Thursday, June 30, 2005

My own reality show

I just watched the first episode of Supersize Me creator Morgan Spurlock's new reality show 30 Days, which airs on Wednesdays at 10 pm on FX. I have to say, it was surprisingly good, especially given how much I disliked Supersize Me. In the first episode, a conservative Christian white guy from West Virginia moved in with a Muslim family in Dearborn for a month. At the end of the month he appeared to have learned a lot about Islam and become more tolerant.

This made me think of my experience in New York. At the end of my five months working at the American Bible Society, my coworkers threw me a surprise pary and I gave a speech about how I had learned so much while working there and had lost many of my prejudices about religious Christians. It was like my own reality show - in which an agnostic but well-traveled and tolerant person is placed in a very Christian medium for several months and comes to realize that as tolerant as she was of other religions and cultures, she was intolerant when it came to Christianity, lumping all of the Christian religious associations into a Jerry Falwell-type category. Of course, I don't think the Christians really need a reality show pointing out how they're not all bad to boost their acceptability.

Still, given how weirded out I was when I first started working there (I was about as uncomfortable as a religious Christian in a pagan ceremony would be), I came a long way in furthering my own tolerance and expanding my educational horizons, without even meaning to. I had every conceivable prejudice going in. I had many fewer when I left. Don't get me wrong - I still think most evangelical organizations are filled with nutjobs with horrible political agendas, but I learned that not every deeply religious Christian is a nutjob, and that's the most important realization I could have had.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Harlan Ellison on War of the Worlds

Thanks to Ryan for posting this link in the comments - I just had to elaborate on this.

Harlan Ellison is a genius. He is a literary giant. He is the greatest living science fiction writer. He is my literary hero, my fictionary idol, and an unparalleled crafter of stories.

And I agree completely with what he says about the ever egomaniacal Spielberg. Moreover, I find that his statement that "We live in a society that values less and less the original" is sadly all to true. I too try my best to avoid remakes whenever possible.

And I'm proud that at least on this point, Harlan Ellison and I seem to see somewhat eye-to-eye, although I would disagree with him on putting H.G. Wells' name on the movie - as I suggested in my earlier post, just rename the damn movie and keep H.G. Wells out of this, unless it's as "blatantly stolen from a work by H.G. Wells and then subsequently massacred until nearly unrecognizable."

The butchery of H.G. Wells

Looking at, it appears that the entire media is going into orgasmic spasms of joy over the new War of the Worlds movie. Now, granted, I haven't seen it, but I've read enough reviews to conclusively determine that its links to the original book are tenuous at best.

Why does everyone find it necessary to butcher the stories of H.G. Wells? As a child, the first science fiction book I ever read was the War of the Worlds and it had a profound impact on me - just as it was. The narrative was powerful, the characters believable, and the plot was excellent. What was so wrong with it that we can't have a true-to-the-book adaptation of it? I understand that it was written in 1898 and so would seem immensely dated to a modern audience. But why do we have to modernize all science fiction? Why can't we take a lesson from the awesomely retro Sky Captains (which I know was a new story - I'm just talking about the style and retro-futurism) and present old science fiction as it was written?

And why are movie directors especially incapable of taking any of H.G. Wells' stories literally?

What Spielberg seems to have done is take the basic premise and the title and create his own movie. Why not title it something else? I'm sure it's a great movie - the reviewers love it - but it simply isn't H.G. Wells. Maybe call it the invasion of the Thetans...I'm sure Tom Cruise would love that...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Simpsons and Werner Herzog

The Simpsons season is over, so they're replaying all of the 2005 episodes. I've already seen most of the 2005 episodes, but watch them again anyway, precisely for the reason that I always get something new and obscure out of the Simpsons. Case in point: tonight's rerun episode about the Springfield glacier. While the kids are pulling the bus up to the top of the mountain by a chain, one of the kids says:

"I feel like I'm in Fitzcarraldo."

To which Nelson replies:

"That movie was flawed."

Now, I really have to wonder how many people got that reference. It's even more obscure than most of their references. Let's face it - most people don't watch Werner Herzog movies. I laughed long and hard - I missed it the first time around, because quite honestly, I had no idea what Fitzcarraldo was or what it was about. (To those who don't know - in Fitzcarraldo, they haul a riverboat over a mountain - hence the referrence.) In fact, I still haven't watched Fitzcarraldo - it's sitting on my shelf, my latest Netflix acquisition. The only reason I know about it is that I watched a documentary by Werner Herzog about his working relationship with the actor Klaus Kinsky.

And they say TV isn't educational...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Law school and Hogwarts

As school continues to take up most of my interest and energy, the regularity of my posting to my blog continues to decrease. Let me just share with you that law school is surprisingly fascinating - a couple of weeks into classes, I'm still just as excited by the material and interested in reading the cases. Of course, this has continued to result in my complete lack of interest and energy for anything else.

As I sit in the reading room at the law school, which is one of the most beautiful library facilities that I've ever seen, I marvel sometimes at how much law school at Michigan reminds me of Hogwarts. The reading room looks a lot like the main dining hall at Hogwarts. We're all a bunch of students taking all of our classes together with our sections focusing on learning something that really does in many ways equate to magic. Law is a field made up of spells, incantations, and other arcane methodologies, where logical reasoning can work illusions, where Latin phrases are bandied around with abandon, and where a sleight of hand, in the professional world, can determine the outcome of a case. Medicine is scientific. Law is magical. And so, when I sometimes feel a little tired or frustrated by my coursework, I just try to think of myself as Hermione and it helps me get rejuvenated.

Monday, June 13, 2005

One year of blogging

I just realized that I've been blogging for over a year - since June 1, 2004. This is the longest time I've stuck with any project. I'm sort of pleased by it - looking over my blog, I think it shows character development, personal evolution, and a concerted effort to think about things more. And I've managed to largely avoid falling into the trap of discussing my personal life on this forum.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm an egomaniac and deeply in love with myself?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Drug recovery rates and socioeconomics - Methamphetamines

I just finished watching (as a 'fun' break from law books) the HBO documentary "Crank: Made in America." Filmed in rural Iowa, the documentary delivers a powerful punch - focusing on three families with varying degrees of methamphetamine usage. At the end of the documentary, it quoted a frightening statistics - only 6% of methamphetamine addicts get and stay sober, the lowest recovery rate of any drug.

This reminded me of something I've been thinking a lot about - different drug and alcohol abuse patterns among different socioeconomic groups. In particular, I had been thinking about rural American use of methamphetamines and why it has spread so rapidly and with such virulence and also why recovery rates are so low.

First of all, meth is really easy to manufacture at home or in makeshift labs. Nothing needs to be imported from foreign countries. This makes its cost lower and its availability and rapid spread greater.

Second, meth is highly addictive - I'm not disputing this point at all.

Third, and I think most importantly, meth is mainly affecting a population group that has had no previous experience with real drug problems - the rural American population. Known as "white crack," meth plagues a largely white rural population that is naive to the effects and treatments for drugs. Like crack, it is primarily found in lower income areas.

So what we have are poor people who don't have the access to treatment facilities that rich people have, who haven't dealt with the multigenerational effects of drugs in the ways the urban poor communities have and therefore have no idea how to deal with them and don't have an established community network to combat their spread.

And unlike in urban areas, where the population is dense and community efforts are usually concentrated within walking distance of the high risk areas, there is no such geographical closeness in rural America making prevention and treatment programs more difficult.

While I'm all for legalizing marijuana, and even have fairly open views as to personal drug use of any kind, crank is scary. Maybe if we hadn't illegalized marijuana, folks in Iowa would just be hanging out and getting stoned today, rather than destroying their brains, families, futures and lives, and increasing incidences of drug-fueled violence.

Next up - alcohol use among white Anglo-Saxon middle and upper class people of my grandparents' generation (people born in the 20s) as compared to subsequent generations.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The insidious effects of law school...

I swore it wouldn't happen to me. I swore I would avoid letting law school take over my life. I swore I wouldn't become one of THOSE kids - you know the ones - who take every minute daily occurrence and turn them into hypothetical cases of breach of contract, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, etc. Unfortunately, the process is starting. Less than a week into classes, with little understanding or knowledge of law, and some of my classmates and I are beginning to discuss everything in just that manner.

This is why people hate lawyers and law students - all they can ever talk about is law - the law creeps throughout their body like ivy growing into the bricks on a wall until all of their previous thoughts and studies are subjugated to the neverending intricacies of the law.

I will definitely need to make friends outside of the law school.

My one positive discovery of the day was the realization that promissory estoppel is basically the concept of gaining redress for the opportunity cost incurred by eschewing other opportunities in favor of the one that never came to fruition. Really just a restatement of the definition of promissory estoppel - but it really hit me like a ton of bricks that I could analogize and equate it to basic economic concepts. Now if only I could have that brick-like revelation in torts - although thinking of tons of bricks falling on my head makes me think of various issues relating to battery. And intentional harm.


Back to reading for me - and watching Star Trek!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Law school has begun

So my posting has resumed its irregularity. And the topics have ceased being at all interesting. I haven't read the news properly in days. I haven't thought about anything except for my Contracts class in a while. And I've been socializing with my wonderful fellow classmates.

First comment - I am shocked by how egregious, friendly, intelligent and genuinely nice my classmates are. I expected based on past experience the law school to have a lot of laid back people. Michigan is known for that. But I didn't expect nearly the amount of truly desired social interaction that has gone on and will be going on during this summer. Also, everyone, at least right now, is very motivated by classwork.

Second comment - Michigan law school has a system that is specifically designed for people like me. There is excellent wireless in the law school, but during your specific class hours, wireless is disabled. I am an easily distracted person, and a notorious procrastinator. In fact, midway through my contracts lecture today, I decided to see what the internet had to offer because my attention was wandering. Well, the internet wasn't offering anything. So I was forced to pay attention to the lecture. This is great. This is phenomenal. This is the best thing that could have happened to my academic career.

That's it for now. I will try to resume thinking about things at some point. Until then, expect more such updates from me.