Notes from the front

December 9, 2008

People have been asking me: so how’s the war going? No, I’m not serving in Iraq or Afghanistan; they mean the War on Christmas! Here at scottfeldstein.net I take the WoC very seriously and I’m pleased to report that this year’s battle is going exceptionally well. First I went to my local Wal-Mart.

Me: From now on you’re to substitute the word “holiday” for “Christmas”–or else!

Manager: What are you talking about?

Me: Ha! As if you didn’t know. I’m a soldier in the War against Christmas, pal, and you’ve just been fragged. Fragged with with non-fat, politically correct, atheistic shrapnel, but fragged nonetheless. Now change your store signage to say “happy holidays” instead of using the C-word!

Manager: Actually retailers changed a lot of that years ago because we wanted people to buy Hanukkah gifts as well as Christm-

Me: Don’t say that word! I’ll be expecting to see tears on the faces of Christian children before the day is out, capice? Hey, do you still have that deal on the six quart crock pot?

Manager: I think you need to leave now.

Score one for us Christmas haters! W00tt!!1 But there was more to be done. Christmas is a tricky adversary. It sets up its strongholds in the most insidious places: our homes! I had to confront my neighbors.

Me: It has come to my attention, neighbor–if that’s even your real name–that you have completely ignored repeated commands to abandon Christmas.

Neighbor: Is that you, Scott? What are you doing in my chimney dressed up as a ninja?

Me: It’s judgement day. You had numerous chances to comply. We demanded that you tear down your lights and pack up your nativity scene, but did you listen? Nooo.

Neighbor: Don’t be ridiculous. Nobody has ever asked me to do any of those things. Are you feeling okay?

Me: Destroy this stuff immediately!

Neighbor: Dude, I can see your own Christmas tree from here.

Things got ugly after that and unfortunately I had to retreat, weakened by an onslaught of eggnog and other Christmas beverages. An hour later I staggered home, knowing that I would return to fight another day.


Video Games

December 9, 2008

Aside from a couple of weeks with Twilight Princess when we got the Wii system, it’s been a long time since I let myself become engrossed in a great video game. Twilight, like all Zelda games, is fantastic. But it’s no Ocarina. I don’t even think it’s as fun as Wind Waker.

Ocarina was a near-perfect video game, certainly the best ever created in the “adventure” genre. The only criticisms I have for it is that occasionally the interface for using items became tedious (switching your boots back and forth in the water temple, for example) and the dialog was sometimes unintentionally quirky, having been originally written in Japanese. In any case, it’s dated now. New gamers will not likely have the same reaction to it that so many of us did ten years ago. Time to move on, I guess, and wait for a new gold standard.

Diablo III is on the distant horizon, so that’s something. It’s been a busy couple of years and nothing else has really captured my attention. Perhaps when the Lord of Terror finally reappears–a year from now?–I’ll jump back into gaming again for a bit.

What’s your favorite video game? Are you looking forward to a new game?


Le Scaphandre et le Papillon

December 8, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is the (mostly) true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a successful Elle magazine editor who one day finds himself completely paralyzed with “locked in syndrome,” having suffered a stroke. He eventually learns to communicate using eye blinks and writes a moving and well-received memoir.

In addition to being a good story, it’s always fascinating to watch actors portray people of vastly limited physical (or mental) capabilities. Mathieu Amalric does a terrific job playing Jean-Do, so if you are also drawn to these kind of performances you won’t be disappointed.

It’s even got Max Von Sydow as Jean-Do’s father. I loved the scene where (in flashback) Jean-Do shaves his aging father. (DE razor and a brush, of course.)

Olatz López Garmendia plays his physical therapist. She gives a good performance, but it was her face more than anything that intrigued me, perhaps because of all the close-ups. I was surprised, however, at how difficult it proved to determine her name. The film’s wikipedia entry has a link for her, but there is no article on her at the other end. Popping the names of the female actresses into a Google image search resulted in a variety of images–many of which were of the actress who played the speech therapist, or of women not associated with the film at all. I think I finally got it figured out, though:

Here she is (left) alongside Marie-Josée Croze (or is it Anne Alvaro?) who played the speech therapist.

Is it always this hard to confirm who’s who in a foreign film?

In any case, I had been avoiding this film for a while, thinking it was going to be “pretty heavy,” or perhaps even “a downer.” If you’ve also been in this boat, don’t worry: it wont depress you for the rest of the evening. Go rent it.



December 8, 2008

It’s not technically a blogiversary, but holy smokes. I’ve been on the web for thirteen years.

My blog will only be seven (!) years old in January, but I’ve had a web presence long before that. Back in December of 1995 there was no such thing as a blog. I hand-coded a static web page (and yeah, I mean one page) using my Macintosh Performa 630 and a two-part article in Mac User about HTML.

Other than the fact that the background of the page was canary yellow, I have no recollection of what was on it. Probably some quick biographical information about myself, and a few of my likes/dislikes. (Hey, I know unordered lists!)

My site went through several phases in the following years. There was the X-Files fan period. There was the I-know-Photoshop period. Then, seven years ago, I started using blog software.

What’s your web history?


Bush legacy

December 5, 2008

Now that he’s on his way out, how do you think president George W. Bush will be remembered? Here’s a few of my ideas.

  • The Iraq war. It was unnecessary, it’s justification was either deceptive or incompetent, it was poorly executed, and there was an utter failure to deal with the aftermath. It also represents a major change in foreign policy: “preemptive” war. It will for a long time be regarded as the greatest foreign policy blunder in the history of the United States.
  • The contentious 2000 election.
  • 9/11. Because he was president when it happened.
  • The huge economic crisis that began in 2008. The extent to which he will actually be blamed for it isn’t clear to me, but all future discussions of the recession will include his name, as he was president when it came down.
  • Torture. Rendition. Secret prisons. Abu Ghraib. “Detainee abuse.” All that stuff.
  • Illegal wiretapping of American citizens.
  • Hurricane Katrina. Again, I doubt whether historians will place the blame for New Orleans solely on the federal government or the Bush administration. But one thing is sure: the president’s “heckuva job” tone-deafness has become one of the iconic moments of the incident.
  • Record budget deficits and record debt.
  • Embarrassing inarticulateness. “Bushisms.”

George W. Bush will not be thought of as a good president. Those who believe he’ll be remembered well are delusional. By the time eyewitnesses such as myself have passed on, this list may be distilled down to one item: the Iraq war. It’s possible, though, that the current economic crisis may rival it in historic importance. Let’s hope not.


It’s alright, it’s okay!

December 3, 2008

American Movie, a documentary film directed by Chris Smith, won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. That much you can read for yourself. Here’s what Wikipedia doesn’t say.

It’s about coming of age lower middle-class in in the suburban Milwaukee area. It’s about having vision and single-minded determination. It’s about being a loser and not really realizing it. It’s also about the indiest kind of independent filmmaking.

The weird part is that I’ve met one of the guys in it. And a very good friend of mine is visible onscreen for a few frames, though he doesn’t have a speaking role. It was him, in fact, who lent me his copy of American Movie a few years ago. (I still haven’t returned it. Sorry, Charles!)

American Movie is funny, sad and totally mesmerizing. If you can’t abscond with a friend’s copy, rent it.

Mark: Do you think this is a little bit cathartic for you?
Mike: Uh, very cathartic, Mark.
Mark: Do you know what cathartic means?
Mike: No.

I would really, really like to know if Mike made his money back on Coven. Perhaps the success of American Movie helped? Where are these guys now?


Seen any movies lately?

December 2, 2008

I have.

  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. With names like Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers and George C. Scott how can you go wrong? It’s beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and bitingly satirical. In spite of the fact that it’s older than I am, this movie still holds up really well. Oddly, the younger folks in the room disagreed: dumbest thing they’d ever seen.
  • Code 46. It’s tough to be in love when you’re in a gritty but high-tech future which relies heavily on genetic profiling. Even when you’re Tim Robins. This movie had so much going for it that it should have hit it out of the park, but somehow I kept feeling that something was missing. It was sort of like a well-made shoe that isn’t laced up tight enough. It was pretty good, but it was no…
  • Gattaca. It’s tough to pursue your dreams when you’re in a 1940s-themed future which relies heavily on genetic profiling. Even when you’re Ethan Hawke. This is just a brilliant movie. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Jude Law is fantastic, Uma Thurman is almost pretty, and you even get a nice cameo by Earnest Borgnine!
  • Whoa, I forgot one more. Firewall starring Harrison Ford. For those of you expecting a repeat of one of his Tom Clancy thrillers, forget about it. For those of you hoping to see ol’ Indy brawl through a batch of bad guys, forget that, too. (The bit with the blender was pretty hardcore, but by itself it won’t satisfy.) In fact, forget the whole movie: it’s formulaic and doesn’t boast any terrific acting performances, either. Even Virginia Madsen’s hotness doesn’t redeem it.