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Month: August 2009

to paint

to paint

I’m going to unleash my work upon the internets for fun making (of) over the next week.  I’m going to stagger these, so there will be one posting per day.  So, when school starts on Tuesday my real production will slow way down, but you all will be entertained.

We’ll start off with this piece, which I don’t think I’m finished with… but I may never return to.  I started on this earlier this year before I started devoting serious amounts of time to these projects.

The difficulty in painting poorly – an illustrated process

The difficulty in painting poorly – an illustrated process

I’ve been trying my luck at painting over the past few months.  Although I’ve been very reluctant to publish any of those attempts online I’ll share what I’ve completed today.  I’m going to show step by step the struggles I had with this painting.  As I so often do with creative endeavors I’ve “bitten off more than I can chew” and tried to paint something that would give a seasoned veteran of the brush fits.

The scene I chose to paint was a modification of a photograph that was taken from above, but looking through, an open car door.  To make matters worse I decided to paint it on a large canvas (about 5′ x 3′).  The size became a problem because as I was working on one part I would lose focus of that part’s proper size in relation to the rest of the painting, because my up close view distorted my perception.  After a while I realized I had to open my bedroom/studio door and back up into the hallway and look at the piece from a distance to see if anything was… “off.”  In a few instances I completed part of the painting before doing this and was forced to completely repaint.

anyway, more on all that as we go along, let’s get started:

This is the very beginning. I’m rarely able (so far) to make my finished paintings look as good as the original sketches imply.  In this case you can see I’m employing a dual monitor set up to allow me to grid the source photograph in photoshop.  If you look on the lower left you can see I was already having trouble with the foot – and in the upper left already struggling with the wheel.

After laying down a tiny bit of preliminary color I decided to use a “splatter paint” approach to try to duplicate the look of dirty parking garage pavement.  This was my Jasper Johns moment.

Next I tried to lay down more color.  Preliminary blocks of color synced to shapes.

Continuing on in this fashion I added more detail to several areas.  Taking a step back I noticed that the steering wheel didn’t look right.  The loop was swinging out way to high.

Although I spent a decent amount of time on this wheel I eventually gave up, knowing that because of the peculiar perspective I may rework it for months and still notice things that the casual viewer may never pick up on.

Before finals week I started work on the dress.  I didn’t pick the painting back up until almost three weeks later.  At that time I struggled with flesh-tones (I think it may have been a mistake to cheat and buy that “flesh tint” tube).  I also was starting to realize that the dress as-is wasn’t matching the heavy tone of the skin and was also so drab that it sullied the painting down ; I didn’t want her skin to be the only interesting part of the painting.

Note the foot at the bottom.

Here is a photo after doing more work on the skin.  I started to draw out the lines for her shoes when I noticed, Jesus! look at that huge freaking foot!  …. so, just like the wheel, I had to repaint that foot.  However, unlike the wheel, it would be hard to replicate the garage floor “under” it.

Here is after repainting the foot.  Note the part at the bottom where the rest of the foot used to be.  Although it still doesn’t look anatomically correct (too flat across the toes), I think the detail on the shoes is distracting enough to pull attention away from this shortcoming.

Next I wanted to tackle the boring gray dress.  I tried to add color… I thought a splash of yellow.  Yellow almost never works in a painting, I should have learned that when I tried to paint yellow sheets about two months before and converted those to light green so they wouldn’t be as garish.  This time it was  no different.  I started off with yellow, added blue to make green… and then had the brilliant (stupid) idea to add in some red – turning her dress into a vomit colored mess….


I knew this was another starting over point, so I put a few layers of white watered down with acrylic medium over it.  I actually kind of liked this look, as it made the dress look somewhat light and “airy.”  However, this was still boring, I had to do something.

I thought I’d try making it a flower dress.  I didn’t plan this out very well and ended up with different size flowers.  Although it almost looks in some spots like these flowers are bullet wounds.  This was now Saturday morning.  I took a break for lunch.  While watching the 2009 college football preview (heavy on the USC and light on the OSU, as usual) I saw a commercial which I thought was ridiculous.  In it, a man is consulting with his wife about what to do with their rewards money.  He suggests taking a romantic cruise for the both of them.  He remarks that “you could spend these rewards on just about anything”… she points at her new dress, smiles and says “I know.”  The end… the moral of the story, it is much better to spend your money on a dress than a romantic vacation for the both of you.

I said something under my breath and looked out the window.  The image of the woman stuck in my mind for a moment.  I decided to use the cut of her dress, it was going to work much better than what I currently had in my painting.  The top of the dress as it was (see above) looked basically like a tank top… which isn’t very feminine.

After adding makeshift “pleats” on the top of the dress I noticed that this looked much better than before, gave the dress depth and made it fit in with the skin tone more.  So, I continued on with this blue tone and finished the dress.

I spent another five hours or so adding details, fixing the pavement and lastly adding her hair.

I apologize for the poor quality (darkness) of this photo, it looks better in person.  I’m ready to call this piece finished, but I must say I’m not as happy with it as several of the others I’ve done lately.  I should start posting more pieces, if only to be fair since I’ve publicly badmouthed other artists time and time again.

(yes, I know, her head is too big and her right forearm too thin… and her left hand smaller than the right)

chatsworth North park

chatsworth North park

Over the past three weeks I’ve been trying to organize a trip to Chatwworth South Park for myself and two coworkers.  Both expressed earlier interest in going there to hike.  Both had been there previously but their interest was bolstered by my “getting lost” story.

Every time we set a time to go it falls through (I think we’ve set up at least 5 n ow that haven’t happened).  So on Saturday I became frustrated and decided to go by myself.  Unfortunately the entrance to the hiking trail/s in South Park are fenced off.  I proceeded to Chatsworth North Park, a park I’d visited once in June 2008 and again in July 2008 (this is the spot where my ex-girlfriend and I went to discuss the terms of our disentanglement), but not since.   The lower part of the park has typical basketball courts, picnic tables and so on, but just at the back of each area there are a multitude of entrances into the hills.  Most of the larger entrances have large warning signs about rattlesnakes and mountain lions.

I began hiking up into the hills and discovered that North Park is far easier for the casual hiker.  One can boulder if one wishes, but the paths are so well travelled that there are obvious “easy out” routes up to any cliff.  Also, unlike South Park there are several peaks that are built of nothing but loose soil and dead weeds.

However, at the tops of the cliffs there are always “no trespassing” signs just before you can go the final stretch.

Despite these obstacles, there were still some nice peaks that the “owners” of this land left us to enjoy.

through the key-hole:

While I was up there I had a clear view of the smoke from the Station Fire.  From where I was it often took the form of a bomb blast, which, despite it’s means of production was eerily beautiful (at least at the top).

So, as I sat there and watched, what I saw was somewhat like this:

Time Lapse Test: Station Fire from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo.

the lloyd works in mysterious ways

the lloyd works in mysterious ways

Remember how I lost part of my gorillapod in Seattle?  Well, back in March when we returned from our Vegas show when our equipment was stolen, along with our camera was the corresponding piece from our own company tripod.  So, one of my coworkers went to the camera store to see if we could get a replacement “chip” for our tripod, and he offered to ask them about my missing “chip” from the gorillapod too.  Turns out they had both, and they just went ahead and put mine on the company card.  So, that’s nice.

Over the weekend I finally re caulked my bathroom tub.  It was easier than I thought it would be, but waiting 24 hours before I could clean up the mess (I had to scrape out all the old stuff and had just cleaned my fish tank too) was going to be annoying.  It was kind of funny that I took my first shower in my other bathroom in the two and a half years since I bought the condo.  Monday I played my last round of racquetball (and I think I was actually improving my strikes) before the new term starts (the courts are so far I can’t take the time to drive there when school is in session).  So, I was covered in sweat.  I came home, excited (okay, not “excited”) to use my “new” shower without all the moldy black and orange caulking.  I then saw a sign on the (garage) door:  “Attention all residents:  there has been a water main break and you will be without water for the next 24 hours.”

So, I called up the few friends I had close by and of course nobody was  willing to let me shower at their house.  So, for the first time possibly ever (I don’t think we showered after gym in elementary school) I took a shower at the gym.  I guess it wasn’t as humiliating of an experience as I’d imagined.  There was no “door” or curtain, but I realized at some point between age 18 and 28 I stopped caring about being seen.

(ps, thanks to James Baker and Bush’s Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act of 2007 I couldn’t attempt to clean myself off in our condo sauna or pool as they are closed indefinitely to install new equipment to protect children from somehow getting killed in freak accidents while negligent mommy and daddy aren’t paying attention….are we gonna replace the gravel under the school monkey bars with pillows while we’re at it?)

So, that caulking is going to be really well set-in by the time I finally take a shower tonight.

The week isn’t already without tragedy though as my pearl scale goldfish died shortly after the tank cleaning.

full disclaimer

full disclaimer

I’ve written a lot lately about politics and religion.  I should state my actual position on both, lest anyone jump to conclusions.

In politics I think we need tempered social support infrastructure, but maximum personal freedom.  i.e. government programs that tax to provide services that we all need and can’t provide for ourselves (like defense, healthcare, etc.) are okay, but leave all the other stuff to the people.  That means I’m for a way to provide healthcare to everyone (although it doesn’t have to be government run, it could be a tweak to current health care laws).  

I think a person should be free to do whatever they want on their own property as long as they don’t compromise the rights of another.  And yes, I think parents that smoke cigarettes around children are compromising the rights of the child.

I think abortion should be legal.  By the same token that pro-lifers say pro-choicers don’t have the authority to decide when something isn’t (independent) life… pro-lifers don’t have the authority to decide when something is.  I would think religious folks would leave that sort of decision up to their god.  Abortion protects victims of rape and incest.  Abortions are also not so complicated that they can’t be done outside of a doctor’s office.  Outlawing abortion won’t stop it from happening, it’ll just stop it from happening safely.

Which brings me to religion.  I think any religion anyone wants to believe in is fine (for them) as long as they don’t force it on others.  Unfortunately the vast majority of religions in the world demand that their followers “save” or convert “non-believers.”  This is central to organized religion as it is a policy that preserves its own existence.

I have many family members who are religious to various degrees.  I’ve been to church services of many denominations.  I’ve worked with devout Jews, devout Christians and even devout Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I’ve had very good friends become born again and try to bring me along for the ride.  None of these experiences has ever changed my feelings about religion.  Basically, I think it is nonsense to say with any certainty that there is a god, let alone a specific god with a son who had long hair and lived 2,000 years ago etc. etc. etc.  I think other people can believe it if they want – but don’t make social policy that affects my life (i.e. teach my children that the world is only 6,000 years old in school) based on your religion.  Any political argument in which one side’s opinion can be boiled down to a religious argument loses.

Just yesterday I was listening to KKLA and the show was about how they didn’t believe that Obama was a Christian.  Even though Obama professed he was in front of Rick Warren.  I wish they were right.  I long for the day when satisfying the people of this country is the president’s first priority, not satisfying God.

To be clear, I’m not an atheist.  I think it is just as ridiculous to think with certainty that there isn’t a God.  We can’t see infrared light, but that doesn’t prove it doesn’t exist.  It is possible  that God may one day step down from the clouds and reveal himself to all of us.  Not very probable, but possible.  Even if it does happen, it is highly unlikely that he/she/it will resemble anything like the religions of the world have told us to expect.

The bible is an old book.  Nothing more, nothing less.  We cannot know with certainty where it originated and who has changed it.  If we don’t know either of those things, we certainly can’t take it’s contents as “the gospel truth.”  In fact, the documented written history that we do have often contradicts the bible.  Like the fact that no known writer from the period of Jesus’ life ever mentions him.  A guy that can turn water into wine would be a scary amazing guy today, imagine 2,000 years ago.  Yet, not one person thought to write this experience down until more than thirty years after his death?  In a time when writing tools were not hard to come by this seems extremely odd, especially when you consider that Jesus was supposed to be “spreading the word.”  We don’t even have any written evidence of Jesus’ supposed trial and Crucifixion.  Are we to believe the Romans didn’t keep records?  On the contrary, the Romans were actually known to keep immaculate historical and legal records (hey, we still use their numerical system for the superbowl!), so why nothing then officially of Jesus?  If anyone found it (and I’m sure christian “scholars” have been trying for two millenia), you’d think it would be the first thing to come up when googling this.

For these reasons and many many many many many many many many more I am agnostic.  I believe that we humans don’t actually know anything with certainty.  Even the laws of physics are amended, and will be amended in a huge way in the next century to deal with quantum physics.  As dumb as it may sound, films like ExistenZ and the Matrix provide enough food for thought to make anyone see this.  Do you know you aren’t trapped in a dream right now? You don’t.  I’m not saying we are, I’m just saying there is no way to prove your senses aren’t deceiving you.  To know that with certainty would require the knowledge of a God. To believe our physical world is certain is a stretch, to believe in something (defined) beyond that that we can’t even observe with our flawed perception is ludicrous.

The concept of optical illusions also proves this point.  What we see is what our brain interprets, not what actually exists.

On immigration my thoughts are mixed.  I can see the need for security, the fact that a nation with limited resources “can’t let everybody in,” however, I also understand that my journey west was more miles than most Mexicans’ journey north and immigrants formed this country in the first place.  When I think about it long enough I suppose I’m of the opinion that we let everyone in that doesn’t have a criminal record.  If everyone is a citizen they’re entitled to minimum wage.  That minimum wage should be set by commerce, by the way, not the government.  “but we’ll run out of jobs” the anti-immigration folks say.  … well then the Mexicans will stop coming.  They’re coming here to work, despite the stereotype.  NPR listeners already know this, as there were countless stories of migrant workers returning to Mexico last fall as jobs vanished in the floundering economy.

In fact, if we legalized anyone that came across the border, it would force natural born Americans to step up their game.  We’d have an over abundance of low wage workers, forcing natural born citizens to take advantage of student loan programs and get a higher education.  Delivering pizzas would no longer be an option for anyone you graduated high school with.  …this is a GOOD thing.  The better educated a society is the more it can achieve.   Watch Idiocracy to see what happens if we go the other way.

Allowing everyone in would solve two problems.  It would solve the current caste problem we have in the work force and it would solve the hypocrisy problem (everyone here now except for native Americans is descended from an immigrant).

Obviously there are many more issues in our world that I can offend people/relatives by stating my opinions about, but I think that is enough for today.

ignorance is bliss

ignorance is bliss

One might think I spend my time listening to Air America and watching MSNBC.  However, I think it is much more constructive to listen to those you disagree with.  As such I watch (although I don’t watch a lot of television at all) Fox News and when in the car I listen to KKLA, the christian radio station in Los Angeles.

Lately the hosts on KKLA’s talk shows (except for the mortgage and vitamin pill infomercials on the weekends) have been sounding the death panel drum on the devil’s healthcare (or President Obama as I call him).  Today as I was driving home from work listening to KKLA when I heard a woman caller railing about how the government can’t take care of healthcare and how horrible the care would be if there were a public option.  The host agreed “yup…yup…”

and cut to commercial:

“Have you been hurt?  Has your claim been denied?  The insurance companies don’t care about you!  Call (name of law firm) today.  Did the insurance company send you to a doctor that said you didn’t need treatment?  The insurance company is looking out for themselves, let our team look out for YOU!”

next commercial:

“My friends, I have to tell you about (name of global charity organization), for just a dollar a day I sponsor my little guy in (impoverished third world country) giving him access to school, food and care.  As Christians it is our duty to look out for those less fortunate than us.  I implore you to be generous today and sign up to sponsor a child”

I was laughing out loud.  All the commercials on this station are from “christian” organizations.  The second commercial was recorded by the show host himself.  So… on the show we’ll pretend that insurance companies are good, and then we’ll advertise a law firm that gets enough cases AGAINST INSURANCE COMPANIES THAT DENY CLAIMS that it is their sole source of business.  On the show we’ll talk about how socialism is terrible and not everyone in the country has a “right” to healthcare… yet when the show is done we’ll go and record a spot for a charity organization trying to provide healthcare to children somewhere else… because apparently third world children deserve healthcare, but American children don’t.  And it is a good christian’s duty to be generous to third world people, but not Americans.

The “christians” on this station also love to give the tax argument. I.e. “How dare Obama raise my taxes?!”

and I quote…Romans 13:6, This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.  7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

For more, see here.

and this brings it right on home for any Christian objecting to collecting taxes to pay for healthcare (or ANYTHING, really):

The most frequent objection to paying taxes is that the money is being misused by the government or even used for evil purposes by the government. That, however, is not our concern. When Jesus said, “Give to Caesar…” the Roman government was by no means a righteous government. When Paul instructed us to pay taxes, Nero, the most evil Roman emperor in history, was the head of the government. We are to pay our taxes even when the government is not God-honoring.

In case you’re not getting the message, Jesus said to let your government govern, even if you disagree.  Although I don’t think a theistic argument proves or disproves any side of any issue, I find the current hypocrisy of the religious right hilarious.  Even if you don’t want a “public option,” the majority of the religious right are screaming that they don’t really want anything changed at all.  Under that system millions of Americans don’t have health care.  So, the christian thing to do is say it is okay that millions don’t have healthcare?  What?  Would that pass the WWJD test?  I don’t think so.  By definition a  purely capitalist healthcare market will not ever cover every person as it is not the most profitable to do so.  (note that I said they are required to offer – the customer is not required to have a policy… there is a big difference in those scenarios)

If by definition a capitalist system gaurantees that not every person has coverage, endorsing this system means Americans without healthcare coverage is acceptable.  Now, that position is fine for an Atheist.  An atheist doesn’t HAVE to care about anybody else in the world.  Christians, however, are supposed to.  Charity, generosity and good will towards man are supposed to be the cornerstones of their faith (although the victims of the crusades or priest molestation might take issue).

In fact, I believe one of the reasons God destroyed Sodom wasn’t just that they had caused a lube shortage, but that they were so wealthy and did nothing to help the poor:

Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

So what is with the objection of Obama raising taxes on the rich to give to the poor?  Isn’t this God’s will?

So what happened?  Jesus doesn’t say “okay, if your government is Marxist/socialist/communist you don’t have to pay taxes.”  He said “pay the F’ing taxes no matter who is the boss.” And I highly doubt he would also say “if it’ll cost you another $4 a month in income taxes, I’m okay with you denying healthcare to people  – I mean you need that $4 more than they need to live!”

Many times I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) Jesus and the bible advise christians to steer clear of judging politics altogether.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

I wonder how many at those tea parties considered themselves “good christians.”

Shouldn’t it cause them to ask a lot of questions about their faith?  According to the above bible qoute God must like Obama (or have reason for him to be there at least) as Obama wouldn’t be in power without it being God’s will.  And as such, a God fearing Christian wouldn’t question that authority…as it has been approved by God’s allowing it to prosper (whether for bad or good).

This makes any revolutionary in the history of the world one huge sinner.

Including our founding fathers, who rebelled against Britain’s authority and governance.

Chew on that for a while.

(of course some of us don’t need to because we know that the founding fathers weren’t really as enthusiastic about Christianity as the church claims)

health care

health care

Although I don’t always agree with him (four stars for The Terminal?? that movie was terrible!), Roger Ebert has written two well articulated arguments for the public option, virtually mirroring my own opinion – although in a much more cogent way; which is to be expected, after all he has been a writer/critic for many decades.

Read the first here.

and the second here.

art experiments

art experiments

Amidst all my art critiquing I’ve also been trying to make some of my own the past five or six months.   I’ve painted fifteen paintings since April, but I’m not really ready to put anything up on the web yet.  About a month ago I bought a moleskin to start getting down to more serious sketching.  I’m a little more than halfway through – and some …interesting… stuff has been coming out.  Here are a few sketches:

So I guess this is a guy getting eaten by an octopus.  I think this came from reading Byron’s copies of SandMan and thinking Dream’s mask/helmet looks a lot like an octopus with one arm.

Dancing girl.  Sketched out at the coffeeshop with Byron.

Some kind of native guy with swords.  One of the first sketches in the moleskin.  I used to draw guys like this all the time when I was a kid, so I think this was my “return to something I have more confidence in” moment after struggling with the paintings I’ve been working on.

This was my take on all the (a lot of the time very lame) fairy/elf art you see on sites like DeviantArt.

I drew this on the flight back from Seattle.  I don’t know what all this means, but I keep drawing this spaceman and baby (and often monster/alien/devil).

I was working on another spaceman sketch and doodled this up in the corner…and I like it better than the main drawing (you can see the boy from the other drawing on the lower right).

Another dancing girl from the coffee shop.  I kept drawing people with hands for feet that day.

This is another back to basics creepy high school kinda thing.  I was always interested in quasi religious violent imagery.

What is it?  A dog?  A kangaroo?  Maybe this has something to do with my blogs about trusting kids with wild animals… I don’t know.

When Byron and I were at the coffee shop we saw a woman ride up on a bicycle with a bluetooth in her ear and a big white parrot on her shoulder.  We laughed about how with the constant yammering on the bluetooth she was just as annoying as the bluetooth yuppie car drivers that she surely hates.  And then of course there was a big white parrot on her shoulder…wtf?  I started to sketch the parrot but only got an outline before she left, so the layout of the feathers is all wrong… oh well.  I wanted there to be a chain around his neck, but it isn’t very clear.

I don’t think this happened in Heavy Metal, but I wanted to imagine the astronaut from Heavy Metal coming home to a little boy… although this boy isn’t so little… and if you look very closely maybe not so human.  Is it an embrace, or an attack?

While with Byron at Bauhaus on my last night in Seattle I decided to try to do the astronaut and little boy theme again, but this time more clear.

District 9

District 9

On Saturday morning I saw District 9.  The trailers for other movies (all “scary” movies for some reason) were way way way too loud.  Unfortunately this noise pollution continued for the next two hours.  I can’t hold it against the director, he has no control over the volume knob at the local cineplex.  I keep thinking that the movie had too many gunshots/battles, but perhaps I wouldn’t mind them so much if they hadn’t been deafening.

I have few criticisms of this film (rare, I know).  The first noticeable thing when leaving the theater is “hey, where was the scene where they interview an alien about how their weapons work?!”  It wasn’t there.  Also, the quick shot in all the ads of the mech suit grabbing an airborne projectile?  They really shouldn’t have put that in the commercials.  It takes place after a pivotal turning point for a character regarding his allegiances…but since we all saw the commercial we all know what happens next.

My other criticism may simply be that we saw far too little exposition.  We get a few quick shots inside the spaceship when the aliens are “found” and then boom – 20+ years later, here we are.  The movie moves along speedily enough to never get boring, but I would have loved to have seen more of the scientific study of the aliens that occured in the two decades after their arrival.  There were a few viral videos online that showed this, and I suspect there will be a ton of it in the “deleted scenes” on a DVD eventually, but we never really saw anything in the final film.  In fact, in one very tense scene a mutilated alien body is found.  The time spent lingering on this subject (there are plenty of others in the same room) is never explained.  I have a feeling a few scenes regarding that particular body were cut, which makes “Christopher’s” actions unexplainable.

Friday night I watched I Want to Believe, the 2008 forgotten X-Files movie sequel.  I remember thinking that the well orchestrated cinematography and color management were the only thing that saved what was essentially a two-part tv episode.  On the contrary, District 9 has little noticeable cinematography at all.  The film is made to look like a combination of documentary and handheld DVcam the majority of the time.  The director did a splendid job of smashing these competing “looks” together without the audience being the wiser.  I noticed early on that the “commentary” at the beginning could have been made in past tense.  It was very subtle though and I appreciated Blomkamp not babying the audience.

Anyway, back to my exposition criticism – From what I’ve read that may all be cleared up in District 10, the inevitable sequel.  Other reviewers (including Ebert, I think) noted that the purpose of the ship or aliens is never explained.  They are partially incorrect as one “commentator” scene clearly states that a “possible” explanation is that the aliens are workers and the ship jettisoned from the mothership at some point (for an unknown reason).  The “worker” hypothesis is used vaguely throughout to explain how the “prawns” could have such an amazing ship but act like savages.  It makes sense though.   Not very many flight attendants know how to pilot a plane.

For only thirty million dollars the special effects were top notch.  A few wide shots of the aliens skittering around in the African sunlight were a little iffy, but on the closeups when it counted the muscle movement on the alien faces were enough to (as the director intended) let us properly sympathize with them despite their grotesque appearance.  By the end of the movie we’d rather rocket back to wherever “christopher” is from than see if Wickus ever sees his wife again.

One scene that I keep thinking about is the torture/weapons testing scene.  I have a feeling this was lifted from descriptions of real torture scenarios.  At some point while watching the mind begins to wander and think about the plight of the real Africans who had to live in the exact same sheds in “joburg” not so long ago.  Once the audience is reminded of that fact, the director really ramps up the level of uncomfortableness by showing what we’re capable of doing to other “races” in the name of progress, racism, business or just plain fear.

Perhaps one reason this film is doing so well is because it is in this setting in Africa.  It echoes a real-world atrocity, but for once it isn’t one that we (and we can be white people or Americans) perpetrated.  To be honest, what I knew about what happened in South Africa was not as detailed before reading the reviews and interviews associated with this film.

In the final minutes of the film the keener members of the audience will realize the implications of “christopher” getting what he wants.  It could mean that helping him, although altruistic, could bring about the death of every human (eventually).  And so, one must confront whether they would just go ahead and kill “christopher” if they had the chance, as “wrong” as it may be, to save themself.

Of course, let’s hope if we ever meet aliens in this manner we’re smarter than the government and corporation in this film.

I read a paper this week on the logical impossibility of alien contact even though it is almost statistically a fact that there are or were (and will again be) worlds with life out there.  The main point of the article was that even the life supporting planets of our own milky way galaxy are so far away that their communications wouldn’t reach us until their civilization had been dead for thousands of years or more.  Ditto for actual travel, the time it would take (under ordinary constraints of physics) would be so long to visit that the undertaking would be pointless.  And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that if they received signals from us they’d be smart enough to know that the civilization that produced “I Love Lucy” is long gone.  Others are of the opinion that given this information it is possible that the only “aliens” that can and do visit us are so advanced that they basically exist in an entirely different manner and would likely be invisible to us.  Still other scientist say we should be looking for Dyson Spheres for proof of advanced civilizations elsewhere, but what if the next stage of evolution is to move beyond the physical realm requiring ever increasing usage of energy?

By the way, the transition point between a type I civilization and type II is watching Avatar (the trailer is out now).

animals and children don’t mix

animals and children don’t mix

I ranted a while ago when I saw a “funny photo” online of a dog that had been drawn all over by a child with markers.  Basically I don’t think it is a brilliant idea to keep any animals in the house when you have a small child.  Of course, I don’t understand people that kiss animals that eat their own vomit on the lips either, but that is a blog for another day.

So, I was cruisin’ through facebook and I saw this:

Am I sympathetic for the little girl?  Yes.  Her dad?  Not so much.  Congratulations, smart guy, you were right “lil’ binkie (or whatever its name was) wouldn’t hurt a fly, I’ve had her/him my whole life!”   More of these stories need to get out into the mainstream media as I think this is a serious problem with parents.  Sure, overall the percentage of maulings by family pets is probably really low.  But if that is your daughter with staples in her head – you won’t care.  If every millionth tickle me Elmo blew up nobody would buy a single Elmo.  Actually, in 1996 just over a million Tickle Me Elmo dolls were sold.  Two years before, almost 5 million Americans were bitten by dogs.  The 2007 statistics were that 1 in every 50 Americans will be bitten by a dog.

Keep in mind, this wasn’t even a visit from someone that the dog didn’t know, this was the owner’s daughter.  I have another friend that has facebook photos of his bulldogs “guarding” his newborn.  If I ever said anything I’m sure that would be seen as immensely offensive to the family, but my jaw dropped when I saw the photo.   Statistically over 50 percent of bites occur on the dog owner’s property and the vast majority of biting dogs (77%) belong to the victim’s family or a friend.  If everyone knew this I wonder if they’d still keep dogs around their children.  If one Honda Accord out of every 50 sold blew up killing everyone inside Honda would be out of business in a hurry…..unless Honda’s were cute and you knew them since they were puppies.

And yes, surely bite marks on a little girl’s head show us how great god is!  I don’t understand the logic here.  So god is going to heal your niece’s head… but he couldn’t just stop her from getting chomped on in the first place?  Ah, but this is a post about the danger of animals with children, not the dangers of religion with humans (although that can also frequently result in degrees of child abuse as well).

More information on the value of canine companionship for children here, here, here, here, and here.