Friday, November 30, 2007

20 Kislew 5768: Stay at Home Because You're Well Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Stop Endless War in Iraq”.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the Prairie Tumbleweed Farm. Enjoy, share the weirdness, and Shabbath shalom.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

19 Kislew 5768: International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People/Square Dance Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Tell Congress To Pass A Clean Energy Bill”.

Relevant to one of today’s quasi-holidays: “Who’s Really Trembling?”. It is an outrage that Muslims and Arabs are forced to tow the line, even in America, including on the fiction that there is a “Palestinian People”. Let us stand with the dissenters and not with the oppressors.

Today’s news and commentary:In honor of the other of today’s quasi-holidays, today’s weird thing is “Tractor Square Dancing”, which you can view below. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, November 26, 2007

16 Kislew 5768: Shopping Reminder Day


Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing are the original, undefiled “Inner Lie of a Cell” videos mentioned in the last news story, both included below, because they are amazingly cool. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

15 Kislew 5768: National Parfait Day


Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is a guest commentary, included below. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Movie Review: Enchanted versus Shrek

WARNING: We got spoilers here. This could get ugly.

Over a decade ago we were treated to Scream, a horror movie about people obsessed with the rules of horror movies. Though the film itself was something of a fluke as far as the writing was concerned (compare it with anything else Kevin Williamson has written; I suggest The Faculty), it spawned umpteen different variations, genre-conscious movies with characters aware of the rules. Many of these descendants have been awful, but a few have been gems, such as GalaxyQuest and Hot Fuzz. They also include a very popular children's movie, Shrek.

Shrek not only takes on children's movies and fairy tales in general, but makes a number of very specific digs at Disney. (Then-current Dreamworks bigwig, Jeffery Katzenberg, was a former Disney bigwig who left after the bad blood between him and supervillian Michael Eisner. In fact, bad guy Lord Farquaad is modeled after Eisner.) In an antiseptic, good-goody world where the bad guys are supposed to be marked like Cain with ugliness, the story plunks in the middle of it all a creature who is angry, antisocial, and disgusting, makes him the hero, and then validates him in classic Disney style by marrying him off to a princess. As with any popular movie, variants and rip-offs have followed: Hoodwinked, Happily N'ever After, and so forth.

Disney, ever following the money, has now coughed out its own take in Enchanted. In this movie, they plunk Disney characters in the middle of New York City, where they encounter harsh realities they have never experienced. Can true love survive in the real world?

It's actually not that much of the real world. Princess Giselle (Amy Adams), who is sent to New York City (played by itself) by her evil stepmother over a potential threat to the latter's throne (I'm not sure the logic holds), crawls out of a manhole in Times Square and for maybe five minutes is in a version of New York that is nasty and dirty before Rudy Giuliani started cleaning it up. Given where she was going, she was lucky just to have her tiara stolen; the unrealistic part was that she never mugged, became the object of socially inappropriate affections, or asked who her pusher is based on how she's acting high as a kite. From that point on New York is totally out of character, capable of totally flicking into acting like the Disney universe with skyscrapers whenever the plot demands it, which it does most of the time. And as additional cartoons make the crossing, it just gets farther and farther from anything like reality.

It's not long before divorced divorce lawyer Rob Philip (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey) find Giselle trying to gain admittance to a billboard (you don't want to know). Rather than calling the guys with white coats and butterfly nets, they instead take her home. And then the plot gets really silly. I don't want to spoil the whole thing, but once you are see Prince Edward (James Marsden) and Rob's main squeeze Nancy (Idina Menzel), if you don't know who eventually pairs up with whom and what fate the evil stepmother (Susan Sarandon) has in the end, you probably got rocks in your head.

I'm not going to argue about some things you know can't happen, like characters knowing things they shouldn't or being able to get goods and services in New York without any money. That I can suspend, but the problems with the characters, especially Giselle, I cannot. Yeah, there are a few concessions to changing times. Giselle thinks she's in love forever and ever at first sight but it turns out she's wrong. (If she wasn't, the plot would fall apart, so instead she falls in love with someone else by the end of the first date.) She does do a little climbing and throws a sword to save her (second) true love, though in the end he has to help save both of them from sliding off a roof. And at one point she finds herself angry for the first time ever, a difficult emotion for Disney "heroines" and still for her so difficult that she never does it again.

But for the most part the moviemakers are unwilling to stretch the character any further from her roots. While they have Rob learn how to open himself to true love after a bitter divorce has scarred him, nothing seems to have any permanent effect on her. In fact, despite being set in the present, the movie seems to be rather backwards in how it treats women. Successful women like Marie Curie (the chemist who was the first person to win two Nobel prizes) and Rosa Parks (civil-rights advocate) are innuendoed to be personally deficient, as if success outside of "womanly" pursuits had to come at a personal cost. (Actually both of them were married, and one of Curie's daughters ended up winning a Nobel prize of her own.) Nancy ends up giving up her job and life to run away with some guy she just met in a far-away land. And then Giselle, who faced a dragon, turns her back on the productive examples of Parks and Curie (pursuing knowledge and making the world a better place) to go do something "womanly" (make clothing, with the help of her slave armies of vermin). And to top it off they had to have to make her totally immodest. I kid you not, they show Rob walking in on Giselle in the shower, and it is only two birds carrying a towel that keeps him and the audience from seeing her A-cups full on. As it is, this shot alone will get the movie listed by Mr. Skin. And what is it with Disney and small breasts anyway? Don't believe me? Check out the various women in Beauty and the Beast (Belle is smaller than the women Gaston is not pursuing), or the flat-as-a-pancake Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Then again, Disney isn't too culturally sensitive either and still doesn't get it. Minorities are ghettofied in supporting roles and pretty lame and often stereotyped ones at that, like the only time you see Mexicans is in a mariachi band. One character goes around wearing lame ethnic disguises that were lame back in the early twentieth century when they
were old and lame then. Since when did you see an Italian-American with a handlebar mustache and an accent that sounds like "Mama mia, that's a spicy meatball!"? This is the twenty-first century people!

Shrek at least grappled the Disney rules, and even when it fell back into them sideways (as when Shrek paired up with Fiona as an ogre, apparently because an interspecies human-ogre pairing is too controversial), it came out of trying to challenge them. That and the animus towards Eisner lead to contradictions, such as Shrek griping about people hating him for how he looks and then making fun of Farquaad for being a little pipsqueak. Can he help that any more than Shrek can help being an ogre? Enchanted, however, dings against the rules but ultimately seeks to reaffirm them. And that is sad because they could have done so much more with Giselle. Why couldn't she have found she's good for something nontraditional? Would it have killed them to have her grow as a person? For that matter, what if she ended up both single and happy? It's not that Disney is totally incapable of such directions (look at Herbie: Fully Loaded, even with Lindsay Lohan's digitally reduced breasts), but they shouldn't need an animatronic car around to make the "heroine" dream a little bigger than bagging a husband who she's known for a day.

--Malcom NC-17

Thursday, November 22, 2007

12 Kislew 5768: Start Your Own Country Day/Thanksgiving


In honor of one of today’s quasi-holidays, I hereby found the Martian Empire with myself as Emperor. Please contact me to purchase a visa to visit my planet.

Today’s news and commentary, some of which Barry has contributed:Today’s weird thing is “Introducing Demotivators®”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

11 Kislew 5768: World Hello Day/False Confessions Day


Divine misconception of the day: “Are Scientists Playing God? It Depends on Your Religion”. The misconception is that “playing God” is inherently wrong. Frankly, “playing God” is not even something new. Ever since the dawn of civilization, humans have been genetically modifying plants and animals. The methods traditionally used have been artificial selection and hybridization—humans breed organisms for characteristics they want—but the results were no less dramatic. Humanity have probably even undergone modification via sexual selection—selection of mates on a rational or aesthetic basis. Yet no one is worried about traditionally modified corn or cows, and few (if any) people mate purely at random to avoid having children with more desirable characteristics. Genetic engineering is merely a new way of doing what has done before, and as such being paranoid about it is unwarranted. Let us leave scenarios where genetically engineered organisms go haywire and kill us all in B-movies where they belong.

Today’s news and commentary, some of which Barry is responsible for:Today’s weird thing is a 404 (“page not found”) page inspired by Douglas Adams. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

10 Kislew 5768: Absurdity Day


Divine misconception of the day: “Intelligent design”, which is documented in the Nova episode “Intelligent Design on Trial”. This episode documents gross dishonesty in the “intelligent design” movement, starting with the fact that “intelligent design” is creationism claiming falsely to be scientific when it is anything but. Please watch the episode for details. Religion traditionally is about truth. While creationists are frequently honest about what they believe and why, “intelligent design” proponents violate the cause of truth by use of every dirty trick they can to subvert it.

Today’s news and commentary, some of which Barry is responsible for:Today’s weird thing is “The Ultimate Reset Button”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

8 Kislew 5768: Occult Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Tell the U.S. Navy to Protect Right Whales from Deadly Sonar!”

Today’s news and commentary, some of which Barry is responsible for:Today’s weird thing is foldschool - cardboard furniture. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

4 Kislew 5768: Operation Room Nurse Day


Today’s news and commentary:Erin gave me a Dalek for my birthday, and for a little experiment, I am going to let him give today’s weird thing below.






Monday, November 12, 2007

2 Kislew 5768: Take a Model Train to Work Day


Divine misconception of the day: “Snakebite victim's family sues: BLAMES HOSPITAL, NURSE AND DOCTOR”. (Hat tip to henderob at the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.) Summary: A woman handles a rattlesnake at a church service, gets bitten, gets taken to a hospital, and dies; the woman's family is screaming malpractice and claims the hospital staff “snickered and made derogatory comments” about the patient’s religion and how she managed to be injured. I do not know enough about snakebites to even guess whether the hospital staff was negligent. And I really hope the snickering and derogation never happened, because making fun of a patient, no matter why that person is a patient, is unprofessional behavior for health personnel. That said, the core complaint, other that the alleged malpractice, seems to be that the hospital staff did not respect the patient’s religion, and it is here that we hit the religious fallacy. Freedom of religion only applies to one’s own beliefs and practice; it does not mean forcing anything on anyone else, for that would mean curtailing the freedom of religion of others. In particular, there is no right, whether natural or legal, to respect or validity. For when we have the right to make our own determination what is correct, we also have the right to determine what is incorrect. This includes determination why beliefs and practices are right or wrong. As such, the hospital staff (and anyone else) are perfectly within their rights to think that people who take up snakes are acting stupidly and in a manner deserving ridicule.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “CD-Sextant - Build your own sextant”. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

1 Kislew 5768: Ro’sh Ḥodhesh/Air Day/Veterans Day


Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is the completely useless USB Glowing Aquarium. Enjoy and share the weirdness with your favorite veteran.


Friday, November 9, 2007

28 Marḥeshwan 5768: Chaos Never Dies Day


Divine misconception of the day: Scientology: Inside the Cult. (Hat tip to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.) Scientology, as noted in this short film, is built on a foundation of lies; L. Ron Hubbard created a fictional life story for himself, and the alleged history of the Earth which he claimed is untenable. (You would think that having a civilization of 185 billion people on Earth 75 million years ago would leave some sort of trace behind. Did the evil Lord Xenu remove the upper half of the crust to remove every trace of habitation?) While there are questions about the basis for believing in many religions, trusting someone who claimed the best way to get rich is to start a religion is a truly bad idea. Other signs of pathologic religion abound: wringing money out of followers to the point of causing severe debt, mind control, blackmail, intolerance of criticism. It is no wonder some countries do not recognize Scientology as a religion at all.

Today’s news and commentary, some of which Barry is responsible for:Today’s weird thing is something that would make Rube Goldberg envious. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

27 Marḥeshwan 5768: Dunce Day


Worthy causes of the day (thank you, Barry): “Fund peace”, “The mother of all tax loopholes”, and FreeRice.

Today’s news and commentary:Today’s weird thing is “Starship Size Comparison Chart”, which shows comparative spaceship and space station sizes from science-fiction. Of everything listed on this chart, the Galactic Empire has the biggest ship. Notable omissions of the fictional universes these vessels come from are Doctor Who (at 1 pixel = 10 meters, the TARDIS is too small to show up, though externally larger vessels do appear on the show) and Firefly/Serenity. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

26 Marḥeshwan 5768: Notary Public Day


Worthy causes of the day: “On the Record” and “If he can’t say no to torture – we say no to Michael Mukasey”.

Today’s news and commentary, some of which Barry is responsible for:Today’s weird thing is “Medieval helpdesk”. Enjoy and share the weirdness with the notary public you love.


Sunday, November 4, 2007