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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Anticipation

A peek over at Rotten Tomatoes today revealed this list of the twelve most anticipated movies. Apparently "anticipation" is an emotion best felt by 14 year old boys. Luckily I haven't grown up in the last twenty years.

1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
2. The Dark Knight
3. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
4. Wall-E
5. Iron Man
6. The Incredible Hulk
7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
8. Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
9. Speed Racer
10. X-Men Origins: Wolverine
11. 10,000 BC
12. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo

Despite half of these films having ridiculously long titles, I really am eagerly anticipating most of them. Particularly:
The Dark Knight: Heath Ledger's last role, plus we get to see Christian Bale reprise his role as Batman with creepy Christopher Nolan at the helm.
Iron Man: Marvel property, starring Stave It Off's fourth favorite actor Robert Downey Jr.
Hellboy II: Ron Perlman back for another round of "Aw crap!"
Prince Caspian: Less Jesus, more medieval warfare... at least in the previews. Yes, I do remember ripping the first film and saying that I didn't think this franchise would continue. I'm prepared to eat crow if this picture succeeds.
Wolverine: Huge Ackman is back in the role that made all the X-Men movies so rip-snortin'.

Less so:
10,000 BC: Cool big-budget special effects, but I'm leery of German action directors.
Speed Racer: What the hell are the Wachowski Bros. thinking?
Wall-E: Despite Yojimbo's high praise for Ratatouille, I just don't care about Pixar type stuff anymore. I'm almost starting to think that CGI should be reserved for depicting creatures like the Balrog in Lord of the Rings.
Harry Potter: Honestly, who the hell cares at this point?
Indiana Jones: This title sounds even dumber than The Temple of Doom... and that can't be a good sign.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Movies, for Real Dude

Our very own Yojimbo is attempting a foray into the world of "real blogging"... This is when you pick a topic you actually know something about and just write on that subject. Pretty soon people will come to your blog in droves and then you get the lucrative book deals... followed by the babes, the money and the sportscars.

The new project (to which I've been invited to contribute!) is called Let's Not Talk About Movies and I hope you'll check it out. The content will largely be straight movie reviews. Though I'm sure Jim will publish occasional reflections on the industry as a whole. There's also a link to a review index under the heading "Looking for a Movie" which will let you see all the films of which he's posting original reviews.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Couldn't Resist



I'm not usually a huge fan of Jimmy Kimmel, but this was hillarious.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hillary, Welcome to the Toaster



I can't believe how good this guy is. This is only part two of his 45 minute speech from Houston after thumping Clinton in Wisconsin. I chose part two because it included the best parts, and posting a 20+ minute speech is more than enough.

While other candidates look bleary eyed, unfocused and beaten down... even the Republican frontrunner who should be getting plenty of rest these days... Barack is looking stronger and gaining momentum. Hop on board, this train is bound for glory!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Little Help Here?

Inspired by recent email exchange with Soapy, I pose this challenge to the loyal readers out there in Stave It Off Nation. Being slapped with a name like John has provided me with no end of difficulty in this life.

It's really a shame that my namesake refers either to a toilet, or to a patron of prostitutes. It is also also the common first name for an unidentified dead body, or the loser recipient of a break up letter.

Can we please have some positive connotations for the name "John"?!

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Persepolated

Finally saw Persepolis. I suspect it will be a long time before 2008 offers up a film that knocks it out of the top spot for next year's Stave It Off awards. If I had included it in the 2007 list, it would have easily made the top three.

I've never seen a better comic-to-film translation. The art direction, including the various enhancements of the author's style, are brilliant. It may be the most gorgeous animated film I've ever seen.

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No Country for Old Men Update

Stave It Off friend Die Claydermaus pointed me in the direction of two WB Yeats poems last week. He had remembered the line "no country for old men" from one of Yeats's works, and also saw parallels between the storyline and another famous poem, "The Second Coming". I'll reprint both below. Fans of the movie (or the book) are encouraged to speculate on what themes Cormac McCarthy mined from Yeats's classics. Certainly you can see how the first poem might relate to the sheriff character, and the second might suggest a character sketch of Javier Bardem's sociopath.

Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees-
Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Revelation

While walking back to work yesterday, after lunching on a bowl of pho, I had an epiphany: The problems of our world are largely due to our collective belief in the omnipotence of God. It was like a divine message bolted through me... right on the corner of 15th and Pine. I interpreted the message I had received, and decided to start blogging about a new theology: The Church of the Fairly Powerful God. By demoting God's status from omnipotent to "fairly powerful" many of the problems presented by religion are resolved. New initiates should please read the FAQ below, and please bring your questions, for only through the illumination of dialogue can I persuade all rational and happiness-seeking peoples in the benefits of understanding this new paradigm of religion.

FAQs on the Church of the Fairly Powerful God

How can I believe in a God that’s just “fairly powerful”?

Indeed, how can you believe in anything else!? If you look at most of the criticisms of theology, the largest set of incongruencies are resolved once you realize that God is not omnipotent. We’re constantly amazed that God allows a man to eat 50 hotdogs in order to win a county fair contest, and yet this same God allows children to be enslaved and maimed in African diamond mines. Any God that would allow this is surely a monster! And while you might think spending the afterlife with your omnipotent God would be a blast, imagine how horrible it would be to sit at the side of some twisted pervert who allows little children to have their arms cut off just for kicks. Imagine what tortures he has in store for everyone in Heaven! The very Bible that attempts to extol the omnipotent God is chock full of horrible, horrible stories about God torturing and screwing with people. Personally, I can’t imagine being satisfied with that kind of God.

But now step back and imagine that God is merely fairly powerful, as opposed to omnipotent. Imagine that many of the atrocities cataloged in the Bible were, in fact, the acts of mean or deluded people… not acts of God. God is actually a pretty cool person. He wouldn’t do that sort of stuff. He’s more into kayaking and hosting fun dinner parties. God doesn’t have the power to directly stop someone from carrying out a bad idea. He couldn’t stop Hitler… He couldn’t even stop Andy Warhol. Instead, God works collaboratively. If you’re open to his divine presence, he will grow in your heart and feel like a warm sense of connection and spiritual peace. The more finely attuned you become to God’s presence, the more you’ll feel the ripples of his affection throughout the various parts of your life. That’s really the power of God, but it’s only available to those that are actively open to it.

But isn’t God responsible for creating the universe?

Oh no, no, no. God isn’t anywhere near that powerful. Do you have any idea just how big the universe is? It’s pretty impossible to fathom someone or something powerful enough to generate all of creation! God doesn’t really know how the universe was created, but has put his faith in the work of various scientists for now. He suggests reading about the “Big Bang”.

God isn’t completely incapable however. God, for example, could probably build you a pretty decent house.

What use is this “Fairly Powerful” God then? What do I get out of joining your religion?

I’m glad you asked… this is really the key question isn’t it? From a cost/benefit analysis perspective, we really need to ask ourselves these kinds of questions. After all, why wouldn’t I prefer to believe in an all-powerful supreme being that has guaranteed me eternal happiness as long as I profess my faith? The answer lies in resolving cognitive dissonance and achieving personal integrity. Cognitive dissonance plagues everyone who believes in an omnipotent God. How could you avoid being driven to insanity if you worship a spiteful and vengeful force while hoping to find favor and peace in his bosom? How could you seek peace from the guy who let Pol Pot butcher his countrymen? You have to be willing to split your brain in half in order for this to work… you have to compartmentalize what you know about God and what you have faith in. This makes people profoundly unhappy. We are all happier when “what we know” and “what we believe” achieve some sort of concordance. This leads to a sense of wholeness or integrity. Basing your actions on an integrated view of the world leads to more cooperation and success in life!

How does one worship a “Fairly Powerful God”?

This is an important difference between our FPG and other portraits of the deity. God doesn’t really like abject worship. He finds it kind of embarrassing. Plus it’s not really healthy to fixate on one thing so much. The whole nightly kneeling and praying thing is highly overrated. God would prefer the occasional shout-out or kindly word from his followers. And perhaps the most important thing is to allow God a place in your heart… stay in touch, the way you would with a valued friend. That’s the true way to honor him.

Does the Fairly Powerful God still have a plan for all of us?

Yeah… but frankly, it’s not that great a plan. I mean, it’s pretty good, but I’ve seen better. There's a lot of people out there, and God's plans are sort of "cookie-cutter" if you know what I mean. I think you’ll probably want to tweak it here and there… tighten it up a bit. No harm in that though, since God doesn’t really mind. In fact, he gets a kick out of people who approach their lives as a collaborative process rather than just “accepting their fate”.

When you refer to God, you use the pronoun “he”… Are you certain God is a man?

Absolutely not… God is most certainly a woman… and a very sexy woman too, if you ask me. I’m really not sure why he prefers to be thought of as a he. It’s kinda creepy if you think about it too much. I just figure I’ll go with whatever he wants. After all, it’s really his call… like when your 45 year old friend decides to change her name from Pat to Claire. It’s a bit awkward at first, but you just have to accept it. I mean, why fight it?

How can I support the Church of the Fairly Powerful God?

There are two basic ways of showing support: first by forwarding this article to those that you believe would like to hear the word. And secondly, by telling them to send me money. Sometimes you can get them to send me money if you tell them that whatever followers they find will in turn send you money, and those people’s recruits will send your followers money… and so on down the line. This way everyone benefits… except those that don’t do a good job finding other followers. In this way, you can see how God’s will is to reward thoughtful industry.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Obama, Nutshelled

In response to Dingo's request, here's why Stave It Off is endorsing Barak Obama for the 2008 Presidential Primary.

Many seek to douse Barak Obama’s fiery aura of change as hypocrisy: But I am a cynic. I believe that ALL the candidates are hypocrites. The only two who are likely to speak the truth (Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich) are ridiculously unelectable toads. I do not care that Obama changes his tune when he speaks to different groups of voters. Or that he’s sounded hawkish on foreign policy issues during the debates (all Democrats trip over themselves in pathetic attempts to look tough… we know it’s a show.) Or that his rhetoric of revolutionary change is undercut by his record of incremental reform. None of that matters. No president gets elected with a realistic expectation of massive change. People just want something different than the steady stream of sewer water that’s been poured down their throats by the previous administration.

The radical leftwing believes the difference between the two parties is illusion: That it’s an artificial and meaningless choice between a Whopper and a Big Mac, when the real choice should be between a locally-made goat cheese sandwich and an organic vegan veggie burger. While I’m sympathetic to this view, I fundamentally disagree. The hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis disagree. It may be a “lesser of two evils” approach, but I can’t stomach another ruthless GOP administration. We need a president capable of reflection and diplomacy. The Bush administration was a textbook example of treating every problem as a nail because their only tool was a hammer. We need an administration that has an entire toolbox at its disposal, not just an ugly hammer that has worn out its welcome on the world stage. Electability matters because we cannot afford another GOP administration and the subsequent continuation of our current foreign or domestic policy. And while I don’t agree with Obama on every issue, I agree with him enough… and I think he’s more electable than Clinton… and that’s crucial.

“Why is he more electable?” you ask.

Obama is a powerful speaker and a natural leader. As a community organizer, he instills hope and confidence when he speaks. He’s capable of being both personable and iconic... of cracking a joke and of striking a dramatic chord. I don’t believe Obama is another Kennedy (Jack or Bobby) or the second coming of MLK. I don’t think he’s in danger of being assassinated (mostly because he doesn’t represent a serious threat to corporate agendas.) But I do think he’s an intelligent, decent human being who would make a great figurehead as our Commander in Chief. He will bring out the vote because he (unlike Clinton) is a person we want to rally behind. And he will be served by that same leadership as he begins the work of his administration.

Being a figurehead means instilling confidence, restoring national pride, building alliances, and leading the country in our efforts to repair the damage left over from 9/11, Katrina, Afghanistan, Iraq, port security, habeas corpus, etc.. This damage will not be repaired alone; it will require a mobilized and motivated America… and I think Obama is the only candidate with the charisma and passion to achieve that. If Obama makes a photo op at a Habitat for Humanity project in New Orleans, there will be thousands of volunteers signing up the very next day. If Clinton makes the same appearance, there will be thousands of conservative pundits criticizing her for political opportunism.

For the record, I like Hillary Clinton. I think she would make a fine president. She’s smart, she’s experienced, she’s right on the issues. And I think that many Clinton-bashers are spewing sexist crap. But I think there’s a chance Obama will go down in history as a great president and I want to see that happen.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Riding High

My two week vacation ended in triumph. I started with a visit to the family, and a blitz of year-end movies in order to finish up my personal 2007 top 10 list (which resulted in lots of fun dialogue in the comments section.) After that, I buckled down and started studying to take my social work boards.

I scheduled myself for a Saturday morning exam date at Bellevue Community College. The test itself is a four hour ordeal... 170 multiple choice questions... many of them cumbersome and complicated (and requiring you to choose the "best" option between several right answers.) I think it was probably closest to the reading comprehension sections of the GRE or the SAT in terms of how much energy each question takes.

By Thursday I was feeling pretty nervous. To pass, a candidate must score a 70 on the test. So far, the highest score I had heard of anyone getting was a 78. Failing would mean forfeiting the $250 in fees, plus waiting 90 days until a retest would be possible. Friday morning I took a four-hour practice test and scored exactly 70. But then I talked to a schoolmate who had recently taken the exam who told me that he only got a 69 on his final practice test and wound up passing easily, so my confidence was bolstered.

The night before, I abstained from any drinking, rehydrated fully, and got a good night's sleep. I had quit caffeine in the previous weeks, but decided to have a half cup of coffee on Saturday morning. Armed with that, and a couple of fake bacon and fried egg sandwiches, I walked into the testing center.

Three and a half hours later, I had a little strut in my step. I scored a walloping 80. Now the state does some paperwork, and in two weeks I'll be a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. This doesn't change my job too much, but should entitle me to a nice little raise in salary and gives me a bit more leverage when I do someday apply for another a position. Plus, I can bill insurance for therapy services now, which makes it easier for me to take on clients in my current position. I also have to get new business cards, since I'm no longer John Streimikes, MSW, but rather JOHN STREIMIKES, LICSW!

So all told, it was a tremendous two week break. I go back to work tomorrow recharged and with a major load of stress off my back.

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