Archive for August, 2008

IE 8’s “Porn Mode” makes it easy to hide your dirty little habits

UPDATE (8/30/08): Leave it to my buddy Andrew to encourage me to think a bit more deeply on a matter like this…

What we have here, Andrew reminded me, is a right to privacy issue.  Things done in secret do not always connote evildoing.  The protection of privacy finds direct correlation with the enforcement of discrimination laws; the protection of a person’s freedom to believe whatever he or she wants to believe without fear of reprisal.

That kind of freedom requires a sense of personal responsibility.  And while I’m channeling Uncle Ben, even Spider-Man has to wear a mask.

It’s a catch 22 — which, I suppose, is a characteristic of many of the things that create a free society.  Even something that protects our privacy can be abused by evil, or ill, hands.

***

I can already see the bump in spam I’d get just including “porn” in the title.  This is why I filter comments.  Anyway…

As a friend of mine can attest, this is a bad idea. Even the moral relativist has to agree that whatever you think you have to hide can’t be altogether, you know, good.

HT: The Point

Bill at the DNC

I don’t make it a habit to watch the other party’s convention every four years, but I wanted to hear Bill Clinton tonight.  He delivered everything I expected — charisma and charm seasoned by healthy rhetoric and the usual talking points. 

A couple things that jumped out in particular:

Clinton mentioned near the end (and pardon my paraphrasing) that healing the health care crisis needed to involve shared responsibility.   Great.  So long as it is voluntary.  The moment it becomes law, it becomes one less thing I get to decide for myself.

Clinton talked up foreign policy, claiming that whomever Obama could not convert into an ally, he would stand up to.  I don’t want a leader standing up to bad guys, I want an leader who will defeat bad guys. 

A PBS commentator noted that the general thrust of Clinton’s speech tonight centered on making us strong at home so that we can be perceived as strong by the rest of the world — that the world is often more impressed by the power of our example than the example of our power.  Another commentator then chimed in with an important, perhaps defining, point. 

He doubted Putin or Ahmadinejad would be very impressed with the power of our example.  So do I.

I know there’s a lot of animosity out there for America.  There’s a whole bunch of people in Iraq right now, however, who are grateful we stepped in when we did.  Other countries may not like us that much.  That’s OK.  As one of my favorite writers put it once upon a time: they’ll like us when we win.

Knowing when to break the rules

The pharisees must have dealt with insecurity and depression.  That’s the only cause I can think of for such blatant ignorance in the face of common sense for a group of people to execute a man for such grievous crimes as healing a sick man when he was supposed to be in church. 

A quick flip through the pages of the Gospels suggests the narrative favored a larger-than-life perspective for these earnest believers.  Really, how could anyone be that stupid?  Well…

Off Hope Cove, on the Devon coast, a crew of strong, experienced men has saved a girl’s life with minutes to spare, only to find itself “disciplined” because the only boat available was classified as an “additional facility awaiting inspection”. Earlier and farther inland, see two more strong men standing helpless in their luminous Police Community Support uniforms, wittering into radios because they lacked the correct certificates to try to rescue a drowning boy.

That’s an anecdote from a recent Times Online articleabout bureaucracy (if you can ignore the ad for the Obama thong, and boy don’t I wish I were kidding).  While experiences like this one are, I believe, more uncommon than not, the writer manages unearth four more such stories of increasing nonsensical frustration.  Really, people can be pretty stupid. 

I have had the pleasure of not meeting many pharisees.  There are those that live by the book to a fault, but there are those whose commitment to protocol takes on a more disingenuous candor.  They could learn a little from the terse profundity offered in the article’s conclusion:

Real training lays down a framework of expertise and safety not to prevent initiative, but to free it. If you really know the rules and understand their purpose, you can judge when to make an exception and break them.

Although, we are talking about a segment of personalities for whom sense is not so common.

Be sure to elevate his head…

I took my son into the doctor over the weekend.  After a week of suffering congestion, we decided to have someone take a look, and we learned there was nothing we could really do to help, “just be sure to elevate his head at bedtime,” the doc said.  I had to suppress a chuckle.

It’s sound advice, I know, but here’s the thing: my son is 15 months old.  He squirms in the night.  After you put him to bed, its a crap shoot over which corner of the crib you’ll find him curled around in the morning.

This blog under construction

Please forgive our mess.  And lack of content.  More will (hopefully) follow soon.

REVIEW – Definitely, Maybe (2008)

Definitely, Maybe, in the mere mention of the title, signals the kind of ambivalence that drives this somewhat original spin on the romantic comedy turnstile—something that already needed a boost.  The film makes a solid effort to turn in a comedy that asks some honest and serious questions.  However, though they are not without some value, the questions seem inappropriate in regard to the developed themes, and obscure the conclusions reached by film’s end.

William Hays (Ryan Reynolds) is getting a divorce. His 10-year-old daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) has just learned about sex in school, and while she learns her way around her new anatomical vocabulary, she’s got some questions for papa regarding the story of her eventual birth.  Will, then, gets an idea—he’ll tell Maya the story of how he met her mom (gee, that sounds like a good idea for a TV show…no, wait…) through the tangled web of relationships he encountered when he first moved to New York.

While that reads in part more like something one might find late night on Showtime, the story doesn’t quite go there; it has its charms and is really very sweet.  It does deal in some more mature themes, planting it firmly within the PG-13 realm, so take the rating seriously.

It’s 1992.  Will moves to New York to fill a small role working on the campaign for the election of William Jefferson Clinton.  He leaves behind Emily (Elizabeth Banks), a white-bread working girl whom he sees as the love of his life, and to whom he promises to return after he has established himself as part of Clinton’s inner circle.  Reality imposes quickly, and Will finds himself making coffee and fetching toilet paper.  Amid his misadventures, Will meets the challenging, feisty copy girl April (Isla Fisher); and the sleek, fetching political writer Summer (Rachel Weisz).

The film’s early 90s setting makes for some cutesy moments.  Some of these, while they might land a chuckle, only underscore the moral ambivalence of the narrative.  Maya’s reaction to her father’s confused relationships earns a fair amount of scorn (what’s the male word for slut?), but the news of a prior smoking habit earns the kind of despairing rebuke that was once reserved for people who confess they used to run over cats.

The cast turns in an eclectic array of personality, particularly Isla Fisher, who somehow manages to make a somewhat shrewish copy girl interesting.  And Abigail Breslin deserves props if only for the fact that she’s not Dakota Fanning.  She’s still acting within the amiable range of the cute-little-girl, but there’s much more interesting potential there, and it’s a missed opportunity not to explore that range here.  This is, however, Will’s story, and it’s his arc that warrants the most scrutiny.

You quickly learn that Will is an ambitious fellow.  He carries lofty dreams tucked under his arms; a fledgling understudy to the world of political idealism, ready to take his place among the people that change the world.  The bright shining hope to which Will aspires finds an anchor in the person of Bill Clinton.  As Will moves in and out of the lives of his love interests over the years, the film returns from time to time to touch on Clinton’s evolving moral failures, and we watch Will’s idealism crumble right along with the former president’s character.  Combined with the increasing complication of his love life, Will’s optimism fades.

But, he assures Maya, it all has a happy ending.  With the moral clarity of which only 10-year-olds seem capable in this universe, Maya’s reply rings with a despondent curse—you’re getting divorced from my mother, she tells Will, how can this end happily?

Here’s where critical interpretation will diverge among audiences.  Will’s fall from idealism, including the break-up of his marriage (which, in an awkward piece of decision making among the filmmakers, receives no explanation), stems from placing his hope in the fragile fabric of human character.  While it eschews any Gospel correlations, what Definitely, Maybe does deliver is a fairy tale, one that might want its audience to consider, and consider well, the things in which it chooses to place its hope.  As long as Will’s hope remains fixed on breakable clay, his world will continue to fall to pieces.

Direction is never so easily determined in the wake of divorce.  Yet the film’s final gesture suggests that Will does learn he needs something with more solidarity to set his compass to true north.  In all the time he spends off course, he leaves behind a trail of cracked dreams and wounded hearts.  What Will longs for is wholeness.  And while the film does weave us to a requisite happier end before the curtain falls, it gives at least a cursory nod to his need for something bigger than mere dreams and ambition; something that outlasts the failings of flawed heroes.

For a few minutes tonight, my house had gone to the birds

We were wrapping up an evening with some friends, saying goodbye out by the driveway, when my wife steps onto the porch and says, “Honey, we left the front door open too long.”

“What is it?” I said.

“We let in a bird!”

Sure enough, there was the little robin, circling my living room and refusing to fly back out the way in which she had flown.  I’ve had some birds stow away indoors before, and you can usually coax one back out by shutting the curtains and turning out the lights — the bird will just fly toward the daylight outside.

But this was night time.  I shut off all the lights, and the little birdie alighted on a cabinet top, and settled right in.  So we turned the lights back on and she went back to circling the room.

My friend and I resorted to clapping.  Not sure where the idea came from, but it clicked and we gave it a shot. Every time we’d lure the bird close enough to an open doorway, she refused to fly low enough to escape.  Eventually, she landed in the office, just a foot or two from where I’m typing, and sat puffing for air.

My friend grabbed a towel.  I opened the window.  The little thing saw us coming — it cocked its head and took off.  It flew close enough to my chest that I was able to snag it with the bath towel and I tossed the winged fury out the window.

The heap landed in a dull thud.  I was sure I had killed it.

I reached a tentative hand down and pulled off the towel.  the little robin sprang away and flapped into the night, chirping away and vowing revenge.

We said goodbye to our friends, walked back inside, and breathed a sigh of relief that the little robin had not left any droppings we could find.  It was then we realized that we had locked the cats in the bedroom.  But I digress and neglect the real point of this little tale —

I caught a bird!