Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ugh. The downside of online banking - one mistake, and you're hemorrhaging overdraft fees left and right until the offending bank posts the correction. *That* CD wasn't worth the $32(d4) worth of overdrafts it accidentally generated by being drawn from my checking account instead of my savings account... Not even when you count the extra 0.75% APR.

Meanwhile, my company is moving from a Simple IRA retirement plan with American Funds to a 401k plan with another mutual fund family, and the paperwork got messed up in my case. Monday night I had to talk someone from American out of her plan to mail me several years worth of accumulated retirement savings at my home address. Yeah, that wouldn't generate a massive tax event, thanks ever so much. They told me it was fixed yesterday here at work, and then I got home to another answering machine message last night with the same girl burbling about "not being able to hold this cheque after [today]". The front office says they'll talk her down from whatever new insanity American was about to inflict upon my karma-whipped financial corpus.

Beh. I'm in a mood to go get drunk or something. It'd help if I actually had something to do here at work other than sit and stew. Whenever things get really mangled, the calls stop coming and I temporarily have nothing to do while the customers deal with their immediate issues. Then everything comes down like an avalanche. I hate this sort of silence. It always portends bad things.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Went to see 300 on its first (and probably only) weekend at the Garman Opera House. Saturday afternoon matinee - just me and another middle-aged guy. The hard-left owners of the Opera House could *not* have been enthused at this turnout. I can't imagine why they scheduled it - clearly their usual art-house crowd wasn't up for what Fred called the other day "fascist warporn", and the extensive nudity and violence wasn't going to bring in the family audience which is the other mainstay of the Opera House's traffic.

Not that I can argue with Fred's description. Frank Miller has always flirted with fascistic imagery and the logic of fascism. Lots of emphasis on physical perfection, warrior ethos, blood-and-soil, a nihilistic fixation on "good deaths", a distrust of traditional elites & elders, elected or otherwise - all of this was in The Dark Knight Returns, it's just a lot more obvious when he's playing with Spartans & right-wing mythmaking than back when he was cracking on Reagan & Superman.

It was probably the depiction of the physically deformed Spartan traitor that tipped things over the brink for me. The use of the deformed to represent moral depravity & social weakness is an old, bad habit of the fascistic and the old right, and it would be kind of ugly to find it in a movie made in the second half of the Twentieth, let alone in 2007. I'd say the same thing about the leprous-looking ephors, except that Mel Gibson pulled the same stunt with the literal leper-father of Robert the Bruce back in Braveheart.

All that aside, as far as fascist warporn goes, 300 is pretty cracking good. I fear that film is an inherently irrational medium, and that you can only choose your irrationalities when it comes to works of art in that medium - do you want your warporn to be communist, pacifist, or fascist? Of the three, I'd probably prefer fascist in a time of war. It's less demoralizing. But it isn't really a good set of choices, is it?
OK, I'm about ready for Bleach's Soul Society arc to end.


I appreciated the manga's initial punk aesthetic & monster-of-the-week plotting. It wasn't substantial, but it was interesting and entertaining. I was even willing to put up with all the archaic half-translated Japanese gibberish - ryoka, zapakoto, etc - as part of the ambiance. What I'm increasingly unwilling to put up with is the ten volumes or so of glacial soul reaper quarreling, posturing, and meandering about, destroying spiritual architecture in the Harry Potter-meets-Kyoto-of-the-dead dramatic wasteland of the Soul Society. Enough already.

There's like a thousand members of the guards companies, and I swear the mangaka is determined to make every single one a character, complete with backstory, motivation, and moral arc. Not that I can tell them apart - they've all got peculiar archaic Japanese names, and half the time I can't even guess right about the sex of a particular individual. The author gives them numbers and rank, and I still get confused about which one is which.

I'm ready to see the whole damn place burned to the ground and re-populated with hollows. Which is another thing - what happened to fighting the hollows? They were kind of neat, in a chilling, the-abyss-stares-also sort of way. We haven't seen one except in flashbacks for lord only knows how many chapters.

Doesn't help that the effect that the mangaka is going for - Soul Society order bad, hulk smash! - is kind of... obnoxious. The "good guys" are, objectively viewed, anarchist scum. They're invading a sovereign state with the aim of abducting a duly convicted condemned criminal who's admitted her own guilt, and are provoking a rebellion & civil war among a military force which clearly was designed to keep individuals with appalling intrinsic power & violent instincts from rampaging about, destroying everything around them. The soul reapers are dangerous, morally suspect, and difficult to control even under a ferocious and unforgiving system of discipline. I shudder to think what they'd be like in a Hobbesean state of nature.

Monday, April 09, 2007

I'd be more sympathetic to the newspaper claim that we lost a "landmark" in the accidental burning of the Bellfonte Victorian Manor if it hadn't been one of five bed-and-breakfasts on Linn Street alone. Two of which are for sale, last time I looked. Walked past the gutted remains yesterday, and yes indeedy, it is quite gutted. But, seeing as it's a brick victorian, I suspect that they could rebuild it if they were so inclined with their insurance money. It had been a fairly nice house before the fire.

As for the historical landmarkiness of the place - this is Bellefonte. You can't walk your dog without it pissing on a Victorian. Often one that's worthy of being pissed on by a dog - we've got a lot of crap old Victorians. Not so much on Linn Street, but then, Linn and Curtin Streets are the heart of gentrified Bellefonte. Go one block over to Lamb Street, and you're looking at a much more representative selection of surviving Victoriana. Although it seems as if the gentrified and the ghettoized buildings burn down at about the same rate of flamage. Being a gentrifying yuppie restorer apparently doesn't mean much in terms of fireproofing your property.
I noticed a team of Amishmen pouring concrete for the foundations of a new set of those crap townhouses going up at the top of Valentine Hill Road. They had a token English to operate the concrete mixing truck. The very fact that Amishmen, those paragons of handcraftmenship, are involved in the construction of those aesthetically revolting monuments to the Quick Construction Buck, let alone in a concrete-pouring capacity, has boggled my mind.

I read an arrogant article in a frou-frou magazine while I eating lunch in a Chinese buffet in Baltimore last summer, just before the Con. The writer went on for many pages about the disappearing Amish heartland, buried under by gentrification, expanding sprawl, and the dreaded McMansion plague. I now find myself wondering just how many of the foot soldiers of that invasion of the Mennonite Paradise Lost were, in fact, well-bearded Amish mercenaries, cashing in on the boom & plowing under their "heritage".

Oh, well. Just my post-modern moment for the month.