Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I'm Sleeping With The Lights On Tonight

This post was supposed to be about the fact that today was my last day of class as a law student. But then I popped Jesus Camp into the DVD player and now I am so scared I'm not sure if I'll be able to sleep. This is the most disturbing thing I've ever seen. Period.

If you've not heard of Jesus Camp, it's a documentary about a bible camp run by a particularly evangelical church. Check out the trailer:

Part of the film shows a woman homeschooling her kids, and the film provides the helpful statistic that 75% of homeschooled kids are evangelical. And while it's not surprising to me that the woman teaches her kids creationism over evolution, what surprised me was that in the homeschool textbook she used "teaches" why global warming isn't real. Does Jesus really find it important to disprove global warming? Apparently so. It's disturbing to see how much these peoples religion is plugged into a certain party's politics.

Ted Haggard, the straight-gay-straight minister, makes a nice appearance. This was prohpetically filmed pre-gay-hooker-drugs scandal. He discusses the fact that if the evangelicals vote they determine the election -- and that sent chills down my spine.

However, I'm mostly disturbed by the violence in the church's message. The kids in this film talk about withcraft like Salem was yesterday. How if Harry Potter were real, he should be put to death. They talk about making war against non-believers. They actually pray over a cardboard cutout of George Bush to bless him (and of course part of the prayer is in tongues).

A special anti-abortion speaker comes to the camp and talks extensively about overthrowing abortion in America -- to 7 and 8 year olds. The speaker has the kids hold small plastic fetuses, and riles them up to the point where some of them are crying and they are shouting in unison "no more".

How is it that kids who aren't taught sex ed understand abortion? Apparently well enough to be bussed to the Supreme Court and stand outside in the freezing cold and sing about the blood of Jesus.
I think these kids would feel fine about stoning a whore or two, as long as someone told them that's what Jesus wants. One kid says "We're Christian warriors, but in a funner way!"

Generally, I'm a live and let live person. Also, I'm lazy, but maybe it really IS time to declare war on this sort of religion (I dont really know what that means other than to run away and pour myself a stiff drink). I've always wondered how someone could call themselves a Christian, but beat up a gay man, or bomb an abortion clinic. I mean, it's one thing to talk the crazy talk, it's quite another to talk the crazy talk and then go blow someone up. After seeing this film and seeing this level of brainwashing, I think I might have part of the answer.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

My Icons Are Enormous

I have two classes back to back in the same room. The first class is crowded, and the power outlets in one of the rows don't work, so I always run on the battery during the first class and then plug in when it dies in the second class.

So my battery died on Monday, while I was taking a little bathroom break. Came back, plugged in, and then my desktop icons were ENORMOUS. (much bigger than the picture) So I went to my desktop setup where I discovered that "Large Icons" was definitely NOT selected.

So I started fiddling with the sizing, but like something out of Alice In Wonderland, the icons just kept getting bigger and bigger. They became Jumbotron- sized icons. And each time I made an adjustment my computer would have to restart and would whir all angrily.

As distressing as the situation was, my large icons were also hillarious. TIny who was sitting next to me kept looking over and cracking up as well. Because literally, you could read my icons from the back row of the class.

We both felt kind of bad because our clinic instructor was trying to impart his wisdom in our final class and also he had just broken his wrists so I felt bad for laughing. Trying to stiffle it wasn't all that successful, so basically I'm an insensitive jerk.

With enormous desktop icons.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wait For The Boop

Everyone who knows me for any length of time has seen my 30 minute laugh. Every once in a while something will strike me as so funny that I'll just laugh and laugh at the very thought of it. Whatever it is will often get funnier over time. Usually I'll laugh so hard that I may fall on the floor or out of a chair and I'll be lacking in air that no sound will come out of my mouth.

So there's a scene in this trailer that prett much does it for me. Everytime I watch it, it gets funnier. I know, this looks like another stupid teen love movie, but I don't care. My favorite scene is towards the end when the friends are drunk and telling each they love each other - just wait for the "boop".

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Monday, April 16, 2007

In Flight Movie Reviews: The Holiday

Last week I and mi amigos flew to D.C. to find some housing. We found a sweet place in a transitional ghetto. Our little trip required airplane travel, and I find that when I fly, I am compelled to see whatever movie is playing. Hence the reason I have seen the horrible horrible film Zeus and Roxanne about a dog, a dolphin, and Steve Guttenburg as a motorcycle dude. It is also for this reason that I found myself watching The Holiday on our flight home.

Spoiler alert: I will not only tell you everything that happens but I will tell you how bad everything is.

Oh, Kate Winslet, why hast thou forsaken me? For surely, not since The Last Kiss, has there been a movie as vile as The Holiday.

If you have watched TV in the last year I'm sure you know the the basic premise of the movie: two women who have just gotten out of bad relationships "house swap" for a change of scene. And then they both find love in their new surroundings!

And what a horrible, treackly love it is. The Holiday seems to be left over segments from Love Actually that were scrapped because they were both uninteresting and unfunny.

Kate Winslet, who I adore, has the schlockiest character in the film. She plays Iris, an English girl who writes the wedding announcements for her local paper and paradoxically, is unlucky in love. When she comes to America she befriends her elderly neighbor, Arthur, who it turns out was a film maker in the golden age of Hollywood. Arthur recomends some old movies for Iris. The movies are filled with spunky female characters who help her develop the backbone she needs to get over her cheating x-boyfriend. Spunky! This breaks a cardinal rule of film making: don't mention good films in your crappy film.

Oh and she also ends up falling for Jack Black, who is a film composer. There couldn't possible be less chemistry between any two people. There was more chemistry between Samuel L. Jackson and the shark that ate him in Deep Blue Sea.

The scenes between Winslet and her neighbor are excruciating - overly saccharine, and lacking in any feeling of veracity. For an example of similar relationship that actually works, check out the interaction between Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy in Fried Green Tomatoes. I also think one of the most wince-worthy scenes I've watched in a while occurs when Winslet and Black are at the piano doing some sort of scat based on "Doodlie-do". Never has a scene felt more scripted, and I was actually embarassed for Winslet.

Cameron Diaz and Jude Law's storyline, which occupies more of the film is just as bad. Diaz plays an woman who can't cry because her parents divorced when she was a kid and she never saw it coming. No, seriously. She's and only child and before the split her family called itself the three musketeers. Jude Law plays a widowesr with two kids, who seems to spend a lot of time whoring and very little with his kids, which seems to match his real life as well. Turns out he and his children call themselves the three muskateers too! No really, I can't even make this up.

The plot has another twist in it: Diaz learns to cry again. I know, I couldn't believe it either. And they waited right until the end to have it happen. It was very dramatic.

The one slightly novel idea in the film is the use of a film trailer device. Diaz edits film trailers for a living, so she starts seeing her failed romances in trailer form: "Amanda couldn't find love, but then...." In a completely different film this might be really interesting, funny even. In this film it was distracting and odd since no other character has similar out of context experiences.

There are so many terrible elements in The Holiday it's hard to know where to begin and end: the script, the acting, the direction - it sucks to its innermost core. I can't help but be reminded of Sean Penn's diatribe at the Oscars that Jude Law "Is one of our finest actors". If he's seen The Holiday, he surely rues those words.

The movie is directed by Nancy Meyers who also directed the shit storm that is What Women Want. What Meyers and her ilk fail to realize is that every viewer knows it's boy meets girl, boy gets girl in the end - it's all the shit in the middle that counts. And that's where a good romantic movie will deliver in the novelty department. Doing the same old shit while just tossing in a house swap just doesn't cut the mustard. It's like Jude Law says to Cameron Diaz:
"I'm a book editor from London - you're a trailer-maker from LA. We're worlds apart!" And though never was a crappier, more ridiculous line of dialogue written or uttered, it perfectly sums up The Holiday: it worlds away from being a decent romantic film.

Inspired, or disgusted, by The Holiday I am compiling my person list of the ten best and worst Romantic comedies. Coming soon to a blog near you.

The only thing that made this viewing experience bearable was the sarcastic male flight attendant. As we're preparing to land he says "
I'm sorry to interrupt the end of the movie, but...oh, thank god, it's over. Please put your seats in the full, upright position. Yes, the most uncomfortable position possible."

Best flight attendant ever.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Updates: Life, Death, and Air Sex

I passed the MPRE for my state. Ole!

Since I cannot smell, I drank bad milk today. Hooray!

Also, since I am so out of the loop, I didn't know that artists Sol Lewitt died two days ago at age 78. (no jubiliant exclamation here)!

His life was nothing if not diverse: he served in the Korean War, worked for Seventeen magazine and then as a graphic designer for none other than uber-architect I.M. Pei. All of these influences fed into a diverse body of work -- from minimalist sculpture to enormous wall murals (which often irritated viewers since they were executed by his studio rather than by the man himself). The man at least had a sense of humor, evident in a series of photos where he portrayed himself burying his own minimalist sculpture (read: minimalism is dead).

Lewitt was described in the New York Times as creating
"deceptively simple geometric sculptures and drawings and ecstatically colored and jazzy wall paintings." At the museum where I worked, there was a huge Lewitt mural on the wall. It was a mughal (that is muslim architecture in India) design painted in muted, primary colors. The beautiful colors -which I think were done in lush encaustic (color suspended in wax)- and the regularly repeating pattern always created a sense of calm for me. Lewitt once said, "Successful art changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions." I guess if you consider transforming my draconian museum into a place of reflective beauty, well, mission accomplished.

Lewitt will be missed.

And just so that we don't end on a particularly poignant note,
and also just in case you were feeling like your life sucks,
it's good to remember that there's always somebody who's worse off
and then make fun of that person.

Take these men in Japan, who particpate in "Air Sex" because they are supremely unlucky in life. You probably shouldn't watch this at work.


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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Breathing Optional

So at 3:00 p.m. my health insurance company informed my surgery center that they don't cover nasal surgery. For any sort of nasal surgery to be covered, I will have to pursue an additional 15 day procedure which will allow the insurance company to determine if my surgery is "medically necessary".

To my Student Health Insurance: This is all shit that could have been brought to my attention more than 12 hours prior to my surgery.

I basically have tumors in my nose that cause a chronic sinus infection, which could ultimately cause me to have a brain infection. I'm not sure what could be more "medically necessary" than this surgery.

There's also the small fact that oh I CANNOT BREATH OUT OF HALF OF MY NOSE. As I'm wheezing and bitching to the health insurance man he says "I can see that you are having some trouble breathing." But it's not clear if that fact will be sufficient to find that the surgery is medically necessary and therefore covered; the insurance company reviews these surgeries on a case by case basis. So if I understand correctly, my health insurance may consider free breathing "optional".

So I've had to cancel my surgery. But hey, if I have to have emergency surgery, *that* will covered. At which point my brain may be worthless.

Fuck you, health insurance.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Adieu, Mon Nose Fetus

As I've mentioned before, I've developed nasal polyps in my nose and sinus. But before I quite knew what was going on, I called the blockage in my nose my "nose fetus." Well, it turns out that I didn't respond very well to the steroids/antibiotics treatment to shrink the polyps, so I'm having endoscopic surgery on Thursday. In short, I am aborting my nose fetus.

But since life is only fun if it's complicated, I'm flying to Dallas (where I'm originally from) to have the surgery because the hospitals are so full down here I couldn't get it scheduled. It's an additional pain in the ass, but probably better because things are still pretty ghetto down here.

The one bright spot is that my doctor in Dallas gave me a comic book about my surgery entitled "ENDOSCOPIC SURGERY: Seeing and Operating Inside Your Sinuses and Nose." This comic book is awesome. I wish I had time to scan some of the choice pages to share.

I'll just describe some of my favorites; I love the pictures of sad people, all clutching their nose/heads/sinuses in various states of dress and agony:

* See the asian ballerina who cannot dance because she must clutch a kleenex to her nose.
* The caucasian female office worker who cannot stare at her laptop because of overwhelming sinus pressure.
* The african-american man in blue pajamas who sits on the side of his bed poking at his sinus. It is unclear how sinus pain has ruined his life - perhaps he is bed-ridden?

Other highlights include:

* Step by step instructions on rinsing the nose and sinuses with salt water
* Illustrations of various infections one can get in the sinuses
* At the end there is a picture of a fat italian man cooking enjoying the smells wafting upfrom his pot of delicious food.

Over drinks last night, my friends and I also had a lot of fun comparing pictures of my cat scan to the cat scan illustrations in the comic book. Like a high level game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey we drunkenly tried to spot my deviated septum and blocked sinuses. Fun for all ages!

At any rate, all of this is to say I'm afraid I'll be on a brief hiatus because I'll be recouping at the 'rents and they only have dial up.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Go Greenhouse Gases, Go!

(the title of this post should be sung to the tune of Speed Racer)

Great googly moogly! The Supreme Court has ruled today against The Prez in not one but TWO major environmental cases. I realize I usually don't write about The Law, but today I am jubilant, so therefore you must learn.

Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy Corp.
This case has to do with a Clean Air Act program known as New Source Review, or NSR for short. The basic idea is that before you're going to build a new facility (be it power plant or whatever), you're going to put the best technology on it (and that requirement is even more stringent if your area is already too polluted). All well and good right? Except that somebody realized that you could circumvent the law by adding on to an existing a plant - for example, your "add-on" would be an entirely new plant built right next door. So to close this loophole, Congress made sure that the NSR program also applies to any facility that has a major upgrade over a certain amount of $.

So what the hell is the case about? Well, some facilities figured another way around the law. See NSR permits say "Hey facility, you can dump this many metric tons of your poisonous shit into the air every hour" Facility says "okey dokey". Except then the facility gets the bright idea and says , "Hey, we usually run for 12 hours a day, how about we run 24 hours a day?! See our permit only says how much we can pollute per hour, not how much we pollute every year. So NO problem! Are we geniuses or what?"

Except that the EPA decided that running additional hours is in violation of these facilities permits. Amazingly, the Supreme Court agreed. The real fallout? Less crap in the air for you and me. Legally speaking, this is how this one should have turned out, and is not a huge surprise, but it is still a pleasant one.

Massachusetts v. EPA
In the clearly more important case, the Supreme Court kind of bitch slapped EPA. EPA was saying that they don't have the authority to regulate greenhouse gasses under Clean Air Act (CAA). Well, this is kinda true and kinda false. They are supposed to regulate Ozone for sure, which is a greenhouse gas. They also regulate Carbon Dioxide under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) program -- another Clean Air Act program. Every year the EPA is supposed to review the NAAQS program to determine if there are other things that should be added, so they could have been adding greenhouse gasses to that program. But it's true that presently under the CAA there is no specific greenhouse gas program, but they could do this if they wanted to.

What probably happened behind the scenes is that W. told the EPA they can't do shit about greenhouse gasses. So EPA has been doing nothing about them. See governmental agencies like EPA are sort of quasi-independent: they are technically part of the executive branch and their heads generally answer directly to the president, but the nature of an agency is that it can also do its own thing to a certain extent.

In some senses it might have been good if the court had decided EPA didn't have the authority because some more on point legislation is already in the works and might actually be better than anything EPA will come up with. Then again, that legislation might get pushed through anyway.

Truly, no one is more surprised than I am about this one.

If you want more/better summaries of these cases check out:

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