Thursday, May 31, 2007
Change Is... Good?

I'm thinking about doing a clean XP install on my computer. But I've never done one before -- what do you think? Would it be useful, maybe? Or is it more trouble that it's worth? The thing is, I've been running the original OS installation for about two years now, and I have no doubt that in spite of my vigilance it has been infested with malignant code. None of the antivirus/anti-spyware utilities I've run have turned anything up, but now and then odd things happen that just aren't easily explained any other way. And you know how Windows is: it gets old and the works get all gummed up inside.

And anyway, I'd really like to partition my hard drive differently, and maybe set it up as a dual-boot machine. I mean, there are any number of little changes I could make, apart from restoring that new-Windows smell. On the other hand, it could just as easily be a horrible mistake. I've finally got Firefox running just the way I like it, and last time I checked Thunderbird still wasn't great about archiving old messages. And I've got a lot of messages I'd like to keep.

Also, sometime in the coming months I'll be hitting post #1000 on this blog, and it seems like I should do something nice for the occasion. It has been pointed out by someone who clearly knows a lot about web design (ahem) that my blog looks like, "a piece o' Mead notebook paper," so maybe a top-to-bottom redesign is in order? I can't say I'm particularly enthusiastic about the idea... first, I'm still content with the look of my blog. It's simple, yes, but I think it's clean and accessible. (I'm actually a little uncomfortable with the amount of clutter in the sidebars, so obviously Shaw and I have drastically different ideas about what makes a good site. That boy never met a web gadget he didn't like.)

But the days when I used my blog as my homepage / launching pad are long since over, so I'm open to the idea of change. What would y'all like to see different around here? Not that I'm necessarily going to take your advice, but consider this an invitation to offer some. Be warned, though: if you suggest something really complicated (ie, anything beyond the scope of common HTML or CSS), I'll also expect an offer to help with the coding. Because I fucking suck at coding.
3:20 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Sunday, May 27, 2007
My Girl's Gone

My car. She's gone.

I knew this day was coming -- I've said before on this blog that I thought the day was near, only to be proven wrong; I've spent the last two years living with the assumption that she could give out at any moment. But now the time has truly come, and I can't quite believe it. My trusty old 1998 Chevy Lumina is no longer sitting in our driveway, and I will never, ever see her again.

It wasn't because anything went critically wrong -- I drove the last few miles in her doing 70 and blasting the stereo -- but it was starting to go wrong, and we decided it was for the last time. She'd started losing power at the low end of every gear, chugging and shaking up to cruising speed. It might've been the radiator, which we'd been told was about to go, or it might've been something else and the radiator. I told my mother about it on Wednesday evening. By yesterday, she'd bought a new Toyota (which she'd been considering for a long time, and which her husband was actively pushing her to do), handed her '99 Taurus down to me, and we took my old girl in as a trade-in. They got $500 for her.

I got the Lumina when it had 90,000 miles on it back in 2002, and since then I've put another 175,000 miles on her. She's been to both oceans, driven the entire length of I-40 at least once in each direction, she's driven down Sunset Boulevard and on rural Vermont dirt roads, through the desert and over icy mountain ranges. She always took care of me. She was the best car I've ever had.

The upside: I have functional cruise control again, and a working dome light, and hazard lights that turn off as well as on. The brakes and transmission are both new. There won't be any more random stalling to contend with ("please not on the freeway, please please") and no more hopping out in the middle of traffic to get under the hood and wiggle the battery terminal cable to get it reconnected. I won't have to keep two quarts of 5W-30 oil and a big jug of orange coolant in the trunk for unscheduled top-ups. The Taurus, while it's a typical matron-mobile (light slate-y blue, no less), handles better than the Lumina, which cornered like a blob of grape jelly. It doesn't vibrate at speeds over 70. The steering is tighter and more responsive, respectable for a mid-size sedan. I step on the gas, and I can actually expect her to, you know, go.

My god -- I won't have to drive with warning lights on anymore. I literally haven't driven without some warning light or another on in five years("CHECK ENGINE" from 2002-2005, "ANTI-LOCK" at any speed over 55 from '05 til presently, "LOW COOLANT" intermittently for the last year and a half or so.) I'm actually unnerved by the fact that there are no orange or red lights on the dash now -- I look down and I think for an instant that the engine power has cut out. Then I remember that this car doesn't spontaneously lose power like the Lumina did. And I marvel at how old and busted-up my car really was.

But I knew her, you know? I knew all her quirks, I knew which wires to jiggle and which warnings I could safely ignore, and I knew that I could trust her in spite of everything. She was a fucking fine automobile no matter what anyone else says. She was my girl.

Anyway, I won't be getting emotionally attached to the Taurus. Having it actually solves at least one significant problem for me in the coming months, which in itself makes the change more than worthwhile. But my aim at present is to get somewhere where I can give up having a car of my own and return to the pedestrian life I enjoyed in London. My next personal vehicle, I hope, will have only two wheels and no engine at all. I think I could invest emotionally in a shiny Dutch city bike as easily as in an ugly old green sedan.
2:12 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, May 25, 2007
El Horror Existencial

I don't often watch horror movies, not because I don't like them -- I dig a good splatter flick as much as the next girl -- but because so many of them are so painfully stupid. I just can't bear to watch a venerable, dynamic genre reduced to extended video game ads pitched to particularly dimwitted adolescents; as far as I'm concerned, those movies constitute a betrayal of everything that a modern horror film should be. And I don't follow the current line of thought that says the Japanese are where horror cinema's at these days. I watched Ringu, I watched Battle Royale, and the ubiquitous pallid, stringy-haired Japanese girl just doesn't move me.

I know, I'm hard to satisfy. But you see my problem. Horror is a specialized artform that almost none of its current practitioners seem to have even understood, much less mastered. Horror, like comedy, has a unique potential to address the most basic elements of the human soul, and to deal with subjects too sensitive to approach directly. Horror film begs for depth and allegory, for a chance to mean something; it's tragic that it seems to have become little more than an excuse to watch some topless bink get her head chopped off.

Today, though, I saw a fucking brilliant horror film. Everything you've heard is true: it is indeed better than the original. And 28 Days Later was the film that convinced me the genre might yet have some life in it, so that's saying something. Like every good horror film, its plot is relatively simple and the emphasis is on visuals designed to engage your limbic brain and create a visceral response; the cinematography is utterly perfect and completely gorgeous, in exactly the way that a horror film requires. And while the film contains a generous amount of spewing blood and popping heads (as it fucking well should), the real horror of this film is existential. The real monster is internal, not external, and salvation is just the same grim, brutal death wearing a different mask.

And it's a smart damn movie, too. The director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, understood his story and his setting and joined the two organically on a deep level. The film was full of visual allusions to London's history of real horrors: the black plague, the great fire, and the blitz; and he tied it into recent horrors like the World Trade Center attacks, the war in Iraq, the aftermath of Katrina, and the Vietnam war. The particular source of fear in this story is simply a mechanism; the horror comes from the nature of being human.

I'm telling you, if you even remotely like this sort of thing, you should see it. It's a masterpiece of the form. And it's worth it to see it on a big screen if you can. Just trust me on this.

The other thing that gave this film some extra gravity for me was the location -- most of the first half of the film takes place on the Isle of Dogs, where I lived for a couple of years, almost within the shadow of Canary Wharf tower. I saw the three tall buildings near my old council block on the screen more than once; if I could've paused the film, I could point out my building, maybe even the very balcony outside my room. Every shot was someplace I knew, somewhere I'd walked or stood, the concrete ledge where I sat waiting for someone, the platform where I waited for my train, the dark alley I walked through every night on my way home. I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing London this way, playing a role in a postmodern-ish zombie movie. It makes me feel so wistful -- like someone who once loved a movie star and now has to spend the rest of her life watching him kiss other people's ten-foot-tall lips. Or die a terrifying, violent death on screen.

PS: Extra points to anyone who can correctly identify the (IMHO obvious) visual reference to Peter Jackson's zombie magnum opus, Braindead (aka Dead Alive). Hint: think whirring blades.

PPS: And what the fuck is going on with all these Hispanic filmmakers these days? You've got Cuaron, del Toro (Guillermo, not Benicio -- and make sure to hit Pan's Labyrinth while you're at it, it's jaw-droppingly good), Jodorowsky, and now this Fresnadillo guy. Spanish is apparently the new Danish in the film world. Take note.
8:13 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Something Not Quite Exactly Like The Opposite of Spam

My Towel Day offering: a rarely-seen three-part interview with Brother Douglas.

Also, I've been meaning to point out DailyLit, to which I am an enthusiastic convert. They send you books in your email or RSS reader, in little bite-sized chunks. It's brilliant. I'm currently receiving one of Shakespeare's sonnets in my email around lunchtime every weekday; it's the loveliest email I've ever gotten short of love notes. So spend the next year reading Moby Dick; spend eighteen months reading Anna Karenina; spend the remainder of the decade reading War and Peace. Or hell, just read some science fiction. But read something. It won't kill you.

Update: Oops! Fixed that bad link. Thanks, Greensmile.
1:54 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The New Urban Age

In celebration of today's major demographic shift towards a predominantly urban population, here's an old-ish but fantastic piece by Dan Savage:

From here on out, we're glad red-state rubes live in areas where guns are more powerful and more plentiful, cars are larger and faster, and people are fatter and slower and dumber. This is not a recipe for repopulating the Great Plains. And when you look for ways to revive your failing towns and dying rural counties, don't even think about tourism. Who wants to go to small-town America now? You people scare us. We'll island-hop from now on, thank you, spending our time and our money in blue cities. If an urbanite is dying to have a country experience, rural Vermont is lovely. Maple syrup, rolling hills, fly-fishing--everything you could want. Country bumpkins in red rural areas who depend on tourists from urban areas but vote Republican can forget our money.

You've made your choice, red America, and we urban Americans are going to make a different choice. We are going to make Seattle--and New York, Chicago, and the rest--a great place to live, a progressive place. Again, we'll quote Ronald Reagan: We will make each of our cities--each and every one--a shining city on a hill. You can have your shitholes.

Yep, it's a little harsh. But who among you, city-dwellers, hasn't thought exactly this at one time or another?
12:09 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, May 21, 2007

Okay, I've done it.

I've removed some stuff from the blogroll -- I mean, a lot of stuff. It was a ruthless three-stage process that has left my blogroll roughly half its former size. Basically, if I no longer read it regularly, or if I haven't read it at all in the past six months, and if I don't have some compelling reason for keeping it anyway, it's gone.

It's kind of sad, really -- there was some stuff on the chopping block that I really hated to see go. But there it is -- old dreams chase new dreams away.

There are a few new additions as well, though not as many as I'd like. My blog reading habits are much less political these days and increasingly absurdist, or too specific to be of much interest to anyone else. I really like what I've added, though:

EvolutionBlog (my second-favorite ScienceBlog after Pharyngula)

Vonnegut's Asshole (this one's seriously good)

indexed (webcomic, very popular with the kids)

xkcd (another webcomic, also very popular with the kids)

The Art of the Prank (artful pranking and vaguely-related sorts of things)

I may add a few more as the week goes on because I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but mostly I was just trying to get rid of the old crap. If anyone has some blog/website recommendations, I'd still love to hear them.

Update: I've also just added DaveX's Startling Moniker to the blogroll -- I didn't even have to think about it, his blog is the shit. I don't have any idea what any of this music is, but the guy's obviously passionate about it, and that's all I care about.
6:58 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, May 17, 2007
Attack of the Visible Genitalia!

Oh noes!!!! Run!

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. -- Spring has arrived in this southeastern Vermont town known for its live-and-let-live culture. The trees are less bare, and some local residents are more so.

Resident Theresa Toney said she was dining at a downtown restaurant when she spotted this spring's first naked person. She looked out the window "and saw a man in his 60s walking up and down Main Street totally nude," she told the Brattleboro Reformer newspaper. "This is indecent exposure where it doesn't belong."


"How do you want to be viewed as Brattleboro?" asked the Rev. Kevin Horion. "We want to welcome families with small children."

Nudists could pop up anywhere, he said. "I am concerned we don't know where they are going to strike."


Yes, that elderly man's flaccid penis could strike at any time! Completely by surprise! With no warning! We might even accidentally see his balls! Shock! Horror! Gnash your teeth and rend your garments!

(Incidentally, do you think a 60-year-old scrotum is more or less wrinkly than a young one? It might be more, because it's older... but it also might be less, because it's all stretched out. Any old dudes around here have some insight to share?)

Oh, Brattleboro. Just when I think I've forgotten you, you do something like this and the feelings come rushing back. The thought of that fundie fuckhead being offended (he'd probably call it "persecuted") by a smiling old naked dude is like a ray of warm sunshine in my mind.
1:05 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Annual Maintenance

In the very near future, I'm going to go through my blogroll and links again and weed out all the dead stuff. It's past time -- I mean, Screenhead was put down months and months ago. It's embarrassing to have it all still there, like a front yard choked with four-foot-tall weeds.

If anybody knows of any good blogs, websites, or other linkable resources that I might not have found yet, let me know.
3:45 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Poor Persecuted Dear

You might have noticed that my post count has begun to creep back up. This job I'm currently working -- well, you know, there's not just a whole lot to do. Which isn't a complaint; it gives me plenty of time to study and ponder life's mysteries, and it's vastly better than slinging coleslaw. But I do find myself with some extra cycles.

The other thing is that the job has involved a lot of needles so far. I work at an organization that deals with lots of immuno-suppressed children, so avoiding exposure to contagious diseases -- especially childhood viruses, like chickenpox and measles -- is a big priority. And apparently they recently ramped up efforts in that direction, instituting a policy in which every new employee -- even low-level administratives like me, who never come into direct contact with patients -- have to demonstrate immunity to said childhood viruses. And in my case, that has meant blood tests. But it hasn't been that simple.

My veins run deep, and they are (I'm told) small and somewhat fragile. The upshot is that the first three times I got stuck, the nurse couldn't hit a vein. Another nurse made a fourth attempt, and hit, and filled two vials with blood -- but one of the tests came back inconclusive. So I had to go back again this morning for a fifth stick. And the nurse hit the vein again, except this time she hit it too well, probably went through the other side, and now my vein has blown out. A few minutes after I left the nurses, I looked down and the spot where she stuck me was swollen and stingy, puffed up with blood. So now I'm sitting here with a big ace bandage wrapped around my hand (the only place where they could find an accessible vein) and an ice bag balanced on top of that. Tomorrow I'll have a nice, big, ugly purple splotch.

So I haven't had the best luck with the needles so far. On the other hand, this job has involved more cake than any job I've ever had. Needles and cake, cake and blood, death or cake.

And everybody seems to be gunning for me lately. In the last week I've been nearly run over twice while crossing the street, almost fendered by another car in the parking garage, and today some fucking Arkansawyer in a pickup loaded down with stained mattresses and miscellaneous rusty metal stuff (not making that up) almost ran me off the damn road, changing lanes straight into me with no blinker and not the slightest notice of my frenzied honking. There was a cop fifty feet back with a clear view of the whole thing, watching me hit my brakes and swerve onto the shoulder. I was hoping for a little sweet vindication, but... nothing.

Oh well. Maybe somebody will offer me some cake soon. In the meantime, I can enjoy a little vicarious satisfaction in this: "Protestors Dance on Grave For Anti-Falwell Memorial". No, it won't win them any admirers, but seriously... who can blame them? It's probably the best excuse for dancing San Francisco's GLBT community has ever had -- as if they needed an excuse.

PS: Falwell's dead, and Larry Flynt is still wheeling his ass around. I wonder what heavenly message Pat Robertson will divine from that? Does anybody have a link to that old "first time in the woodshed" ad from Hustler?

PPS: Ah, here it is. I knew somebody would dig it up.
11:45 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Call It "Jerry Falwell's Bogus Journey"

What do you think... should I?

Script Frenzy is an international writing event in which participants attempt the creatively daring feat of writing an original, full-length screenplay - or stage play - in a single month. Spurred by a wild deadline and buoyed by a community of countless other writers, Script Frenzy participants can't be bothered with self-doubt -- or editing. They're too busy writing by the seat of their pants, typing out beautiful, flawed stories that no one else could have dreamt up.

Okay, writing even a feature-length screenplay in a single month isn't exactly as difficult as writing a novel. Or maybe it's a lot harder. I guess that's the point; I haven't done either, so I don't know. But writing a screenplay is probably much more up my proverbial alley, so it seems a natural place to start. Somebody -- or several somebodies -- are going to have to dare me, though. Seriously, like I don't have enough to fill my time right now.

My personal caveat: I'd only do it with the understanding that I will never, ever produce said screenplay. It's so much more fun that way. So who's got a good/stupid/impossible idea for a feature screenplay? How about something about an obnoxious fundamentalist preacher whose calcified, self-righteous heart finally gives out, he croaks in his office, and then... nothing else happens?

Okay, so that idea needs a little work. But anything else is going to come off like an episode of South Park. This might be tougher than I thought.

Update: Ooh, how about The Passion of the Falwell? It'd be just like Sugartits Gibson's flick, with Jerry being flayed alive for 180 minutes, except instead of Romans it would be all the little imps and demons in hell!

Yeah, you're right -- it's kind of obvious. I'll keep working on it.

PS: For the sake of balance, I really will be sad when Tammy Faye finally pops her cog. She's still a fundie, but she's not so bad.
1:03 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, May 14, 2007
Dreaming of the End of the World

I had a crazy dream last night -- one in a long series I've had lately. In this last one, I dreamed that I was at my mother's house at sunset, except that it was actually late at night. An hour later, I looked at the sky and it was still sunset. A couple of hours after that (at 2 AM in the dream), my stepfather came out to look and it was still sunset. I asked him if that was normal. He said he didn't think so, but nobody had said anything about it.

Then I turned on the TV and people were talking about it. Some people said the Earth had fallen out of orbit; I realized that actually it had stopped revolving. I imagined the plates and oceans still swirling around on the surface of the planet, and the magma shifting underneath. But I knew that soon that movement would slow and stop, and then the world would die entirely.

I woke up feeling a little disconcerted. It took a while to shake that one off.

A few weeks ago I dreamed that I was trapped in a grey room -- actually, more of a featureless box -- with a friend of mine. The room was tall, 20 feet or more to the ceiling, and rectangular, about the size of a tennis court. And my friend and I were separated by a wall made of meat.

Really it was more like a membrane, but it was thick and muscular and sinewy. It sealed up against the walls perfectly; there were no gaps or spaces. I could just barely hear my friend shouting from the other side, but not well enough to figure out where he was. We found that if we pushed against the meat wall, it would bulge on the other side, and we could tell approximately where the other was. But if we did it for too long, the meat wall would tense up and push back against our hands so we couldn't find the bulge anymore. So we had to keep changing spots.

There was another dream, too, but that one isn't any of your business.
1:52 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, May 11, 2007

I went to dinner with a couple of friends tonight, including one of my oldest friends in Memphis. I hadn't seen him in a several months -- he's been back and forth a lot lately, and he can be difficult to pin down when he's in town. We caught up, talking about what he's doing, what I'm doing, and what we're both planning to do in the near future. And we made an attempt to gossip about common friends, only to discover that neither of us know many people in Memphis anymore.

So instead, we tried to fill in the gaps in each other's knowledge of absent friends: the drama girl who was sent north by the navy; the depressed guy who's still depressed, only now he's depressed in another town; the kid who seemed ripe to go off the rails in the big city, whom now has apparently been reined back in by parents and is living on a short leash in Whitehaven. But mostly, we talked about how strange it is to look up and realize that everything is different. The other dinner companion -- who herself has moved to a farm in rural Tennessee -- was mostly avoiding seeing people while she's in town. She didn't want to be reminded.

Admittedly, her life has changed a lot more -- a lot more -- in the last year or two than either of ours have.

And we talked about how sad Memphis is. I've become aware of late that one of the saddest things about my life in Memphis is how defeatist I've become. Progress is so slow and painful here that now I almost always assume disappointment. Everything requires so much more work than it seems like it should for so little result. Art and optimism always seem to wither on the vine -- most of the people I know who've done well have done so by going elsewhere. Memphis, we decided, is no longer a city that artists come to, it's a city that artists come from.

Which is not to say that there aren't amazing, beautiful people here. There are cool people everywhere, and I'm lucky enough to know a number of them in Memphis. But there just seems to be something broken in this city. I don't know exactly what. But it's as if there's a blanket over Memphis that smothers passion, and without that, even the cool, beautiful people have difficulty thriving.

Anyway, while we were talking, I had a very strong sense that my time here really is coming to a close. I'm reluctant to write that -- even though everything I need to fulfill my little escape plan has fallen into my lap, sometimes as if by magic. I'm not even having to work for it very hard. Every cosmic road sign is pointing clearly out of town. But I still worry, I still catch myself waiting for impassable obstacles to appear. There are months to go before I make this move, and anything could happen. But so far, nothing does.

And now there's also this tiny flicker of optimism, and I like it. I'm drawn to it. I'm afraid of seeing it snuffed out, but not, apparently, so afraid that I haven't begun to navigate by it. I have only the vaguest idea of where it's leading me, but I trust it. If there's one chink in my disbelief, it's in the way that my mind stubbornly assumes that everything in life happens exactly the way it's supposed to. Whatever is next for me, it's not here in Memphis. I have ties here, but mostly things seem to be falling apart, dissolving, receding. All I've got is a little flicker of optimism leading me on to the next place that feels right. What I find when I get there is still very much an unanswered question.

I keep thinking about people I haven't met yet. Somewhere there are people -- people who matter to me a great deal -- each on his or her own individual course that will, before long, intersect with mine. I don't know who they are or what they're like, or what they're going to be to me. But they're out there, right now, moving slowly and aimlessly towards me as surely as I'm moving towards them. And however this all turns out -- whether I get everything I want, or something I can't begin to imagine tonight -- it's going to be exactly what it should be. Though admittedly, that might just be the quiet little prayer I say to an indifferent universe.
10:45 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, May 09, 2007
LA Burns To Ground

Ha, we should be so lucky.

I hope everyone I know in LA is safe. Otherwise, I say, let that shithole burn. The only place I cared about is already gone anyway.
12:06 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, May 07, 2007

Studying for A+ certification + reading Elie Wiesel's Night = crazy-ass nightmares.

Just so you know.
8:46 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, May 04, 2007
What Does A Functioning Brain Have To Do With The Bible?

It's not new... it's not even new to me. But it's new to the blog, and I was just reminded of it, and I can't stop myself from linking: Fundies say the darndest things!

I want to post my favorite quote, but they're all so good I can't pick just one.

The horror... the horror.
9:04 AM ::
Amy :: permalink