Monday, April 28, 2008

This is why it's called "the web"

So...follow along with the weird path my browsing took this morning.

Via Digg, I came across this article about a murder that is believed by some detectives to be part of a series of killings, most likely by a group, in the northern midwest. I tend to agree, actually, even though it sounds very conspiracy-theorist. Given the target type (popular jocks), my guess is it's a web of nerdy, computer-using square pegs, a la the Columbine shooters, preying on drunk jocks after parties.

I also didn't take long to find out there was a made-for-TV movie in 1999 called Happy Face Murders, about a serial killer who signs his messages with happy faces. Weird.

So I went looking for more about the actual murders/deaths, and that's when I came across Godlike Productions, a forum full of conspiracy theorists. My love for conspiracy theories is well known, so this looks like a pleasant playground I'll be returning to frequently. From calls for Warriors of Light to ENGULF the world in light on to "Bible Code" predictions of an Ebola Virus biological attack next week - this forum has everything. Even claims that The Last Mimzy, a kid's movie about a magical box that can do seemingly anything, was based on a true story. Awesome.

From there, I followed a link on one post to a site with a little video about "the history of the Cathars." I knew little of the Cathars, so I looked them up in Wikipedia, which had the dope on them. They were a 12th century Christian sect with some pretty weird thinking, who were basically wiped out by a crusade sent against them by Pope Innocent III, and then cleaned up by the Inquisition (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!)

The video, however, claims that during the siege that basically wiped out the sect, four priests (even though the Cathars didn't have priests as such) divided up a scroll into four parts and took it with them and hid it. The scroll, the video says, was written by Christ himself and says that everybody got him all wrong and the Cathars were right.

Because, you know, all that time he was kicking around with the apostles preaching, he never bothered to the tell the apostles, "No, man, you got me all's like this..." and instead he wrote it down and hid it somewhere for a sect that just happened to dig on what he was really saying over a thousand years later. That makes sense.

And these four Cathars went on to found a secret society called "weavers" who weave coded messages into clothes and tapestry in the form of imperfections, and all the codes contain the year 2012, and that's when the Cathars/Weavers are going to get the scroll back together and show everybody.

Hooooo boy. Praise Jesus and pass the LSD.

Check off one goal.

So, I created my 12 goals for 12 months about 6 months ago, and until this weekend really hadn't accomplished a single one.

This weekend I knocked one off my list - I played in a casino poker tournament.

And I did badly. I wasn't first out, but I was 6th or 7th out (out of a field of 33).

Of course, I'll be back to try again later.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I love leather

Not like that, you pervert.

OK, like that too, but that's not what this post is about. Pervert.

This post is about this:

A company in the UK called Wested Leather Co. who does movie costumes (including the original Indiana Jones jacket) sells a reproduction of the jacket from The Rocketeer. I couldn't care less about the movie (it looks too Disney-fied to me), but I love that jacket. I saw one of the originals up close at the Science Fiction Museum, and immediately fell in love with it. I so, so, so want this jacket. And I so, so, so cannot afford the $500 price tag.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Movie Review, by request - Perfume

So yeah. It's been Serial Killer Movie Month at my house. I had Zodiac already at home from Netflix, when Wiwille asked that I review The Young Poisoner's Handbook and Memophage asked that I review Perfume: The story of a Murderer. Like the movie, this review is going to be long and complex. Hang in there.

Based on a novel by Patrick Süsskind that I feel I absolutely must read now, the film tells the story of a young man in 18th century Europe with a super-powered sense of smell who tries to capture the scent of beautiful women in a perfume. To do so, he has to kill them.

But it is far, far more complex than that. Like some of the stories and jokes I tell, this movie takes a long, long time (2.5 hours) to reach an ending that seems (at least on the surface) to have little to do with the beginning - especially if you watch the extra features on the DVD and hear the director's interpretation of the ending's meaning, which has nothing to do with the start. The movie is filled with a lot of vague metaphors and veiled symbolism, which I generally don't care for in a movie.

However! Given a little distance, the metaphors and meanings become more apparent, and blend together to reveal a fairly coherent story - much like the way the perfumes are said to be constructed in the film. The more I think about this one, the more brilliant I find the writing. To construct an entire story in a similar way to how you describe one of the most complex and difficult to describe components of the story is genius.

The main theme in the film (or the "core" of the perfume, as described in the movie) is really "alienation", and it does a fine job of showing the various stages and effects of alienation and being extremely different. The main character is, in the beginning, shunned and misunderstood for being different, then accepted by someone for having an unusual talent, then is shown to exist outside of society because of his extreme difference and the wall it puts between him and others. The gift/curse dual nature of such extreme difference is prevalent throughout, and results in obsession that only heightens the alienation aspect. In the end, the results of the difference are the means of both his salvation and destruction.

Now, that's all about the writing and the story. Of the mechanics of film, I would say the cinematography is the most standout feature. It's not hard to make a beautiful film out of the backdrops of European country side that some of the movie is set in, but to make a beautiful film out of sets recreating dinghy, ugly, overcrowded, dirty 18th century cities is - but it is pulled off wonderfully in this movie.

The acting is good, but more for a matter of casting than anything else. Dustin Hoffman is excellent, as one would expect, and Alan Rickman commands scenes as he always does. The actor who plays the main character looks weird enough and is forgettable enough to fit the role of the outsider.

This is not to say the movie is perfect. The beginning is so long, and so drawn out, it seems at first to have little purpose. It would be easy to condense the first hour into about 15 minutes and set up the rest of the film. This is why the film is better at a distance - you get more meaning, at the risk of putting off viewers with less patience. In retrospect I have trouble saying the beginning was "too long", but if you had asked me an hour and a half into the movie I would have said it was ridiculously drawn out.

The 3rd-party-omniscient narration is annoying and totally unnecessary, and only used in the beginning (heavily) and then sparsely distributed at wholly inopportune times throughout the rest of the film.

The story has several fantastical elements that make it very, very difficult to suspend disbelief. That first hour was necessary just to get me to go along with the whole "super sense of smell" thing, and after that my suspension of disbelief was tried by it a few times (for those that have seen it: when he's on the road following the object of his obsession - that was ridiculous). The ending pulls out a whopper that is even more difficult to swallow, even given the somewhat heavy-handed foreshadowing by Hoffman's character earlier on.

The actresses in the film were obviously chosen for their beauty and not their acting talent. The young woman who plays the main obsession delivers her lines about as well as a cardboard cut-out and certainly cannot keep up with the likes of Alan Rickman.

To keep to the idea of making my review like the film, I'm going to end it abruptly right here. If you have patience and like a well-crafted story that requires thought, watch this one. Otherwise, stick to Hostel: part way too many or whatever.

- Mattbear, movie snob, out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


One of the many things I am an absolute geek for is lighthouses. I love lighthouses. Maybe it's because I grew up in a town with a lighthouse (the one pictured above, in fact). I don't know. I just love 'em.

So I loved it when I found a guide to over 9000 lighthouses worldwide. I could spend days just perusing that site for geeky little facts about lighthouses around the world and the size of their fresnel lenses. (I also love fresnel lenses. I have one sitting around my house to play with, that I took out of an old big screen TV that went TU on us)

Hope you can appreciate lighthouses too. Look up your favorites!

- Mattbear out

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Dream; or, Why is Ted Danson mad at me?

So Wiwille posted a strange dream he had, and I commented about the rash of weird dreams I have been getting lately. I left a cryptic mention of one in the form of the line "...but why was Ted Danson mad at me?" and now Wiwille says I should post the dream. I wasn't going to, but who am I to argue with one-fourth of my blog's audience? So, here you go - brace yourself, it's a long one:

The dream started out with me in a poker game. Not unusual. Except that the poker game was backstage of some weird play that was going on. The play featured circus sideshow people like midgets and a bearded lady and such, as well as more "normal" actors. As a result, I was very distracted and not playing well. Plus I was hitting on the (non-bearded, non-midget) actresses, and getting shot down left and right.

The play was not going well. It got to the point that the audience was booing, then yelling, then rioting. All the cast members came flooding backstage and trying to run out. I ran out with them.

I got in my truck and drove off. I went to get on the on-ramp for the freeway, only to find they had introduced right then a new anti-congestion process: to get on the on-ramp, one was supposed to pull over into a parking lot (that was on the on-ramp) and park, go get a ticket, get back in your car, and proceed to the on-ramp. However, there was no one taking the tickets and no barrier to entering the freeway.

Regardless, I parked and went to get a ticket - only to discover that they were all out. I walked over to the little booth on the on-ramp to confront the two guys inside. I asked what I was supposed to do since there were no tickets.

Guy #1 says, "Sorry, we're all out of tickets. There were way more people than we planned trying to get on the on-ramp, and now we're out. Nothing we can do."

I says, "Isn't there something we can work out?"

Guy #1 says, "Do you work for Microsoft?"
"Yes, I do," I replied.

Guy #1 turns to Guy #2 and says, "Don't we have a deal worked out with Microsoft?"

Guy #2 responds, "Yeah, but that's only when they're going to work, and it's Sunday. Besides, we're out of tickets. Nothing we can do."

I walk back to my truck, all pissed off. I decide that since neither of these flunkies is taking tickets, or even watching, I'll just get on the on-ramp. Sure enough, they don't stop me. But traffic is so bad I'm not going anywhere - for a long time, obviously. (If you've seen the Doctor Who episode "Gridlock", I got the feeling it was going to be like that)

So, I turn my truck around and drive the wrong way down the on-ramp, which is no big deal because everybody else is too. I decide to head to my friends' (Launchpad and Loxie's) place, which in the dream is very close to the on-ramp (Note: the apartment in the dream was not their actual apartment). My wife is there for some reason, which makes me happy, until she tells me that they were all about to leave. I am still pissed about the on-ramp, so I stay behind, and start goofing around on Launchpad's computer.

After awhile, there's a major earthquake, which somehow was caused by something I did using LP's computer. The earthquake sets off the fire supression sprinklers in their building, and somehow water gets into their electrical panel and shorts out all power to the apartment.

Feeling horribly guilty about causing the earthquake and messing up their place, I head to see the maintenance dudes for the apartment complex. The dude tells me they are too busy dealing with burst water mains and such, and they'll get to the electrical panel later. In the meantime, he says he can give me some propane to hook up so they will at least have heat (in the dream this makes perfect sense that I can just hook up the propane in the apartment and it will work).

Maintenance dude comes out with a big tall old propane tank on a dolly. The tank is rusty and dented and scary, but I figure they need heat, so I take it.

As I get near the apartment, I have to go down a small flight of stairs with the dolly. Being clumsy, I drop the tank off the dolly and it goes bouncing down the stairs. Amazing, it does not explode, but it does make a hell of a racket and a bunch of their neighbors poke their heads out to see what is going on. I get the tank back on the dolly, apologizing to all the neighbors as I do, and wheel it towards the apartment.

Their direct next-door-neighbor was still out, and asks me, "Why does their apartment use gas? My apartment doesn't use gas." I explain about the electrical panel. "Oh," he says, and goes back inside. I notice that somewhere between dropping the tank and talking to the neighbor, I now also have a horse I'm bringing to the apartment with me.

I am puzzled by the horse, but soon distracted because the neighbor on the other side of them comes out in his bathrobe to get his newspaper - and it's Ted Danson. And he's glowering at me and all pissed off. And then he goes back inside. And I'm standing there wondering why Ted Danson is mad at me - is it the noise from dropping the tank? The horse? Does he know I caused the earthquake?

Then I think maybe he's just still mad about losing the lawsuit in that show Damages.

Anyway, I decide to go in. But the door is locked. Their roommate Amber is home. So I knock on the door, but she doesn't hear me. Somehow, the sprinkler damaged the lock, and someone turned it inside out, so the flip part for the lock is on the outside. I turn the lock, open the door, and go in.

Amber comes out to see who is coming in the apartment. She sees it's just me, and then says, "Is that a cow?"

I say, "No, it's a horse. It's just for keeping the grass down."

I lead the horse to a sliding glass door and out to their patio, where there is grass for it to graze on. Then I turn around and see that there is indeed now a cow in the apartment.

I start scratching my head, wondering what the cow is for.

That's when Jen woke me up. And for two days I kept wondering, "Why was Ted Danson mad at me? And what was the cow for?"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Am I Evil?

I am generally a nice guy. I try to act like a gentleman, holding doors for people and such. I let people go in front of me at the grocery store if they have only a few items or have an impatient kid.

But every now and again, I get the worst kind of compulsions to do really cruel things. If someone cuts me off in traffic or doesn't use a turn signal, I have to remind myself that I could go to prison if I speed up and ram them off the road.

Today there are window washers at our buildings. As I went into the cafeteria to get lunch, they were three floors up, and the ropes from their rigs hung to the ground. I had to consciously restrain myself from grabbing one of the ropes and running back and forth as fast as I could.

I know everybody gets these horrible thoughts or urges once in awhile. What I find myself wondering is, does everyone get them as strongly as I do? To the point that they have to stop and think to themselves, "No, I mustn't do that, it's wrong"?

And what makes us think like that, anyway?

They could have just given me that money...

Sometimes, it's embarassing to work for Microsoft. From time to time, the funny videos they do for the company meeting or for internal consumption get leaked, and to an outsider they often look dumb. The "inside joke" can be lost on the general public.

And then there are videos that marketing does, that just make us all wonder how out of touch these people are. Like the one below. I take no responsibility for the damage this may do to your brain.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Demon Politics; or, Am I too cynical to have hope?

You can thank Memophage for the political post/rant/wall-of-text that is about to ensue. Memophage posted (after 9 months of Silent Blog Syndrome) a video of a poem about Barack Obama. The poet expresses mock resentment of Obama for making him want to believe, to have hope, and to care.

It is a feeling to which I can relate. For many years, I have been more cynical about our government than just about anyone who doesn't live in a "compound" with more firearms than a military base. I have stated time and time again that politicians are all 100% corrupt, owned by corporations and special interests, and in politics only out of greed and/or power-hunger. They are wealthy and powerful, and their only interest is in staying wealthy and powerful. They collude, across the so-called "party lines", to keep themselves wealthy and powerful. The two party system, gerrymandering, the electoral college, campaign finance and spending rules, lobbyists - all designed to keep the ruling class ruling. The common citizen is not represented in this government, no matter how many times you read the "We the people" line.

There is no difference between the parties. They posture at being different to distract us from where we really stand in this government - under the thumbs of those we "elect". There is no fair play, no representation. There isn't even a "lesser evil" to vote for. Just two greedy bastards who'd sell there own mother to pick up an extra district's votes. In 2004, who did we get for our Presidential candidates? Two wealthy white New Englanders who went to Yale and were in the Skull and Bones. Show me the difference, aside from the pretend Texas accent one of them uses.

Some people I have said these things to nod agreement, and tell me how horrible it is that the vision of the "Founding Fathers" has been trampled so. And that's where I get even more cynical. The "Founding Fathers" weren't the noble guys our history books claimed. They wrote flowery speech to outline a terrific system, empowering the people and making sure the people got fair representation. But they put in loopholes to keep their flowery speech from being the true law. They were the wealthy and the powerful, and they wanted to make sure they stayed that way. The present state of our government is only so ugly because the wealthy and powerful have perfected the loopholes their predecessors put in place.

And they have done so to the point that they no longer need to even pretend they are serving the people or the country. That is why the Bush administration seems so horrific - they flaunt the fact that we, the people, are powerless. They openly defy the law and the will of the people, and nothing happens because the only people who can stop them are other politicians - corrupt, self-serving politicians who are in on the game.

I'm not putting forth a conspiracy theory here. I'm not saying they all sit around together and plot every move. Implicit collusion isn't necessary. They all understand what they have to do to keep themselves where they are. They all act in their own best interest, and since they are really all part of the same class their best interests are all the same.

So what does all this have to do with a "poetry slam" performance about Barack Obama?

In the midst of the darkest hour of my political cynicism - seeing the Bush administration get away with nearly 8 years of criminal behavior - along comes a Presidential candidate who seems to care. Who seems to make sense. Who seems to not be corrupt. I mean, here's a guy whose opponent for his own party's nomination is basically (legal disclaimer: in my opinion) a known criminal who escaped prosecution through abuse of power, but the worst they can dig up on Obama is that his Reverend said some controversial things or that Obama didn't put his hand over his heart for the national anthem once.

He delivers a positive message. He says he wants to make things better. He wants to fight the corruption. He wants to end the unjust war we're in. He wants our country to be better.

After years and years of abject cynicism, how can I trust this guy? How can I trust a politician? He is a member of the same class, he is in on the game. Yet he seems different. He seems genuine.

He seems like a dream. One that's too good to be real.

As I believe I've mentioned before, I like to be the guy who knows. I like to be the guy who's right. I love saying "I told you so." So how can I get behind this guy and say, "He's our best hope, he's worth it, we should trust him"?

But at this point, I have to. I have to believe that we have some hope. That not all politicians are worthless scum. That at least one of them wants what is best for this country, for its people.

That's what pisses me off about Obama. That, and that he might not win and we'll be stuck with another corrupt dirtbag.

- Mattbear out