Friday, June 23, 2006

The time has come, and I'm done with blogging.

I've thought it over, and I don't think I'm interested in blogging anymore. I'll continue to do some photography, so I may do photoblogs on occasion here. Other than that, no more blogging for me. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

If my Sim is working, am I?

The Sim games have always been centered upon moving up the career ladder, but you never used to see them actually working. They would disappear on their way to work, and their skills and mood would largely determine whether or not they got promotions. At last, there is an expansion pack in which the actual quality of the Sims' work is what determines their level of success. It is called Open For Business and it lets you start small businesses of various types.

I have a serious problem with this game, though. In what sense is a game about work not, itself, work? You worry about restocking items, sell to customers, and ring them up at the cash register. Does the fact that I'm actually at a computer make it somehow not work? Sorry, but virtual work is work.

If that's true, one wonders if any other virtual acts become the acts themselves. A number of things stand out in the Sim games where the player is clearly not doing the act by virtue of the Sim doing it: having sex, eating, dying, and sleeping, for instance. Being born is another example. These are physical, though. Is there anything other than work that you can be doing in reality by doing it virtually? Listening to music and watching TV are the only other examples I can think of.

Nightmare About Blogging

I dreamt about this blog last night. In the dream, a hacker broke into my account, filled the blog with pornographic images and embarrassing things I would never write, and then made it impossible for me to log in and change it. Do all bloggers have dreams like this at some point?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Fun with Photoshop

I just got Photoshop as a present, and I'm trying it out for now. There are so many things you can do with your pictures.

You can change one object of the photo, making it different from everything else.

Pointing


You can take your original picture...

Zoo IX


...and wash it out...

Giraffe Washed Out


...make it look like a painting...

Giraffe Painting


...or turn it into something abstract:

Stain Glass Giraffe


It's more interesting, though, to stay away from the special effects and make a change that looks a little less Photoshop-y:

Abstract Romance

Park Image


The black and white thing is very addictive, though.

Snake

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Feature made with cell phone

An unknown Italian's cell phone is also a movie camera. My cell phone actually takes real life images and turns them into abstract blurs. Could be an experimental movie of some kind. My prediction for the Italians: straight to YouTube.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Discrimination in Sex

Is it racist to discriminate based on race when it comes to who you're going to sleep with? Personals ads--at least the gay ones--often include a "whites only" statement. Sounds a little racist. Not all of them are pro-white though; many express a particular interest in latinos, blacks, or Asians. I briefly dated a guy who told me he wouldn't get involved with anyone who was "not Caucasian." Is this necessarily racism or can it just be a matter of personal taste?

Let's assume the entire issue is physical attraction. Anyone who isn't bisexual discriminates based on sex in this area, and people have all sorts of arbitrary criteria for sex partners. Is there any logical reason a person with no sexual attraction to people of a given race should be treated differently from, for instance, a person not being attracted to anyone over 6 foot 3?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Daryl Hannah and the Tree

Daryl Hannah climbed up a tree and sat there in protest of plan to replace a community garden with a warehouse. As she was pulled down from the tree by police, she held up her fist as a salute to nearby protesters. Finally, we have a celebrity activist worth watching.

UPDATE: Hannah has been arrested. There are now three great reasons to be a Daryl Hannah fan: 1) The tree protest; 2) She was one of the best things about Kill Bill; 3) She drives a car that runs on vegetable oil.

The Blink of an Eye

Flickr is "hosting a juried exhibition in New York" of user photos called The Blink of an Eye. It would be very nice to get in. Each person can only submit one picture, and I have 247 of them, so I need to decide what my best photo is. I'm thinking about this one. Any opinions on which picture I should choose?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Ellie Parker

I just finished watching Ellie Parker, a no budget movie that Naomi Watts did gradually over the course of several years. Watts plays a desperately out-of-work actress who tries to win parts in movies she knows will be terrible. Much of the movie revolves around a series of auditions and acting classes in which she shows her talent, but that talent is degraded by the poor material and the exploitative nature of the roles she tries to win and the acting exercises she participates in. It seems somewhat like The Comeback: it follows an actress around and watches her being repeatedly humiliated, and the critics often didn't seem to get the point.













This is actually one of the best no budget movies I've seen (by which I mean movies that look like they were shot on home video cameras). On the other hand, the audition scene in Mulholland Drive made all the same points, but with so much more of a subtle sense of humor.

The most emasculating possible car is finally coming to the U.S.

Here it is, America, the testicle on wheels.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Itch

Women scratch themselves more than men. This apparently means that women are more physically sensitive than men, despite their tolerance for pushing human babies through their vaginas.

Rape and MySpace

In the mid-90's, the internet seemed like a dangerous place, partly because you frequently heard stories about pedophiles meeting children online. People who were interested in meeting anyone through the internet were invariably seen as suspicious. It seemed like that mentality had fizzled out recently: people my age think little of it when two people meet through Facebook or MySpace, and sites like Match.com have just about replaced personals ads. Still not the ideal way to meet someone, but not a reason to be ashamed, either.

The stigma over meeting people through the internet seems to be coming back, though, with a series of news stories about the dangers of MySpace and Craigslist. Most recently, a 16-year-old girl actually flew to the Middle East to meet a 25-year-old man she talked to on MySpace. In another story, a woman talked with a man on MySpace and "invited the man to her home," where she was raped. That second one shouldn't be a news story at all; it's no more interesting than any date rape scenario. And just for the record, it's probably not a good idea to invite a complete stranger, who is a heterosexual male, to your home when you're a woman living alone...unless, of course, you've already decided to have sex with him. Is there any real reason to make a distinction between the internet, bars and cafes in terms of safety? Shouldn't you treat any new potential partner with a certain level of suspicion?

Embarrassing, Foreign Commercials

If only Americans made such bizarre, artistic commercials. Watching them, I've come across an eclectic, sometimes disturbing mix of advertisements. If you remember my photoblog about headless mannequins, you might be interested in this German credit card commercial:




I'm still trying to convince myself that this is really Arnold Schwarzenegger:




This old Estonian ad is actually for some sort of meat product called Kana-hakkliha, but it feels more like an experimental animal rights student film:




European commercials seem much edgier than American ones. I found one that I won't even post here because it was so obscene (I'll just say it ended with a woman performing a sex act on a certain phallic object on the inside of her beloved car). This one is a little more appropriate, but it depicts age difference sexual relationships in a way they could never get away with here:

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Oh boy, we're going to the Texas State Capitol!

-There it is! Wow!

Texas XVII


-Have you ever seen anything so humongous, guys?

Texas XIV


-It sure is pretty.

Texas XVIII


It actually pales by comparison to the Wisconsin State Capitol on an aesthetic level. On the inside of the dome is nothing but a wall of portraits of former Governors--nothing compared to the architecture and painting in Wisconsin.

Texas VIII


In its ugliness, the floor of the House of Representatives conveys sheer power. Everything points in one direction.

Texas XII


Even the cameras on the walls, even the portraits gaze to the center.

Texas X


But outside, a little cupid learns how to masturbate.

Texas IV


Oh, wait, he's attacking an eel between his legs. My mistake.

Texas V


Ultimately, the Texas State Capitol pays tribute to the family and the nobility of guns.

A mother holding a baby is actually in honor of the "Texas Pioneer Woman."

Texas XXI


And we are reminded that it is war that keeps our government standing.

Texas VI


-Let's go, guys, to the Capitol!

Texas XV

A Trip to the Zoo

This birthday trip to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison you may recognize.

Before we see any real animals, we are greeted by faceless orangutans--the fantasy of becoming bestial.

Zoo I


The Althouses are not here to pretend; we are here to capture the real thing.

Zoo XV


Another mother-son combo, however, gets its thrills from imagining. The mother's skirt whips up slightly, moving with the woman's excitement over a son she feels may grow up to be 9 1/2 feet tall.

Zoo XII


An Amish family is drawn to this zoo, perhaps because it is a form of entertainment not primarily based on electricity. The glass to the primates serves as a gigantic television screen.

Zoo VII


One boy drifts away from this family and ponders our species' place amongst the primates.

Zoo III


Meanwhile, the primates dream of life beyond the glass.

Zoo VI


As I photograph a feeding giraffe...

Zoo VIII


...its partner begins to question the integrity of our voyeurism.

Zoo IX


It's hard to communicate and keep an intimate relationship, when you live onstage:

Zoo XIII


Someone, call the zookeepers, an animal has escaped!

Zoo X


Finally, the faceless ones wave goodbye. "It's been a pleasure having you," they say as we return to city.

Zoo XVI

Are we past the "coming out" stage?

You used to hear about the process of coming out of the closet all the time. Ellen essentially devoted an episode of her show to how hard it is to come out, MTV documentaries were made that focused on it, and popular movies were made that treated the act of coming out as a form of liberation. Statistics about teenagers being kicked out of their homes after they came out to their parents were repeated frequently by gay rights groups. The question, "How old were you when you came out?" was asked to gay people all the time. No one ever asks that anymore. Is there an unspoken agreement between those who try to shape public perception of gays that focusing on the act of coming out places emphasis on gays in a potential victim position rather than as "normal" people?

Nowadays, it's a lot harder to sympathize with closeted gays who act unable to handle telling their families. If you're gay, unless you are financially dependent on ultra-conservative parents or you live in an area where you would have realistic concern for your physical safety, many people will see your refusal to come out as a reflection on you rather than as a symptom of persecution. It used to be that closeted gay people were seen as evidence that gays were socially oppressed.

Perhaps ignoring the coming out process altogether is the best way, then, to put social pressure on gays to come out.

Monday, June 05, 2006

"I have to go pee or else I'm just gonna pee all over myself."

What would you do if you were starting to hit it off with someone in a club, and then they said that?

Answer: I left.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Back to the airport

Soon, I'll be flying back to Austin again. Ah, the airport days...

Airport Delays

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Welcome to Madison

Back in my hometown, there are no tall buildings, but the streets are filled with people.

VI


This next picture is either adorable or disturbing, depending on the interpretation. I'll leave the decision to you.

V


An ongoing cow exhibit propagates the most inane stereotype about Wisconsin there is, but at least it does so with style.

VII


Inside the Capitol, the dairy spirit creeps by our casual visitors.

X


The angles of the building are as layered and disjointed as an M.C. Escher image.

XIV


Off in the distance, an everlasting and immobile animal can be seen.

XI


Eternally watching over the state, the badger perches above every branch of our government.

XIII

Woody

Woody Allen's writing has a serious problem of too much direct, honest communication. Characters in his movies will just pinpoint and describe personal problems as though their first dinner conversations with people they just met should be opportunities to summarize all their most revealing therapy sessions.

Sometimes it works for humorous effect, like in Manhattan, when Diane Keaton says about her new dog, "You know, it's a penis substitute for me." The dog looks rather phallic:














In a serious drama like Match Point, however, it can be disastrous. We're in the middle of the movie right now, so I haven't made a final decision on what I think of it. But Scarlett Johansson instantly volunteers information about her insecurities and neuroses, alcoholic parents and other details no normal person would reveal to someone they just met. This is one of my movie pet peeves, because there is relatively little honest communication in real life.

UPDATE: We finished the movie, and I thought it was really good. For the first thirty minutes, we were making fun of it, because it drags and has some sloppily written scenes right at the beginning. It got going eventually, though, and I recommend it.

"I do consider myself to be the male Judy Garland."

So said Rufus Wainwright in 2004, who is now set to "play" Judy Garland. At first, I thought this meant he would be acting the main part in some sort of bio. Fortunately, he's just going to be doing his version of Judy Garland's 1961 Carnegie Hall performance.

Mummification: "We're the Rolls Royce of the funeral industry."

For a mere $67,000, you can have your deceased pet mummified at Summum in Salt Lake City. On the kids' version of their website, this is how they explain their "modern mummification" to youngsters:
Mummification is like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. It is a very loving way to take care of a person when they die. When you die, your soul goes on a trip to a new life. Mummification is a way to help your soul take the trip. That way, you can have the most fun on your trip and you reach an exciting new life.
-Mommy, mommy, I wanna be mummified!

-Of course, son. You wouldn't want to risk becoming an earth-bound dead creature, unable to enter the Great Beyond without your preserved body, like grandpa!

Have they never heard of taxidermy? It's a much more effective way of maintaining your former pet's body, it won't convince your neighbors that you're insane, and it is much less expensive...less than a hundredth of the price. If you're like this guy, however, there's no substitute for the mummy of the lost Corky:



















Summum has begun with pet mummification, but they make no secret of their intentions to graduate to human bodies in this CBS News video.

Once you take away the superstitious aspect of mummification, what makes this better than other ways of dealing with the remains?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Mistaken Identity

If you haven't seen the story yet, let me just turn your attention to a horrible case of mistaken identity. Two friends--Laura and Whitney--were in a car accident, leaving Laura dead and Whitney in a coma-like state. Whitney, who is 19, was carrying her 22-year-old friend's ID when they were found. The girls looked enough alike so that, after the accident, each was mistaken for the other. Laura was buried in a funeral that honored her living friend. 1400 people showed up for the funeral of the wrong girl. Meanwhile, Laura's family stood by the nearly comatose Whitney, believing it to be Laura and blogging about the experience during the recovery.

Countdown To Death

Yes, today is my birthday. Some ages I have had more of a personal identification with than others. Many ages just seem like arbitrary numbers. I had a genuine sense of being 22, and I had similar feelings about 17 and 19, for some reason. 23, I think, will not seem like much. Kind of like Tuesday having no feel.

Even though I'm very young, I generally find birthdays to be more a reminder of death than anything else. You have a maximum of about a 100 clock ticking away, and each birthday is another step towards your death. How can you do anything but dread the number increasing on that day?