Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Avenue Q

Scott, Sheena, and I saw Avenue Q Tuesday night. I've been waiting a couple of years to see it, so I'm glad I finally got to it.

Here's a crappy video of one of my favorite songs:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Brittany Spears school of cat etiquette

Ha! For some reason, Scott decided to take some unflattering pictures of our non-photogenic cat Gordon:

IMG_7352, originally uploaded by sweber4507.

Originally uploaded by sweber4507

Originally uploaded by sweber4507

Can't Stop the Serenity 2008

Scott and I attended the third annual charity screening of Serenity on Saturday by PDX Browncoats. We almost forgot about it, but I just happened to read a mention of it on another website.

We attended the 1:00 PM screening which was the second of three weekend screenings. Unlike prior years, the screening we attended was not sold out and a little quiet, but still fun. The movie still holds up as one of the freshest, most entertaining movies.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Happening: D

The Happening - 04, originally uploaded by MyCine.

Scott and saw The Happening on Sunday. It wasn't very good, but it wasn't unwatchable as long as you have low expectations.

I really wanted to like the movie. I loved Signs and liked The Village, but this movie didn't seem like a M. Night Shyamalan movie. The photography wasn't very interesting and the story was pointless. The most memorable scenes were shown in the previews and replayed within the first 20 minutes of the movie.

Marky Mark, Zooey Deschanel, and John Leguizamo were completely unconvincing. There were a lot of apocalyptic movie cliches such as an unnecessary love story that falls completely flat, fringe members of society and gun-toting vigilantes.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Galactica "Revelations" mid-season finale

Wow. Battlestar Galactica's mid-season finale was incredible. Nearly all of the major storylines were resolved. Here's the ending which fans have been waiting nearly four years to see. (MAJOR SPOILERS)

The only major question remaining is who the final cylon is. It will be a long wait until 2009.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lake of Fire: C (revised)

I'm trying to get through Tony Kaye's documentary Lake of Fire this evening. I've read some positive reviews and wanted to see it when it was in town a few months ago, but I'm finding it a grueling DVD to get through.

At about two and a half hours, it's an excessively long documentary that doesn't offer much new to the abortion debate. The monochromatic video was an interesting way to distance the viewer from the many super-close-up face interviews and yelling protesters. Strangely, the pro-life activists seem even more cartoonish and creepy with only the texture of their caked-on make-up visible in the black & white footage. Maybe the documentary was intended to be a primer for future historians, foreign audiences, or possibly extraterrestrial conquerors. However, few people are unaware of the rhetoric of conservative Christian pro-lifers and liberal pro-choicers.

The movie predictably displays the outrageous statements from activists on both sides of the issue. There are graphic scenes of an abortion, an abortion doctor reassembling fetus parts, a disturbing photograph of a woman who died from an self-abortion attempt, and photographs of murdered abortion providers. While the abortion footage is disturbing, I can't help but think the documentary is a little too late to be groundbreaking. The harsh reality of the abortion procedure has already been depicted (or at least suggestively portrayed) in movies and shows (Vera Drake, Six Feet Under's "Twilight" episode, The Sarah Silverman Program, etc.) The final powerful scene does salvage much of the movie and cuts through all the rhetoric by following a woman through an abortion and her feelings afterward.

Some reviews mention that Kaye still has not made up his mind on the issue. However, nearly all the seemingly academic, philosophical experts Kaye presents seem to lean toward giving people the individual choice to make up their own minds. There is plenty of material to offend people on both sides of the issue, but the anti-abortionists are portrayed as primarily fringe, religious fundamentalists while pro-choicers are more often seen as well-spoken professionals. Although pro-choicers are not free from some outrageous statements as well. A naked rock singer implied that conservative Christians are racists and a clinic activist suggested that pro-life male protesters have a fetish for watching sexually-active women enter abortion clinics.

The movie was released in 2006, but it seems most of the footage and interviews were gathered in the mid-1990s and early 2000s. It's interesting seeing conservative Christians in 1990s clothing expressing disillusionment with the Bill Clinton administration and the homosexual movement. (The movie reminded me of my own strange conservative Christian life in the mid-1990s. I wonder how many conservative Christians in the movie have had journeys similar to mine since then.)

Most of the documentary predates the election of election of George Bush Jr. so its politically nostalgic to a time before religious/political conservatives held the White House. It would have been more compelling and interesting to me to see follow-up interviews. What do the pro-lifers in the movie think now that have had a two-term, pro-life, conservative Christian president who had a cooperative congress during much of his administration? Pro-lifers have certainly scored some major victories from the US Supreme Court and yet their movement seems to have stagnated. While still powerful, the religious right has lost some of it influence and there seems to be a growing backlash within conservative Christian communities against the narrow focus on anti-abortion and anti-gay rights issues. As mentioned by one commentater, pro-lifers need pro-choice politicians in power in order to unify support from political/religious conservatives.

(06/12/2008 REVISED AND EXPANDED A FEW TIMES: 'Cuz I wanted to.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bush Jr's ignorance undermining effective HIV/AIDS programs

(RANT: Just needed to post this rant some place.)

I just heard today's Fresh Air interview with epidemiologist Elizabeth Pisani on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She carefully credits the Bush Jr. Administration for boldly funding AIDS treatment in Africa. However, she also strongly criticizes the abstinence-only dogma tactic that is undermining the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Pisani has published a new book The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS. A blog entry the book's website includes some of her criticisms of US policy:

Treating our failures

As Think Progress and CREDO pointed out, George Bush shouldn’t have been quite so smug in his State of the Union address. They list some of the ways that US money is undermining progress against HIV. But I’m afraid they’ve missed some other gems that the administration has thrown up in the way of effective HIV prevention.

One is the Loyalty Oath. Different from the gag rule, the Loyalty Oath prevents organisations that accept any funding from the US from working constructively with sex workers, because it prevents us from recognising sex work as a legitimate way of making a living. The restriction applies not just to US money, but to ANY money. i.e. if a government accepts US money to do abstinence programmes, it is not allowed to use its own taxpayers’ money to improve working conditions in the sex trade. Some governments have the balls to treat this violation of their sovereignty with the contempt it deserves. Brazil, for example, turned down US$ 40 million dollars of US “aid” money for HIV prevention because it wanted to continue to engage prostitutes in prevention programmes as grown-ups making independent economic choices, rather than as simple victims of trafficking.

The second is the prohibition on spending money on clean needles for injectors. In most of Asia and much of Latin America, drug injection is the major driver of HIV infection. It has recently surfaced as well in Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania, which are already struggling to deal with sexual infections. Sterile needle programmes are one of the most effective, and cost-effective, HIV prevention strategies. But under current US policy we can’t use them. We’ll give expensive, US-made pharmaceuticals to people once they are infected, but we won’t stop them getting infected in the first place. Go figure.

We won't let countries use their own money to develop their own programs? Yet, again, the Bush Jr. has an incredible talent of alienating and demeaning people and governments around the world.

Like the way he arrogantly divided the world after 9/11; like Bush Jr. at-best ignorant and at-worst criminal decision to needlessly invade a country; like his failed economic, environmental, energy, education, and auto industry regulations that have left us in ruins; Bush Jr. & Co.'s HIV/AIDS isn't about listening to experts and developing effective policy. Instead, Bush Jr. was about placating the religious right and enacting some right-wing dogma into government policy. Not sure there is any more to say other than to keep watching that counter on my blog and maybe give a few extra bucks to Obama and the Democratic Party.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Galactica fools audience

Battlestar Galactica played a cruel joke on its audience last week (perfectly executed by Lucy Lawless) regarding a major spoiler:

The Fall: A


Scott and I saw The Fall on Saturday. It's a beautiful movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. Like the fairy tale told by the characters, the movie's story is simple. The young actress Catinca Untaru was amazing. Her adorable performance alone is worth seeing the movie.