Going to the movies

Katie and the kids are visiting family and friends in San Antonio this week, so I’m living the bachelor life. So, I took myself to see War of the Worlds the other evening. It was the first time in months that I’ve gone to the movie theater, and the first time in years I’ve been to see a movie that wasn’t appropriate for children.
I have to say that having a DVR and DVD player at home completely changed my movie-watching experience. First off, I had to sit captive through 25 freakin’ minutes of deafening commercials before the movie started (I arrived 10 minutes before the posted start time, and commercials continued for 15 minutes after that time). Additionally, I couldn’t stop the movie to go to the bathroom or back it up to hear or see something that I missed.

That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx

I just completed the abridged audio edition of That Old Ace in the Hole by Annie Proulx. It was just okay, nothing special.
The thing that bothered the about the book was the feeling that Ms. Proulx either had little direct experience with the type of people about whom she was writing (Texas panhandle farmers and ranchers), or that she held those people in subtle contempt. It felt like at some level, she was making fun of them or portraying them as caricatures.

Rabbit hunting

I frequently walk the dogs off their leashes in the fields between the golf fairways near our house. In the late evening and early morning, we frequently encounter rabbits in the open on the edges of the fairways. Xena has become an avid rabbit hunter, but she remains a terrible one. She just doesn’t see the rabbits until she practically trips over them. Tippie, on the other hand, spots them from a distance and gives a try at catching them (NOTE: Tippie has never come close to actually catching a rabbit, and I don’t expect either dog ever to catch one).
This morning, the reason for this difference finally dawned on me: Tippie is sight-oriented; Xena is smell-oriented. While she’s running around, Tippie has her head up looking a ways in front of her. Xena, on the other hand, has her head down and her nose working furiously. She’s an enthusiastic hunter because she smells the rabbits, but she can’t actually locate one that’s in the open because her attention is on the smells in her immediate vicinity. Before she gets close enough to smell a rabbit, it has already run into the weeds.

Good customer service, again

shark_mako.jpg Following on my recent good experience with Sony’s repair of my camera, I just had another very good support experience. I’ve worn a FreeStyle Shark Mako watch for several years, and I have been very pleased with it. I’m hard on watches, so that fact that I’ve worn it pretty much daily for several years is a positive indication of its durability. The only problem is that the plastic band has split two times. A couple of weeks ago, I sent it back to FreeStyle for its second new band and a battery ($24). On Friday, it arrived home. Only it was a new watch! No indication why they replaced the whole watch instead of just the band and battery, but I’m not complaining.

The Season of Lillian Dawes by Katherine Mosby

I just completed the unabridged audio edition of The Season of Lillian Dawes by Katherine Mosby, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The language used in the novel is really over the top sophisticated, but since it’s written in the voice of a young privileged American man, the language fits him and his world perfectly.
I also realized that this novel shares many themes with another book I read and enjoyed recently: The Absence of Nectar. Both books have a main character who has obscured his or her identity and history, and both books are a kind of coming-of-age story, though the details differ radically between the two books.

Sex offender testing

I heard on the local news this morning that Texas is running a pilot program to identify sex offenders with the “highest level of deviant arousal.” The offender is connected to a bunch of physiological monitors, including one on the shaft of the penis, and his arousal level is measured as he is shown different types of images that might be sexually arousing.
The purpose:

The state says these new tests will help them weed out the low-risk sex offenders, like the 19-year-old who has sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend, from the pedophile who seeks sexual pleasure from children on the playground.
“The folks that show the highest level of deviant arousal are the ones we need to pay the most attention to and contribute the most resources to,” said Siegel.

I’m already uncomfortable with the whole idea that sex offenders cannot be rehabilitated or that they cannot control their actions.
This test, should it be adopted, raises further questions. What about ‘false positives’: men who are incorrectly identified as being aroused by ‘deviant’ images? And to me, it seems there’s a big difference between arousal and acting on that arousal.
We’re letting these people back into society but we’re trying to tell the public that they’re likely to continue their violent behavior. I’m certainly not a fan of locking someone up and throwing away the key, but isn’t one reason for incarceration to remove dangerous people from the general population? If we are so sure they’re so dangerous, why are we letting them out of prison in the first place?

Truth in advertising

Gelf Magazine has a regular feature where they pair up reviewers’ quotes used in media advertising with the full reviews from which they were taken. Not surprisingly, the entire review is often not as flattering as the short quote used.
For instance, advertising for the HBO movie The Girl in the Cafe uses this quote from The Oregonian:

An endearing romantic comedy!

But here’s the paragraph from which that quote was pulled:

This new offering from HBO Films is at its heart a bit of political propaganda wrapped into an endearing romantic comedy that starts losing its laughs when it gets to Reykjavik and decides its teachable moment has arrived.

This is awesome!

Time, place or circumstance

I ran across this quote by St. Augustine this morning:

Further, all men are to be loved equally. But since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special regard to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstance, are brought into closer connection with you.

Katie and I have recently been given the challenge of puting St. Augustine’s advice into practice. You see, a friend of ours is now serving the first of a seven-year sentence in federal prison. He is not a close friend: I would characterize him as having a close connection to us through an accident of time, place and circumstance.


Guns, Germs and Steel, revisited

Despite my disappointment with the first installment of Guns, Germs and Steel, I went ahead and watched the second installment this week. Same impression.
I’ve concluded that I’m just not anywhere near the target audience for this show. The target audience must be people who’ve never really been introduced to the idea of history as interpretation and who, therefore, have never really questioned the more conventional presentations of history.
At the conclusion of the second installment, Professor Diamond states:

I came to Spain to answer a question – why did Pizarro and his men conquer the Incas instead of the other way around? There’s a whole mythology that that conquest and the European expansion in general resulted from Europeans themselves being especially brave or bold or inventive or smart, but the answers turn out to have nothing to do with any personal qualities of Europeans. Yeah, Pizarro and his men were brave, but there were plenty of brave Incas. Instead, Europeans were accidental conquerors. By virtue of their geographic location and history, they were the first people to acquire guns, germs and steel.

My response to that statement is ‘No duh!’ but the producers of this show must believe that this is a revelation to their target audience. I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on the show and understand that it was just not made for me.