Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight. Best Superhero Movie Ever?

I saw The Dark Knight today with my mom and daughters. I was speechless when it was over.

This is not just a comic-book movie. Oh, sure it is rooted in familiar comic tropes, but they are just a stepping stone for a tale that transcends its origin to become a great movie period. The movie has garnered rave reviews and I'll add my voice to the chorus. Chris Nolan has assembled a brilliant film with the help of an excellent script and incredible acting.

Not enough praise can be heaped on Heath Ledger for his acting as the Joker. He doesn't go over the top as Nicholson did in 1989's Batman, but so thoroughly inhabits the role and makes the psychotic killer leap off the screen and grab you by the throat. This Joker is not just crazy, but an inhuman force of nature which is enhanced by Nolan's wise decision not to give details on Joker's origin. Doing so would have humanized him and dramatically decreased his impact.

Dark is certainly an apt description of this movie. It goes places that even "serious" movies dare to tread. Much of the film is a psychological examination of the type of person who would be Batman, but also the people who fight him, and the normal citizens around them. It's chilling watching Joker tell Batman that they are not that far apart and Batman realizes how true that is. The Joker also manages to pull off a clever twist on the prisoner's dilemma and the bleakness of the whole movie truly leaves the viewer in doubt as to the outcome.

I feel that The Dark Knight is easily the best superhero movie made to date. Christopher Nolan is proving himself to be one of the most talented filmmakers around and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Electoral College Needs To Go

I've been saying it for years and I'm not the only one who thinks so.

As proven definitively in FairVote's new reports The Shrinking Battleground and Who Picks the President?, the Electoral College system will, if not reformed, relegate two-thirds of Americans to the sidelines during presidential elections for years to come. Today, record-setting campaign resources are targeted at just a handful of states. Voter mobilization money, advertising dollars, campaign energy, candidate visits and almost certainly policy decisions are all spent to sway voters in roughly a dozen states. That number of competitive states is far smaller -and more consistent election to election- than it was just two decades ago. The result is rapidly growing inequality in voter turnout, especially among young people. Racial fairness is undermined because these states are disproportionately white.

The odds of this changing anytime soon? Yeah, not bloody likely.

George W. Bush Sewage Plant

Heh. San Franciscans will vote this November on whether or not to name a sewage treatment plant after our esteemed President. Personally, I think it gives Bush too much credit; at least the treatment plant cleans up its mess.

John Ashcroft Down With Torture

John Ashcroft told a House panel today yesterday that waterboarding serves a "valuable purpose" and does not constitute torture. This is, of course, in contrast to the opinion of most other people (aka the sane ones). I still find myself baffled that we are having this debate here in America. Where did our moral compass go? When did we start thinking it was okay to be just as sinister as the bad guys? How do people sleep at night knowing that they authorized/condoned/participated in torture?

I suppose it comes back to 9/11 as it so often does these days. Yes, the events of that day were horrific beyond imagining. That does not give us the green light to ditch our morals, though. Indeed, it is in times such as those that we need to staunchly reaffirm what we stand for, what we believe. Unfortunately we have let fear overrule our reason which has led to our leaders saying that it is okay to torture, but it's not really torture 'cause we're the good guys and we're doing it to protect America.

Well, I don't want to live in that America. I would rather see it fall than become a nation so corrupted morally. Thankfully, we can still undo this. We can elect politicians who do not support torture and will prosecute those who practice it. I'm not sure where they are, but they have to be out there, right? Right?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Vlogging My Health, Part I

"[S]he messed my head up pretty good..."

It's probably not a good idea for nurses to start getting involved with their patients, but it is doubly true at mental hospitals.

It started with an innocent game of chess between a patient and his nurse. But it quickly evolved.

Soon, the pair were having sex all over the hospital — in his room, the staff lounge, examination room. But their clandestine encounters went beyond the walls of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health on Queen St. W. When permitted to leave the hospital for a few hours on a community pass, the good-looking 6-foot-3 patient met the woman at a nearby hotel.

Although she was married, their relationship lasted about two years and remained intact even after she was fired from CAMH — an incident he blamed himself for and, in an act of penance, jumped into oncoming traffic.

When she became pregnant last fall, he slipped into a depression, which again landed him in hospital.
It’s an unusual tale that has been pieced together from his clinical notes, a CAMH report and an $850,000 lawsuit recently filed in an Ontario Superior Court.

The patient, identified only as John, is suing CAMH and the nurse, identified as Jane. The court has banned publication of their names to protect the identity of the child.

“I just know that she messed my head up pretty good and that I’ve done things to myself that I never did before,” John told Torstar News Service.

Sure, buddy. You had fun for two years and now you're thinking, "Hmmmm...she's pregnant and I'd rather not be responsible for that. Money sounds good, too. I think I'm gonna sue." Of course he's probably not playing with a full deck, but maybe the nurse should have thought of that before she decided to give him an some extra "therapy."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Recent Reading

I finished reading the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman with my daughters a few days ago. It is one of the earliest fantasy series I read as a kid and I have read it a few times since. Reading it again this time, it is obvious that these books were their first published works. Some of the prose is awkward and many events feel quite cliched.

Still, I recommend the books to any aficionado of fantasy fiction. The characters are fantastic and the books have a lot of...heart, for lack of a better term. Best of all this trilogy sets up events for the sophomore effort, the Legends trilogy. Vastly superior to Chronicles in plotting and prose, it is one of the best epic fantasy stories I have read. The girls clamored for this to be next up in our group reading so we started reading it yesterday.

I've been reading some Harlan Ellison for myself. I read Angry Candy which contains his award winning story "Paladin of the Lost Hour." I'm almost finished reading Shatterday which contains another award-winning story, "Jeffty is Five," one of the most heart-wrenching tales I have ever read. The story, especially the last images, have stuck with me like a bad dream. Ellison is one of the greatest authors around and if you haven't read any of his work, you really owe it to yourself to check 'em out.

A Third Child

Congrats to one of my favorite essayists, Amber Richardson, on being pregnant with her third kid.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blood Test Results

I got the results today of the blood tests I had last week. The good news is that my A1C came in between 5 and 6. This is a measure of my average blood sugar over the past three months. It is supposed to be less than 7; the day I was diagnosed with diabetes, it was nearly 13, so I am definitely doing much better there.

The bad news is that my cholesterol is high for a diabetic. My LDL level is 81 which would be fine if I was normal did not have diabetes. Since I do, it is supposed to be under 70. So, I have to work on dropping my cholesterol levels. My diet is pretty good - plenty of fruits, veggies, grains, and such. I'll probably have to force myself to start a regular exercise regimen. I've tried to stay active (going for walks, taking the stairs at work, parking farther away at the store), but it obviously has not been enough.

Ah, well, life would be boring if it always went smoothly, right?

Secret Executive Orders?

Jane Meyer's new book, The Dark Side, in addition to dealing with torture on Bush's watch, also reveals that it is suspected that a secret executive order exists that changes the rules of succession we currently have in place.

New Yorker writer Jane Mayer's new book, The Dark Side, opens with a shocker. Apparently sometime in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan issued a "secret executive order" that in the event of the death of the president and the vice president "established a means of re-creating the executive branch." Reagan's order violated the express terms of the Constitution and governing statutes.
Congress last considered the problem of a dual vacancy in the presidency and the vice presidency when Harry Truman was in the White House. In the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, lawmakers stipulated that if both positions are empty, power passes first to the Speaker of the House or, if she, too, does not survive, to the president pro tem of the Senate. But relying on James Mann's earlier book Rise of the Vulcans, Mayer reports that Reagan "amended the process for speed and clarity … without informing Congress that it had been sidestepped." We don't know how. But if the order bypasses the speaker and the Senate president pro tempore in favor of an official in the executive branch, we have a recipe for a constitutional crisis.
Where does the Bush administration figure into all of this? Since Sept. 11 , the question of presidential succession has been a preoccupation of some of the most responsible statesmen in Washington. Most notably, James Baker joined the late Lloyd Cutler to chair a bipartisan AEI-Brookings Institution commission on the subject. But their recommendations went nowhere in Congress, and I have always wondered why the Bush administration was content to remain on the sidelines. After all, the administration is certainly serious about terrorism. Why, then, didn't it take energetic steps to make much-needed revisions to the law of presidential succession inherited from the days of Harry Truman?

Speaking of hubris.

Obama and Hubris

The arrogant moniker has been thrown at Obama frequently and now some are marveling at his hubris. As a firm Obama supporter, I am under no illusions about Obama's opinion of himself. However, I think the people leveling this charge seem to forget that it is practically a requirement of the job to think you are a cut above the rest. The people who run for President are attempting to become the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth. This is not typically the type of job aspired to by people who say, "Aw, shucks, little old me? I guess I'm an all right guy, nothing special, though." Snort. They may attempt to put on this air in order to seem "one of the guys," but in reality every one of them is thinking, "I am better than the schmo next to me and I expect the people to recognize that even if I have to draw it for 'em in crayon."

Would it be better to have leaders full of humility? Probably, but until humans are much different than they are now, I wouldn't expect it anytime soon.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Computers and Eye Problems

Too much time spent staring at the computer screen is not good for your eyes.

Ophthalmologists, optometrists and other eye professionals note a seeming link between myopia, also called nearsightedness, and "near work"—visual activities that take place at a distance of about 40 centimeters (16 inches) from the eye—such as reading a book. Staring at a computer screen qualifies as well, though monitors usually are around 50 centimeters (20 inches) away.
Eyestrain, says Mark Bullimore, a professor at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, results from staring at a screen over long periods of time. Such activity causes eye exhaustion: burning, dryness and muscle aches—all unpleasant and potentially incapacitating symptoms while they last.

As a self-professed computer geek, I don't anticipate getting away from my computer more. Of course, with the ubiquity of computers today, I don't think anyone is getting away from them anytime soon.

Do You Want to Be Batman?

It's gonna take some work.

In some of the timelines you see in the comics, the backstory is he goes away for five years—some it's three to five years, or eight years, or 12 years. In terms of the physical changes (strength and conditioning), that's happening fairly quickly. We're talking three to five years. In terms of the physical skills to be able to defend himself against all these opponents all the time, I would benchmark that at 10 to 12 years. Probably the most reality-based representation of Batman and his training was in Batman Begins.

Anyone have a few billion dollars to loan me so I can get started?

Car Update

I had someone I know look at my car today dice. We had the battery tested. It's good. He spliced together the cable that was falling apart. No help. He found another cable that had fallen apart ("Are there any cables in here that are in one piece?" I asked). Nothing. He looked at all the fuses. They looked good.

We pushed the car to a different parking spot to hopefully keep it from getting towed. We are going to tow it to my house tomorrow with his Durango and he is going to call some people he knows to see if one of them can take a look at it.

In the meantime, I borrowed my dad's vehicle for one day and my good friend, Jeromy, has been letting me drive his car. Thanks to both of them for their help and to Travis, the guy who took a look at it today and is going to try to call in some favors. It's nice to know that there are people I can count on to give me a hand when I need it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Dark Side

A new book out, The Dark Side, shines a bright light on how torture became instituted under the Bush Administration. It makes it clear the Cheney was the major architect of the plan. Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias both comment. The worst part is the fact that it seems no one is going to pay a price for having committed these heinous crimes.

Weekly Music Video

"Despite all my rage, I'm still just a rat in a cage." Who hasn't felt like that from time to time?

"Bullet with Butterfly Wings" - The Smashing Pumpkins

Weekly Secret