scene. But, what is Bird thinking? What is going in his head? How has his thinking evolved between these two movies? And what does this bode for the third? I like his movies because he doesn't pander to the Disney crowd. It's no original Transformers movie, but it's a far cry from Cinderella. I don't want him to lose his edge, but I'd certainly like him to be a bit more introspective about what his message is and the wider context it plays in. That may be too much for a cartoon, even one being directed by as skilled an individual as Bird, but it is one thing which, for me, would move his films from "good for adults, but you can take your kids to it" to "good for both kids and adults."

Slumming in Shanghai

I never truly grasped how much puff there is in newspapers until I started reading them regularly. If mistake reading a trend piece looking for news, I mostly shrug, with the occasional shake of the head at a particularly poorly constructed segue. Now it’s evident that the advent of blogging that diarylike pieces has provided a new arena for fluff to appear. The New York Times is running some sort of series about people making homes in foreign countries, a interesting enough start point.

Not so much for the commentary about China or Shanghai, (despite the red state label)—though the broker stuff is kinda interesting to me—I was struck by this piece. Well, by about a page of this piece, before I got bored and skimmed the rest. I’m struck by the weird blinders on the writer, the lack of self-awareness combined with the sense that the writer is thoughtful. And don’t mean her interaction with China, and I actually don’t want to discuss China in this post, but the strange dissonance in the article.

She’s moving out of New York, tired of boutique shops on Bleecker and the $20 hamburgers.* The fear of terrorism is certainly real, but a good of her motivation to move seems to be related to escaping being surrounded by conspicuous consumption, even while marveling at the ease for finding a 2k sq. foot space plus for 1,500 a month (a couple hundred less than per capita in China). The experience of finding her newly renovated rented family house in old middle class neighborhood (the sort getting plumbing while developers force out tenants) with an oven, ac and heater is likened to finding a $150 a month apartment in New York back in the day. I tell you I can find an apartment in Shanghai right now for $150. It might come with a bucket.

So she’s leaving New York to Shanghai to escape conspicuous consumption, and I wouldn’t begrudge that, and I know this Home and Garden**, but what the hell? The theme in the piece that keeps coming is the energy in the new gold rush Shanghai is like living in early 70s New York. Target audience or not, what kind of dissonance is required to decide that's a good notion? Now, I didn’t live in New York in the seventies, but presumably she’s excited for the economy to bottom out and all the attendant crises. Much to look forward to. But her neighbors are thrifty and not wasteful. And the middle class and poor, they live near by. And I guess living next door to that might assuage whatever ill-defined (not even necessarily necessary) guilt she might feel.

Anyway, good luck to Shanghai, hopefully not actually beginning to feel the greatness of New York in the seventies, or it has an absolute shit decade to come.

* There is that foi gras burger though that’s bound to be more than twenty, but I still don’t know where to get a $20 burger other than in hotels.
** There’s always the occasional article about young people happy to be independent in soho and with the parents paying for freshdirect.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A dog, a pig, a chicken, and a horse. And not one of them makes money.

I've been playing Harvest Moon: Magical Melody of late. You play a m/f new landowner in Flower Bud village (I suggest the river estate and farming for income first, livestock's not worth it). And then you proceed to farm, mine, fish, or what have you. Or, there's some boondoogle about ressurecting the Harvest Goddess or something--but growing corn, that's where it's at. It's video game farming, more or less as close as I'm going or wanting to get to that sort of exertion.

You make money by shipping items, and what you ship attracts people and businesses to the village. Ship ore, a blacksmith might come, and so on. The trouble is, people move out if they're not happy or get no business. But you are the lone supplier and customer it seems. I spend all my time watering crops, brushing my animals, and giving gifts to the lovely ladies of the village (in hopes of getting married and getting farm help). And the fisherman, the mayor, the atelier(!). And mean, androgynous Jamie. Only Woody the old woodsman seems happy enough not to move away.

I feel put upon. Why am I alone, the economic lynchpin of this whole town? Responsible for everyone's emotional well being? Isn't there some sort of incentive zoning the mayor could pull? Can't the people form a bridge club? My horse doesn't even pull a plow, and I got fields to water too. A scrappy, young go-getter like myself should be off to the big city, but all the opportunities there are related to crime or raising fighting cocks. Ah well, the big city's just not ready for me yet.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Extremely Loud and Incredibly … Awesome.*

Transformers is awesome.

While I think it's clear the notion of giant robots fighting should either be elicit a grin (possibly a serious, silent nod first, followed by grinning) or a look with a whiff of disapproval, I will attempt to say something that adds up to a "review".

Transformers is about...no this going to get stupid really fast. Giant robots fight and punch each other. Forget the plot, it's serviceable. It's got ignorable holes. It makes more sense than Final Fantasy. The action scenes provide enough kinetic excitement. They're not easy or sequential, per se, but I didn't find the action scenes hard to follow. In fact, the direction was otherwise pretty clear to me. I mean, I've never watched a whole Michael Bay movie till this one (5 minutes of Armageddon made my head hurt), but it was fine to me. Maybe he had to hold shots longer so ILM would have a stable scene to play with?

My niggling comments, bad: Weak Australian hacker, overly expository interlude to "explain things" between the "blowing things up". A jarring Apple product placement (seriously, pentagon laptops aren't going to be macbooks)...rampant product placement throughout actually. A couple lazy lowbrow jokes too many.

My niggling comments, good: Surprisingly good robot design. More than just punching fighting. Enough insider jokes and lines (not enough cheering at "Roll out!" with my crowd, to my mind). Hits the PG-13 sweet spot well. All the actors are involved enough to act, and not just pull paychecks (Star Wars prequels, I mean you).

"Significant" comments: Boy, that conclusion is kinda weird. If it's weak, its only the very, very end--but still. Shia LaBeouf (his build suggests his teenager playing days are over) is good throughout. The sign of a fine actor to me is pulling off stupid, stupid lines. And "My friend Optimus Prime" is a pretty stupid thing to say. He does it well. And professional voice actors like Peter Cullen (Optimus) are just light years ahead of celebrity voices, seeing as they can grunt in character.

I still feel like most of this immaterial. You'll know whether you like it from the trailer alone. Is this a arrested development kid thing? Like wanting to own a monkey? It's not the apotheosis of thirteen-year-old boy awesomeness that is Chronicles of Riddick, but...

Transformers: Less awesome than Riddick, awesomer than anything else this year. That's a pretty fair calculation, I think.

Quick alternate take:
The Allspark...always Allspark, never Cube shouldn't so definitively be destructive. Dumb robots should be created, instead of evil ones. Megatron should've gotten it and become more powerful, evolving into say...uh...UltraMegatron (not, not Galvatron, shut up.) but the fusion would be incomplete. The Autobots would defeat him in his Super Saiyan mode, with everything blowing up. Right now, since Optimus clearly has not hesitation about killing Decepticons, the confusion at the end is dumb. The aborted self-sacrifice is meaningless, since it's not the logical option.

Also, no making out on top of sentient beings. Creepy.

* Yes, that was the Slate Summary Judgment headline. But I'm making it affirmative, so it's mine, right?