The ThinkThank Think Tank

because sometimes my synapses actually connect, and a coherent thought results...

12 March 2008

a feel-not-so-good movie

Last night, I went to a screening of a Swedish documentary film called The Planet, presented at the Cleveland International Film Festival courtesy of Great Lakes Brewing. All I can say is, see this movie if you are able. It is a sobering look at the sorry state of our planet, in a "just the facts" style that strips away any controversy, partisanship, or hidden agendas, relying instead on numbers to make its arguments.

The audience last night was disappointingly small, and some of the commentary I heard afterward indicated that some folks clearly missed the point, but these are the same people for whom a life-changing decision involves who to vote for on American Idol. Oh well, as was mentioned in the film itself, denial of extremely bad news is a common defense mechanism.

This not to say that the film is perfect by any means. While it opens with a montage of African landscapes that then turn the camera 180 degrees and expose how overrun by human society some of these supposed "pristine" landscapes have become, some of the montages could have been snipped a few seconds sooner. The pacing was a bit slow. Also, the soundtrack, composed mostly of techno/ambient backbeat loops intermingled with context-specific sounds and looped audio bites from some of the interview subjects, was very effective, but sometimes heavy-handed.

Count the "Symphony for Jackhammer, Mason's Chisel, and Concrete Slurry" :-) that underlined a segment on urban development among the more effective pieces, while the sampling of the phrase "killer instinct" from an Indian TV hostess talking about the growth of consumptive society in her country was repeated a few too many times. The repetition of this stupid git's words, combined with her vapid expression, left me wanting to put a bullet in her head by its end. On second thought, maybe that segment did exactly what it was supposed to.

The movie, while long on exposition of the problem(s) (but brief on runtime at under 90 minutes), was unfortunately short on answers. I hazard to think that may be indicative of the world at large, though. We've gotten here, we know we're here -- now what?

11 March 2008

moms are cool...

I know that's a very general statement, and now, here's some proof to the theorem. A week ago last Friday (Feb. 29), I started coming down with a nasty-ass case of what I swore was Stephen King's "superflu" come to life - we're talking congestion bad enough to convince me that Robert Frost had it wrong; the world wouldn't end in fire or ice, but in one giant ball o' mucus.

I was NOT a happy camper, but being the dutiful, though somewhat neglectful, son that I am, I phoned my mom and spoke with her briefly, since I'd not done so in far too long. I wasn't on the phone all that long, because talking wasn't all that easy at that time, and I didn't harp on the fact I was sick, since that's not my style.

On Friday, when I came home, I forgot to check the mail slot on my front porch, and so didn't see the parcel slip until Saturday. By the time I did see it, the "Blizzard of '08" was in full force, so I wasn't able to pick up the package I was told was waiting for me. I left work a little early yesterday so I could make it to the post office before closing, all the while wondering what I was receiving, since I knew I hadn't ordered anything recently.

The mystery turned to pleasant surprise when the parcel was handed over to me, and I saw my mom's distinct handwriting on the addresses. I hurried home, and opened it up with the reckless abandon of a schoolboy on Christmas morning. My mom, immediately after I'd gotten off the phone with her, had taken the time to compose and send a "care package" of instant chicken soup, tea, hot cocoa, honey, Buffalo wing-flavored pretzel nuggets, microwave popcorn, aspirin, and the ultimate "comfort food" -- a package of Double-Stuf Oreos.

It goes without saying that I called to thank her immediately. I don't deserve such a cool mom. Anyone reading this, tell your mom you love her, right now...

18 February 2008

my latest time sink...

Thanks to one of my co-workers, I've been introduced to an online game known simply as Trukz. In this game, you assume the role of an over-the-road truck driver, armed with a small amount of cash, a broken-down truck (purchased with a portion of the aforementioned cash), and a desire to make a living for yourself.

The game play has two modes: real-time, where each hour's leg costs a fatigue point that is recouped in the next hour, and deadlines loom large, or casual, where you have thirty days to complete a route. Right now, I'm playing real-time, because I'm finding that I like the challenge. Also, I'm an independent for the time being, although in my first 24 hours of existence, I've been solicited to join no fewer than 30 companies.

Company employment offers the stability of contract work, along with assistance toward cost of fuel repairs, and tickets, but there is no such thing as a free lunch -- the company takes a percentage of the profits from every run you complete. How large that percentage is, and what the company offers back in return, varies and adds great depth to the game dynamic.

This should prove to be a fun experience. If you want to unleash your inner BJ McKay, come join me. Look for JeTDoG (my other common nom de 'net), or my friend Bulldozer (who got me started in this, and is affiliated with Bulldog Trucking). See ya on the open road...

05 February 2008

miscellaneous ramblings

Haven't posted in a while due to being dragged in about a billion different directions by work, hobbies, and other stuff, so I figured I'd best get my butt back on here lest this become a "digital dustbowl".

Of course, with the rain we got last night and this morning, "dustbowl" was the furthest thought from my mind. From the thunderclap that woke me up at about 2:15am, I knew it was going to be an interesting day. Leaving the house about 15 minutes late, I headed downtown on the #39F, and we promptly got caught in traffic.

I've got to say, a pack of lobotomized chimpanzees would have done a better job of finding alternate routes into downtown than the batch of Rain-Man-meets-Mario-Andretti MORONS who insisted that the freeway was the only way into downtown (definitely the only way, definitely...). Fer Chrissakes, haven't you people ever heard of a traffic report? Life teaches you when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you do is stop digging. Apparently, the simplicity of this lesson was lost on the throngs who insisted on racing like lemmings up the various entrance ramps.

So, what should have been a 15 minute trip wound up slightly more than thirty. Ah well, at least I made it in one piece, which is more than I can say for the somewhat more compact car we passed at the head of the jam -- ouch, babe...

Work was decent, if a bit hectic -- the case of being good at what I do. It seems like everybody wants a piece of me (in a good way), and there's just so many pieces to go around. I think I've gotten past the last of my VMWare configuration issues, so I should have my Linux desktop running with a virtualized XP install shortly. I left Microsoft in the dust at home about six months ago, and my slow progress toward divorcing my work environment from the Microsoft beast is moving along.

I stopped by Fat Fish Blue for their Mardi Gras buffet after work. Didn't stay long, food was good, music was decent, though I've come to an unfortunate conclusion -- I'm at "that age", squarely between the twenty-somethings a party like that is made for and the 50+ crowd that looks utterly ridiculous trying to act half their age. Don't get me wrong, I have older friends with youthful spirits, and I love 'em to death, but they know, recognize, and willfully disregard their age. They don't try acting like they never graduated college. It's a fine-line difference, but it's there.

This should be the year I finally start brewing my own beer. I went to a meeting last night of the SNOBS (Society of Northeast Ohio Brewers), and they seem like a fun bunch. Between that and my SCA involvement, I should have lots of resources available to me.

Speaking of the SCA, I was in charge of the feast servers at this past weekend's event, and being in such a position helped to reaffirm my faith in people. When I walked into the event, I had four confirmed servers for a hall of nearly 200 people, and prospects looked bleak. By the time the feast was seated, I had a crew of about a dozen and we ROCKED the house. "Tight" only began to describe how well the entire event went. I can sum up the hit of the night food-wise in two words -- "rabbit pie". Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Peter, Br'er, Bugs, y'all better watch out, 'cuz this craving ain't going away any time soon.

So, that's about it with me for now. I'll probably catch lunch with Sunny (and Jeff, if he's still on jury duty) on Friday, then probably go over to the Home & Garden Show this weekend. My weekends are as busy as my weeks, and ya know what, I kind of like it that way.

21 January 2008


So, I just got back from a matinee showing of Cloverfield, and it's only now, 3+ hours after the end of the movie, that I'm getting over the feeling of being punched in the stomach.

Movies don't normally affect me this way. I had consciously avoided looking at much of the advance press for this one, not wanting to inadvertently come across a spoiler that would ruin the experience. Yes, I'd heard that this was the "Blair Godzilla Project", and even though I've never seen Blair Witch, I got the idea of what to expect. I also read my friend Richard's spoiler-free assessment of it, and I agree with him on one key point -- if you are susceptible to vertigo, or at all seizure-prone, DO NOT see this movie. So, since I suffer from neither of these conditions, off I went...


damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn damn...

I'm not sure exactly what it was that got to me. Maybe the first-person camera perspective, which reinforces the idea that you are not watching the movie, but rather are experiencing it. Maybe the dialogue, which had a stark, bare sense of reality, right down to the black humor comparable to that which my friends and I often use to break tense moments. Maybe it was my intimate knowledge of the locations involved, since my childhood was spent growing up just outside of NYC. Maybe it was the idea that, while I pray each day that no one I know will be confronted by a tragedy of horrific proportions, part of me thinks that if such a tragedy were to happen, whatever the cause, it would play out something like how this movie was presented....

... and that terrifies the hell out of me.

This movie was a reminder that, in real life, people die, often without reason, and that events in our lives usually yield more questions than answers. I hope that Roland Emmerich and the creative team behind the Godzilla debacle of a few years back are watching this movie and saying, "THAT's the movie we meant to make".

It amazed me that this movie, with no soundtrack to speak of, had over a dozen music credits. I can only assume that most of these were background music during the party & flashback scenes. I'm already hearing speculation among fans clamoring for a sequel, and I'm on the fence about it. Such a piece would have to be done right to be effective -- maybe a "documentary" retrospective?

Oh, and for anyone who disputes the effectiveness of the reality portrayed by this movie, I'll leave you with this -- a less-well-known piece of amateur film taken on the day of our most recent, and familiar, real-life tragedy. I don't normally like to invoke this memory, but this is it in its most genuine form. Twenty-six minutes, no agenda, just a witness:

10 January 2008

8 Simple Rules for Riding RTA

With apologies to the late John Ritter's sitcom (a fine piece of work on his part, though he left us too soon), my experiences as a transit user over the last couple of weeks have prompted me to present this list for general consumption, in no particular order:

8. If it's too loud, it's too loud: Bone conduction is a wonderful technology for speakerless headphones and discreet microphones, but if your traditional-speaker headphones are causing your skull to resonate such that I can hear your music, TURN IT DOWN. And the first person who gives me crap about "you're too old" gets beaten with my cane...

7. You pay for a ride, your package just goes along for it: Until you're willing to pay an extra fare to place your briefcase, office potluck contribution, retirement gift, bookbag, or other worldly posession on the seat next to you, it travels in one of three places: on your lap, on the floor, or in the overhead rack.

6. Swarm, swarm, swarm... NOT: If you are one of the first people on the bus, or will be one of the first people off the bus, don't cluster near the front door. This only serves to create grief for everyone, and gives the artificial appearance of a full bus. To the people who complain that (as I heard last night) "I thought we were delivered from this", I say get a clue and look at who else is standing and sitting in the back, front, and middle of the bus. You ain't Rosa Parks, this ain't Selma, and we're all in this situation together. Stop the I'm-a-victim pity party RIGHT NOW.

5. Courtesy much?: Guys, if you're under the age of 40, able-bodied, and not overly burdened by other items, get your butt out of that seat when a woman of any age, elderly person of any gender, or less able-bodied person of any age or gender steps on. If he/she refuses the seat, fine, at least you've made the offer. Make it again when the next person fitting that description gets on the bus. And again. And again. And again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Prove to me that common courtesy still is.

4. Leave the driver alone: If it's a problem with the driver, take it up with the appropriate channels after departing the bus. If it's not a problem with the driver, but a problem with the route or the vehicle, the driver is in the same predicament you are, and is likely doing his or her best to accommodate the situation. Your bitching/moaning/kvetching at the point of occurrence will only make things worse, for you, the driver, and everyone else on the bus.

3. Don't assume the driver knows everything: As a corollary to the above, remember that a bus is 40 ft. (or more) long, and what's going on in the back of the bus may not be readily apparent to a person in the front of the bus. This applies to noises, smells, temperature, etc... If it's too hot/cold, walk to the front of the bus and kindly ask the driver if a climate control adjustment can be made. The driver's compartment is somewhat isolated, and is subject to a blast of warm/cold air every time the door is opened, so what's comfortable up front could be unbearable in back. If it's a mechanical issue in the back (a strange noise, a broken window latch or seat), make sure the driver knows about it before you depart. Not everything causes the dashboard to light up.

2. Take the time to say "thank you": RTA likes to hear the good as well as the bad (and still needs to hear the ugly, hopefully before it reaches that point). Note the driver ID number if you can, or ask for their name, and the bus number, as well as time, place, and details as applicable. The occasional "attaboy" works wonders in ensuring that good behavior spreads like a virus (and bad behavior gets attacked like one).

1. Get involved: This is public transportation, and we're all part of the public. Find out more about where funding for the system comes from and where it goes to. Respond when comments are asked for, rather than just complaining when decisions are made. Offer comments when they're not asked for. Write to your elected officials at the state level, ask them why transit funding in Ohio is so poor, and issue them a mandate to fix it. Write to officials in Washington and insist, for the good of our national sustainability, that they provide funds to expand services offered. Somewhere, there's a reality disconnect between what we NEED (and yes, thanks to "Peak Oil", we are at the point of NEED) and what we have.

07 January 2008

O-H-uh oh...

Jim Tressel, I want the last two hours of my life back.

I don't know what the hell that was they displayed on the floor of the Superdome, but it sure as shit wasn't BCS-quality football. What, LSU throws anything but a standard two-back, two-wide set at you, and all of a sudden you start playing two-hand touch? And don't EVEN get me started on the two consecutive penalties that led to LSU's fourth touchdown.

Granted, not a single questionable officiating call or lucky shot went Ohio State's way, but good teams don't need to rely on that to win. Good teams bring their A game at every opportunity, and OSU just didn't do that, and hasn't done it in the big game for two years running.

Ah, well, at least the wings & chili at Muldoon's were worth it...