Back, with a meme

I haven't posted in ages, and I don't feel like getting into the whether-tos and why-fors, so suffice to say the only reason I'm posting today is because the illustrious Blake Stacey posted a meme that I think is pretty damned fun:

My First Album

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Breaking news: Religious people do religious things!

(EDIT: When I originally wrote this up, the article's headline was the far more absurd "Faithful pray for collapse victims." The new headline is somewhat more informative, and the article has shifted slightly to focus on the main memorial event rather than prayers in general. My critique still applies, to some degree, and I don't want to waste an entry when I write them so infrequently :-P )

I have a question:

Why is THIS AP story news? Why is it on the front page of Yahoo?

Before I continue: The bridge collapse is, without ANY doubt, a huge disaster and a terrible thing, and I would hate for anyone to think I'm trivializing that. It's a scary thing, even if it's a terribly UNLIKELY and freakish thing to happen. I have nothing but sympathy for the families involved.

That said, WHY do we need to know that the faithful are praying? Isn't that what we would ASSUME them to be doing anyway? It'd be a far more interesting story if it were reversed: "Faithful not praying for collapse victims." Or if it were slanted to a slightly different audience: "Atheists, Agnostics wish collapse victims well." Neither of those would be terribly newsworthy, I admit, but I think you get my point.

Honestly, who cares what the faithful are doing in this situation? I'm more interested in what's actually happening than in what people are saying to their mystical sky-daddies. What are engineers learning from the collapse? How preventable was it? How likely is another such incident? Instead, we get this pablum, a galling attempt to turn a terrible situation into a feel-good human interest story... "Jeez, it's awful bad about dat der bridge, donchaknow? But we're all prayin' for ya, real hard, der!" (apologies for my poor attempt at Minnesota nice)

I'm so tired of the way media handles this sort of hokum. Yes, I understand, America is largely a religious nation, and this sort of story sells papers/gets click-throughs from that religious population. From a business standpoint, it makes sense to feature stories like that. But what's the NEWS value? What's the TRUTH value? Do either of these things matter? I didn't learn any new facts about what happened, didn't get any insight into whether there is cause for concern elsewhere...nothing. Only a profile of a bunch of grieving people seeking results from faith, a glimpse at what religious folks do WHENEVER this sort of thing happens.

It's that shameless banality that galls me. The article is an attempt at shilling, a reference to a recent tragedy that grabs people's attention by ostensibly discussing an event that's still on many of our minds. Yet, it's utterly nondescript. By changing the location and maybe 50 words, I could make this same article be about ANY event. That's how empty and uninformative this shallow bit of journalism comes across to me.

And, as if the emptiness of the article weren't bad enough, it's not as if what these people are doing is HELPFUL in any realistic way. Why not have a story about rescue/recovery workers? It'd be interesting to hear what the people who may actually find the missing/deceased have to say about what they're doing. Why not a story about, say, charitable funds set up to aid victims and families? No. Instead, the front page story is a bit of pandering to the masses, with no informational content, discussing people doing something that has never been proven efficacious in any way.

Now, I'm not totally heartless. I realize that religion and prayer can help some people overcome grief, can make people feel like they're doing something in moments when they otherwise feel powerless. And all of that is FINE. I may disagree, but if that's what you want to do I'm all for your doing it. What I'm NOT all for is using that social function of religion as an excuse for tolerating such vapid journalism. No one is helped or informed by this story.

There weren't people somewhere in Des Moines, say, waiting with bated breath for the answer to the question "What are the faithful doing about the Minnesota bridge collapse???" I even doubt that anyone was made to feel better by this knowledge. "Ah, well, the faithful in Minneapolis are on that one...I can relax now and not worry about the bridge in my own town."

Yes, I know, I'm a curmudgeon. But I make no apologies for it. This is simply not news and I cannot understand why people accept this sort of non-story from their media. Have we really run out of important, informative, and useful angles from which to cover this story? Or is this simply a mediated version of "preaching to the choir," so to speak, spinning the story towards the religious and reaffirming their faith while counting the ad views?

MSTK EOTW #4? Yes. 4.

Well, I mentioned that I had a Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode of the Whenever planned, but I may not have mentioned that this is, in fact a SPECIAL episode.

In fact, you can't even technically call it an "episode": were you to do so, you would, in fact, be incorrect. For, you see, what I have for you today is, in fact, a movie.

Not just any movie, nor a non-MST3K'd version of a movie once featured on the show. No, today I offer you, in its entirety (and all in ONE part, for a change!) Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie!

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Some key moments include: any time a mutant (pronounced "mewt-ANT") is on screen, the early mockery of Joe, Cal's nebbish sidekick, and far, far more. As always, feel free to post any of your favorite moments in the comments below. And yes, I will say that every time even though NO ONE takes me up on it!

Now, enjoy the film!

PS: If you didn't already know this, clicking on the "Google Video" menu in the lower right-hand corner takes you to the movie's Google video page, where you have the option of downloading it in .mp4 format. Meaning that, if you own a video iPod, you can download the film and watch it wherever you go. I watched it while waiting in line for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, though unfortunately my time in line FAR exceeded the duration of the film. Even if you don't have a video iPod, you can download the film and watch via Quicktime/iTunes, allowing you the luxury to watch at your own pace. Enjoy!

Homer's new odyssey no fantastic voyage

Even before I sat down to watch The Simpsons Movie, I found myself struggling to figure out how best to approach my review. Should I treat the film as a discrete animated feature and disregard the TV series I grew up watching? Or do I allow the weight of its nineteen-plus year existence to pressure my review? In many ways, it's impossible not to bring that baggage into the film, and most spectators will no doubt be, at the very least, passingly familiar with Homer, Bart, and Co. The Simpsons are, at this stage, familiarity incarnate. Some people know far more about Bumblebee Man, Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel, and the other characters crammed into Springfield's periphery than they know about their own neighbors.

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A couple orders of business

Well, I should apologize for my scarcity here of late, although admittedly I'd feel less badly about it if I actually had more than five readers and addressed matters of any significance. Regardless, I've been having a strange couple of weeks here worrying about my dissertation yet not really DOING much about it aside from that.

Last week I put a semi-moratorium on many forms of internet usage, particularly those involving comments, to avoid being spoiled about the details of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows prior to its release. I went to the big midnight release event here in London, but was so far from the front that I missed out on a lot of the more interesting activities. Nonetheless, I got to see a man playing the Hurdy Gurdy, which always counts for something in my book.

I will most likely post thoughts on Deathly Hallows at some point, and of course those thoughts will be full of SPOILERS so if you are planning on reading it and have not yet done so, that's one post/discussion you'd best skip.

Anyway, this week has been a combination of really, really bad sleeping habits, a really poor diet bordering on fasting, and worrying, all of which must be good for my heart. I've sort of got it in my head that I can't write anything if it isn't my dissertation, and since I'm just NOT writing that, it looks like other writings (such as this blog) will continue to suffer.

But, the "good" news, if you consider it such, is that I have an MST3K EOTW ready to go, and still have a couple more 'Fighting with Monsters' strips prepared, so I could always post those things when I feel the urge. So yes, the frequency of posts is likely to be low from this point on until late August, barring anything major that I HAVE to talk about. Then it's back to the states, where I may or may not post much until I return to the Boston area, tentatively sometime in mid-to-late September.

Speaking of that return, while I've seemingly got some short-term work lined up, I really have no idea WHAT I'll be doing when I get back, and I also HATE searching for apartments, which I've been doing via CraigsList. I want a decently priced, tolerable-to-live-in studio/efficiency, but that's asking a lot for Boston. I just dread the idea of "roommates" in such a college-filled town, and I'm not much for getting along with people. I mean, I COULD do it, but it's such a crapshoot in terms of finding good people and a decent apartment. So we'll see what happens there.

Well, that's it from me for now. Perhaps I'll see you soon with an MST3K EOTW? Yes. Perhaps.

Friday Fighting #2

Well, I was sitting here racking my brains trying to come up with something to blog about today, until I remembered that I'd dedicated Fridays to lame comics! Since I've got a bunch of them 'in the can,' as they say in Hollywood, that means today's post should have involved no brain-racking at all! Without any further ado, I present the second installment of Friday Fighting. Enjoy...

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"Phoenix" mostly in good "Order"

On the heels of its record-setting first day in US theaters, the fifth installment in the Harry Potter saga, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, opens today across the UK, only a week in advance of the final book's release date. Needless to say, anticipation has been high for some time amongst fans of the series (such as myself), so much so that it can be difficult, at times, to keep the necessary critical distance required to craft a fair review. That said, I will do my best to treat the film as fairly as I can from a critical, not a fanatical, point of view. The good news is that, for the most part, Order of the Phoenix (or OOtP) is a successful film and should satisfy both casual fans and the sort that have been chomping at the bit for another Potter film since 2005's disappointing Goblet of Fire.

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In my post about our LAST Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode of the Whenever, I mentioned that the episode featuring Space Mutiny was "quite possibly my favorite episode of the series." Well, to be honest, it was ABSOLUTELY my favorite episode for a long time, with very few challenges to its crown.

Recently, however, I encountered a particularly brilliant, Joel-era episode that vies with Space Mutiny or any other episode of the show. The film featured in that episode is called Pod People, which makes sense since the film features neither pods NOR pod people of any sort. And that's about as well-thought-out as anything else appearing in the film.

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Other things to watch for: the poorly dubbed child actor, a lot of fog, much mockery of New Age music, and (most of all) TRUMPY! Enjoy Pod People, and as always feel free to discuss favorite bits or anything else in the comments below!