Tuesday, August 30, 2005

the saints come marching in

I have a morbid fascination with watching natural disasters unfold. I admit it. After calling Jen Sunday I was glued to the computer looking for updates. Yesterday it looked like Katrina might not be as bad for New Orleans as feared, but today it seems worse.

A massive hurricane is only the start for New Orleans. In most places floods recede over time as water travels downhill. New Orleans, though, is the downhill. Katrina not only flooded New Orleans directly, it also damaged levees enough that both Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi are draining into it. Recovery doesn't start until the water subsides, and it will have to be pumped out. In the mean time, a city has no electricity and no potable water, and detritus from oil refineries, chemical plants and, grimly, cemeteries is sifting through the Mississippi delta.

SoI keep watching, spellbound. It's a lotfiller in real life. And much like the last American disaster I think about the planning implications. Will this push the country into a recession? Will they valmeyer New Orleans onto higher ground?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Virgin is the New Rich

I saw the 40 Year Old Virgin this weekend with oh let's call her Fresh Water Mussels. I expected this to be funny, but was surprised that it was so good. Steve Carell was able to carry the movie as a lead, although he never quite broke out of his comedian's mug. Catherine Keener was more than we deserved. The overall arc of the movie was painful when it hit close to home. And the details were good - Carrell's character's Comeauesque toy collection, e.g., was more than fodder for mockery: he uses it as a crutch during a burst of frustration.

The thing is that since Wedding Crashers I've been whining about lotfiller comedies that are merely kind of funny without being anything more. Movies like Animal House in its exuberance or Ferris Bueller in its exuberance and moments of teen angst transcend feature length sketch comedy. 40 Year Old Virgin manages to transcend this as well, at least to a degree. Without giving much away, my favorite part might just be the movie's ending, a bit of incongruity reminiscent of the ending of Slapshot or other films from cinema's golden era.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lose Weight Now!

Ask me how!

I'm so entertained by the content driven advertising that Google has been sending lately. They're all about weight loss, even though I gave up the Lohan-related branding. It makes me wonder what else I can get to the blog. I might go for pharmaceuticals next.

The bloggable brody is up to $1.88 in revenue, in case you were wondering...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Guns Germs and Steel

After a couple of months, and a couple of disparaging posts, I've almost finished the Dan Brown I mean Jared Diamond book Guns Germs and Steel. To his credit, Diamond is pretty knowledgable. A couple of thoughts, though:

1. Guns, Germs and Steel is a shitty name for this book given its emphasis on the ecological forces shaping human societies. A better troika lies in the concluding chapter, where Diamond recaps themes of Environment, [intra- and inter- community] Interchange, and Scale. Diamond's emphasis on the ecological/processural rather than technological/object-oriented is useful and fitting, so it's disappointing that he apparently felt the need to juice up the title.

2. Others could correct me if I am wrong, but this approach isn't exactly groundbreaking, is it? I would think that Braudel's A History of Civilizations is likely an earlier, more significant contribution to historiography. (Of course this wasn't necessarily Diamond's intent).

3. Back to the title, well, I think it matters. In calling his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Daimond calls attention to determining factors in the superiority of one community over another in matters of war. (Even here the title does not reflect Diamond's thesis, as it ignores literacy and both guns and steel cover the same territory.) Never mind that Diamond likely picked the title merely to pander to a popular audience. What should we make of this book? What should we take from it? From one reading of Guns, Germs, and Steel, we might gain an awareness of ecology, and seek to interact with our environment in a more sustainable fashion. From another reading, one might view human history the development of separate competing communities in which common ecological concepts of dominance, invasion, colonization, etc. are accepted as a matter of course.

4. Science - particularly written to a popular audience - is a servant of human activity. If one insists that science has a kind of objectivity to it, surely one would acknowledge that how we persue scientific activity, how we write science, and how we choose to make use of it are all matters with an ethical dimension.

Many times I found Diamond's line of questioning incomplete and misguided. When we study human societies we should, first, not seek merely knowlege but also understanding and second, participate in an ethical discussion that considers whether actions are good or right. We shouldn't let science overtake the responsibility inherent in human volition. Too often throughout this book, Diamond asks why X conquered Y, giving intelligent, detailed, well-articulated answers that sum up to "because X could".

File under abstract

A rather disconcerting bit from anotherbrody's blog:

Instead, I've been visiting friends and my brother all across the midwest, which is just as good -- a lot of these people will disappear into the abstract "people I used to know" part of my life soon.

I'll try to stay concrete.

Anyway, I've taken him to our world class university computing labs so he can catch up on stuff, so I'll try to catch up too. I've been meaning to write.

Four Brothers

Anotherbrody and I saw Four Brothers last night. Anotherbrody found the plot tiresome, reminiscent of trite TV crime dramas like Cold Case that seem to involve an endless string of police interviews. But I liked the movie. It's a good entry in the modern cowboy genre, where the protagonists take justice into their own hands.

We also both saw The Island separately within the past week. (You might have seen adverts for this one right here on bloggable brody.) I liked it overall but, again, anotherbrody didn't. But then I'm the cinema optimist of the family...