Saturday, February 25, 2012

Repost: Kate & Leopold

The real Leopold, Duke of Albany
The other night I did something I don’t usually do. I watched a “Romantic Comedy.” Worse than that I watched a Meg Ryan RomCom. The only reason I decided to watch Kate & Leopold was because Hunkaroo Hugh Jackman is in it. I will watch untold numbers of crap movies because I like some guy in it. Sad but true. K&L was not the worst movie. Not even the worst Meg Ryan movie I’ve ever seen. I actually laughed aloud a couple of times. Hugh is just so cute. I’m highly amused by the fact that Hugh had to take etiquette lessons in order to prepare for this role.

Plot summary: Modern girl meets boy from 1876. Hilarity ensues.
The movie version of Leopold


A few things kept popping into my head as I watched. There’s a cute scene where Leopold his having a problem with a toaster burning his toast. As I watched I wondered how he ever figured out how to operate the toaster in the first place. They certainly didn’t have toasters back in 1876.

In the film, Leopold is supposed to have invented the elevator. When he arrives in modern day New York all the elevators stop working. At least for a time. I kept thinking that if all the elevators all over the world suddenly stopped working there would be a clamor heard on Mars. Of course, if Leopold left the 19th century without ever inventing the elevator there would never have been elevators in the 21st century.

Then there's the idea that Leopold is Kate's ex-boyfriend, Stewart's, great-great-grandfather. If Kate goes back in time to marry Leopold then that means that she is Stewart's great-great-grandmother and they'd been having sex for four years. The filmmakers took this whole line out of the theatrical release and then put it back in for the "director's cut."

Lets just say that the logic of this “fairy tale” is quite fuzzy and relativity gives me a headache.

Another thing I got hung up about was Leopold’s ability to shop and cook. I highly doubt a 19th century English Duke would have either of those skills. I also wondered how he paid for all the stuff.

There are anachronisms galore in this film but there is one that kind of makes sense because Hugh is in the film. Leopold entertains a neighbourhood boy by acting out scenes from Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance." The problem is that the first performance of this musical was in 1879. One could argue that the filmmakers decided to use this musical because Peter Alan made his acting debut as the Pirate King on a London stage in 1982. Hugh Jackman played Peter Alan in The Boy From Oz. Of course I could just be reading too much into this.

After watching the movie, I did a little research. To my surprise there actually was a Leopold, Duke of Albany. He was a son of Queen Victoria. In the film, Leopold’s full name is stated as Leopold Alexis Elijah Walker Thomas Gareth Mountbatten. There was a Lord Leopold Mountbatten who was Queen Victoria’s grandson (by her youngest daughter) but he was never Duke of Albany.

There are a lot of other goofs in the film and if you’re interested you can read about them here

Surfing around the internet I stopped in on a few messageboards and was quite disturbed at how many women were head over heals in love with Leopold. They seemed to think that the existence of this movie proves that somewhere out there is a man just like that for them.

I may be a cynical, bitter, dangerous wench but I don’t believe men like Leopold ever really existed. Certainly not outside the rarefied world of the aristocracy. I’m not completely sure I’d want one if he did.

Reposts are posts written for previous journals or other places online that no longer exist.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Getting Creative - Week 40

Photo of a lagoon at Stanley Park.
Image via Wikipedia
Years ago I used to live in Vancouver's West End. A couple of times a week, first thing in the morning, I'd go to this excellent French bakery on Denman and get a croissant. Then I'd go across the street to the green grocer to pick some fruit. Once I had my food I'd stop at a local coffee shop to get a hot chocolate to go. I'd take my breakfast to a bench at Lost Lagoon and watch the birds.

After a leisurely breakfast, I'd feed peanuts to the squirrels as I walked through Stanley Park to Second Beach. From there I'd walk along the Seawall until I got home. It was a great way to start the day. I always felt totally jazzed and ready to go when I got back from my breakfast jaunt. More and more I'm beginning to wish I still lived there. 

I had a real hard time figuring out what inspires me. Some times I see an image and I think I could do that. There isn't one artist or writer who's work inspires me. The closest thing I can think of is a little weird. 

If  you've reading this blog for awhile you know that I adore Eddie Izzard. What you might not know is that every time I get near him I start to get more "girly". I've talked to him a few times and been in the same room as him a few more times. After every encounter I start looking at makeup and heels and dresses. The day after the last show I saw, I went out and bought two pairs of heels and about a hundred dollars worth of makeup. I guess you could say he inspires me to be a little more creative than my usual no makeup, jeans and t-shirts routine. Too bad it doesn't last. Being "girly" is just too much work. 

This week's card:
A Blank Wall 
Sinking into a creative trance can be challenging when we spend much of our days on sensory overload, our head full of beeping pagers and ringing cell phones. When the best stimulation is no stimulation, try staring into space. Think of a wall in your house, office, garden, or neighborhood as a blank screen and yourself as the projectionist. Let your wildest imaginings, most mundane thoughts, and out-there daydreams fly, captured for the moment on the "screen." Take a look at what you see there; retain what's worth keeping for future use and let the rest fade to black.
I do this a lot. Maybe even too much. I often do it when I'm in bed trying to fall asleep. I stare at the ceiling and let my imagination wander wherever it wants. I rarely remember any of it the next morning. I have no idea what I'm going to write about next week.

Creativity Resources:

Imagination - use this interactive mouse cursor toy and explore.

Imagination: The Power of Inner Vision - learn to use your imagination.

Getting Creative is a 52 week project where I will try to work my way through 52 Ways to Nurture Your Creativity by Lynn Gordon. You're welcome to come along as I do a card a week for a year.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Repost: Don't Say A Word and Other Things

Brittany Murphy

I’m beginning to think I expect too much from my entertainment. On Friday night I wasted two hours watching Don’t Say a Word. I can’t say that it was the stupidest film I’ve ever seen but it’s right up there. I had a suspicion that I wouldn’t like it. There’s something about Michael Douglas that really turns my stomach. And no, it’s not jealousy. It started way before he started sleeping with Catherine Zeta-Jones. I only took the DVD out of the library because there was nothing else. So I didn’t expect to enjoy it much but I didn’t expect it to be so stupid that it annoyed me.


The film starts in 1991 with five guys robbing a bank. Do they go to all the trouble to steal money or cashable bonds? No they’re after one thing, a rare red diamond. As they come out of the bank they split up. Three in one car, two in the other. The leader, Patrick (Sean Bean), is with two others. He opens the pouch that is supposed to have the red diamond. A huge piece of jewelry, probably worth much more than I make in a year, falls out. Patrick’s been had.

Flash forward to 2001. Dr. Conrad (Douglas) gets a 911 from a fellow psychiatrist. A young girl needs help and only he can do it. He agrees to take the case and that night his young daughter is kidnapped.

Not a bad story you’re probably thinking. Unfortunately, there are so many plot problems.

  • Patrick tells Conrad that the girl has a number in her head and he has until 5 pm to get it out. Later we find out that for the past 10 years Patrick has been in jail and the girl, Elizabeth, has been in various psychiatric facilities. How does he know she has a number he needs?
  • We’re eventually shown Patrick and the other thugs killing Elizabeth’s father (one of the double crossers). We see the three being arrested on the spot right after the deed. Previously the female cop, who is only in this film for the purpose of exposition, has shown us five rap sheets saying that three of them, including Patrick just got out of jail after doing 10 years for bank robbery. What? They couldn’t make the murder stick? We also find out that the cops know that all five guys were a bank robbing crew. One of them was recently found dead, three others were in jail for 10 years. Didn’t anyone wonder where the other guy was?
  • Elizabeth’s father was buried as a John Doe even though the cop has his rap sheet 10 years later. The whole story doesn’t work if her father is identified but there’s no way a person with a rap sheet in New York wouldn’t have been identified in New York.
  • Elizabeth has spent 10 years being analyzed and drugged but she seems completely normal and well adjusted by the end of the film.

There are a whole lot of other plot problems that you can read about here if you’re interested. Besides all the plot stupidity, a few other things bother me.

  • I hope that Famke Janssen got a lot of money for this pathetic role. She has nothing to do in this film and not just because her leg is broken. Douglas could have been a widow raising his daughter alone and the film would have worked. Mrs. Conrad had no purpose. Everybody knows that an actress pushing 40 in Hollywood is only good enough for these nothing roles where they’re married to men 21 years their senior.
  • The token black guy dies first.
  • Oliver Platt is completely wasted as the “best friend” who fucks up. Another role that could have been done away with completely. But every man movie has to have a best friend to be rescued/redeemed.

Am I being too meticulous? After all it is just a movie. I want to be entertained but I don’t want the entertainment to be mindless. I think everyone has little things that bug them. When a blunder is pushed in my face I have to take notice don’t I? I’ve been watching the trailers for 300:

I’ve also been reading a few stories about the movie and every one of them claims that the line “Tonight we dine in Hell!” is accurate. Herodotus said so. Two points here. 

  • The Battle of Thermopylae took place in 480 BC when Herodotus was around four years old. I doubt very much he was there.
  • I also doubt very much that Herodotus or King Leonidas used the word “Hell.” Neither men were Christian and “Hell” is a very Christian concept. Leonidas might have said, “Tonight we dine in Hades!” But there’s no way in Hades he used the word Hell. Not that the Greek Underworld and the Christian Hell are the same… anyway that’s another essay.

Picky? Maybe. But I hate it when people go around justifying things by saying their “factual” when they aren’t. I don’t think our culture needs to be “dumbed down” any more than it already has been. I could get into a whole essay about the first Harry Potter film (HP & The Philosopher’s Stone) being changed to Harry Potter and the Socerer’s Stone because it was thought that Americans were to dumb to understand what the word “philosopher” refered to. I guess they’d be turned off by the thought of some orphaned kid and Aristotle. Maybe they changed Hades to Hell because more people would understand the Christian word. Fine. Do what you got to do but don’t do it and say it’s factual.

Okay. End of rant for today. 

Reposts are posts written for previous journals or other places online that no longer exist.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Getting Creative - Week 39

Koala sleeping on a tree top
Image via Wikipedia
I know that every week has exactly the same amount of hours and days. I know I just experience them differently. This week just flew by and suddenly we're half way through February. I've come to the realization that I work best after the sun goes down. This does not bode well. I really need to get my life back in order. I have to get back to being a "day" person.

To this end my doctor suggested that I start a sleep diary. For the past six months or so, I've been sleeping in four hour bursts. The only way I get a solid night's sleep is if I'm drugged. Occasionally I sleep through the whole day. I slept through last Thursday and it threw everything off.

For the next few weeks I'll be concentrating on what they call sleep hygiene. I'm hoping that once I get on a normal sleep schedule I will have the energy to write more often. Fingers crossed.

This week's card:
Support Yourself 
No one knows better that you do what inspires you and gives you confidence. You make the most of that knowledge by making the most of people, places, and things that have a positive effect on you and your creativity. Especially when you're feeling vulnerable, choose what you do carefully and wisely. Go out of your way to spend time with people who mirror your best beliefs about yourself. Make time to hang out at your favorite beach, park, shop or neighborhood. Surround yourself with trinkets and treasures that remind you of your strongest, most confident times. Before you know it, you'll be in the middle of another one.

Huh. It's been so long since about what inspires me I'm not sure I know what does. Unfortunately my favorite place to "hang out" is my place. I've become a total homebody. I'm going to have to do some thinking and then force myself to go out just to go out. Not sure where that will lead.

Creativity Resources:

Get Inspired! Magazine -  blog for Graphic Designers, Illustrators, etc.

31 Ways to Find Inspiration for Your Writing -  an interesting list of things to try.

Getting Creative is a 52 week project where I will try to work my way through 52 Ways to Nurture Your Creativity by Lynn Gordon. You're welcome to come along as I do a card a week for a year.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Repost: I Just Get More Confused

I’ve been reading again. I’ve just finished Race Against Time by Stephen Lewis. Lewis “is the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, a commissioner on the World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health, and the director of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.” (From the back cover.) 

He’s also Canadian. This book contains the transcripts for a bunch of lectures given in Canada in 2005. Idealistically he fits somewhere between Jeffrey Sachs and William Easterly. He thinks the Millennium Goals are a good idea but he doesn’t believe any of them will be reached. Like Easterly, Lewis thinks that aid agencies have to start doing things differently and that grassroots solutions are the only ones that will work. He also agrees that there needs to be more accountability in the aid industry.

There are many interesting stories and ideas in these lectures. From Lewis I learned that our 14th Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson who was in office from 1963 until 1968 was the first one to say that foreign aid should be .7%. This makes me very sad. Not only because the idea has been around for so long but also that it was a Canadian idea. Our current PM does not intend to fulfill his predecessor’s promises. That in my opinion makes us look doubly stupid.

Like Sachs and Easterly, Lewis lays a large part of the blame for Africa being in the situation it is in on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He even goes so far as to state that the WB and the IMF aught to cough up the money for every African child to go to school until university. It seems that the WB’s “conditionality” forced various governments to take money away from education, health and other social services and to insert “user fees” to repay the loans. What really makes Lewis mad is the fact that both the WB and the IMF were told about the mistakes they were making and refused to listen (p. 16).

Lewis has a lot to say about that great photo op that was Gleneagles: “an orgy of self-congratulation” (p. 22). He has a special hate on for Bob Geldof:

To hear it from crusader Bob Geldof, the summit was a spectacular success, the greatest single gathering on behalf of Africa in the history of humankind. I’m not sure that I’ve captured his full addiction to hyperbole, but at least it’s a nice approximation. The problem for Geldof lay in his incestuous proximity to government; as a result of his membership on the Blair Commission, and his remarkable success with the Live 8 concerts, he became and inescapable member of the Blair team, a cheerleader for the G8. It’s not an unusual process, this exercise in self-hypnosis; you get caught up in the sense of power and excitement and influence, and lose perspective. But in this instance, there’s too much at stake to submit to the blandishments of rock stars, whatever their celebrity status. (p. 26)

Lewis spends a lot of time exploring alterior motives for what happened at Gleneagles. For example, according to Lewis, Japan pledged to double their contributions at Gleneagles because they wanted a seat on the UN Security Council They were elected for 2005-2006. Lewis points out that Japan gives the least of all the developed countries to foreign aid. Even doubling that aid repeatedly will not be anywhere near the .7% agreed to. Lewis says that they should have lost their seat if they didn’t follow through on their pledge (which they didn’t) but that was not going to happen. The whole G8 Traveling show disgusts him:

Something occurred at the July 2005 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland that was deeply regrettable. Because of all the hype, because of the Live 8 spectacle, because of the Madison Avenue role of Geldof (Bono was much more measured), and above all, because of the brilliant co-option of the NGO community by Tony Blair, civil society was effectively muzzled in its response. Its normally tough, analytic appraisals were replaced by adoring complicity; the principled NGO community suddenly found itself basking in the incestuous aura of power. It was as if everyone was in the same tent, while Tony Blair did his laying on of hands. Most of the major NGO players knew that they’d been had, but there was a willful contagion of laryngitis. To read their press releases was almost comical: the words lay leaden on the page. They could barely summon a twitch of indignation, let alone a spasm of outrage. (p146)

While Lewis presents yet another viewpoint on the “Africa Problem” I would recommend this book. It’s a lot easier to read than Easterly’s book and funnier than Sach’s.

Reposts are posts written for previous journals or other places online that no longer exist.
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Getting Creative - Week 38

Overview of biological circadian clock in huma...
Image via Wikipedia
As expected, I did not work on last week's card. Too busy trying to put my life back in some kind of livable order to work on my issues. 

This week's card:
Know Your Rhythm 
In the same way that individuals have different circadian rhythms (the physiological schedules that make some individuals morning people and others night owls), they also have optimum times for creativity. For some, picking up a paintbrush at the end of the day when their minds are relaxed results in colors flowing, while for others a midday break may be their creative high point. Identifying when you have felt the most creative and what elements contributed to that feeling will make you aware of your won rhythms. This self-awareness will aid you in creating the most favorable setting for inspiration and productivity.

I tend to get ideas while I sleep. I sometimes have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to get to the computer to write what's peculating in my head. Keeping a pen and paper by my bed doesn't work for me. By the time I'm awake enough to hold a pen and move it in a way that produces readable script I might as well get up and turn on the computer.

On the other hand I tend to write my blog posts at night. That might be a hold over from when I worked in an office all day and wrote for a few online magazines at night. I will say that spending 16 hours a day at a computer is not a very good idea. 

Creativity Resources

Respecting Your Weird-Ass Rhythms - Be sure to read the comments too.

Creative Rhythms & Their Cyclic Nature - Creative cycles are natural.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Repost: I Really Have to Talk to Bono, Fin

Here’s and idea most Americans understand: “no taxation without representation.” What would happen if that sentiment changed to read “not intervention without representation?” (p.381) I found it really amazing that for all the years aid agencies have been working with the world’s poor no one has every done a survey to ask the poor if they were any better off after the intervention of the aid agency. Lack of feedback and accountability are the main problems Easterly sees in the current aid system. Things would improve greatly with the addition of those two things.

Throughout White Man’s Burden Easterly provides examples of “Searchers” who have done little things to make people’s lives better. He thinks aid agency should work with more “Searchers” to find solutions that work on the ground instead of in the boardroom. He knows that changing the way aid agencies work is not going to be easy.

There are good reasons why these solutions are not happening already. It is partly because of the social complexity of making even simple interventions work…. It is partly because the rich countries don’t care enough about making aid work for the poor and are willing to settle for grand utopian Plans that don’t work. It is partly because nobody is actually held accountable for making this intervention work inthis place at this time. My suggestion here could be ludicrously misguided; they should be subject to skeptical examination and ex post facto evaluation just like anything else. (p. 369 emphasis his)

Accountability is Easterly’s number one gripe. Currently there’s no one outside the aid agencies making sure that the aid agencies get results. He does have a couple of ideas for how to fix the problem:

Fix the incentive system of collective responsibility for multiple goals. Have individual accountability for individual tasks. Let aid agencies specialize in the sectors and countries they are best at helping. Then hold the agencies accountable for their results by having truly independent evaluations of their efforts.
Perhaps the aid agencies should set aside a portion of their budgets (such as the part now wasted on self-evaluation) to contribute to an international independent evaluation group made up of staff trained in the scientific method from the rich and poor countries, who will evaluate radon samples of each aid agency’s efforts. Evaluation will involve randomized controlled trials where feasible, less pure statistical analysis if not, and will at least be truly independent, even when randomized trials and statistical analysis are not feasible. Experiment with different methods of simply asking the poor if they are better off. Mobilize the altruistic people in rich countries to put heat on the agencies to make their money actually reach the poor, and get angry when the aid does not reach the poor. (p. 370 emphasis his)

One of the ideas I like is the “Development Voucher”

Suppose we issue development vouchers to target groups of the extreme poor, which the poor could redeem at any NGO or aid agency for any development good they wanted – for example, vaccinations, life-saving drugs, a health worker’s visit, an improved cookstove, textbooks, seeds, fertilizer, or food supplements. The official aid agencies would set aside some of their money for an independent “voucher fund” separate from the agencies. The poor would choose both the goods they wanted and the agency they wanted to deliver the goods and would give their vouchers to that agency. The agency could then turn in the vouchers to the voucher fund for real money to cover the costs of providing the development services. (p.378-379)

The explanation goes on for a few more paragraphs. The idea also includes “village vouchers” for things like roads, schools, health clinics etc. Easterly admits that the voucher idea might be the stupidest idea ever but so many ideas have already failed. A crazy plan might just be the way to go. With a voucher, system aid agencies would be forced to actually meet the needs of the poor and they would have to provide good service or the people would take their vouchers elsewhere. Just like in any other market place. The idea needs testing to see whether it would really work.

Here’s Easterly’s basic plan for aid reform:

Agents of assistance have to have incentive to search for what works to help the poor. If you want to aid the poor then:
1) Have aid agents individually accountable for individual, feasible areas of action that help poor people lift themselves up.
2) Let those agents search for what works, based on past experience in their area.
3) Experiment, based on the results of the search.
4) Evaluate, based on feedback from the intended beneficiaries and scientific testing.
5) Reward success and penalize failure. Get more money to interventions that are working, and take money away from interventions that are not working. Each aid agent should explore and specialize further in the direction of what they prove good at doing.
6) Make sure the incentives in 5) are strong enough to do more of what works, then repeat step 4). If action fails, make sure the incentive in 5) are strong enough to send the agent back to step 1). If the agent keeps failing, get a new one.

Easterly has one piece of advice for the activist: “you can change your issue from raising more aid money to making sure that the aid money reaches the poor.” (p.384)

As you can probably tell, Easterly has convinced me that things cannot go on the way they have been. Bono has made much of pointing out that what he’s advocating is a different kind of aid then the aid that has come before. My recent communication from the Global Fund has proved to me that nothing has changed.

Easterly has a “compare and contrast” chart early in his book that looks at something written in 1857 by socialist Robert Owen. Easterly compares various passages from his work to various passages in Jeffery Sachs’ The End of Poverty. The similarities are spooky. Owen’s big plan didn’t work then so why should we believe that Sachs’ similar plans will work now?

Alright. I’m done. If you want to know more you’ll just have to read the damn book.

Reposts are posts written for previous journals or other places online that no longer exist.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Getting Creative - Week 37

mental health week
Image by meerar via Flickr
Last week I took a mental health week and did absolutely nothing. The saga of the Great Flood of 2012 continues. No work has been done for two weeks. Not that the landlord let us know that no work would be done. What has happened is multiple groups of strange men have demanded access to my apartment so they can look at the damage, take pictures and make notes.

Having people come into my apartment is stressful. I like to be comfortable when I'm lounging around at home. That means I wear my PJs. Having to get dressed and sit around my apartment all day so people can come and look at the damage for five minutes is a pain in the neck. Being left to wonder how long this is going to go on is also stressful.

So last week I just shut down. Needless to say I did not make it to the pool.

This week's card:
Emotional Hotspots 
Although you probably avoid emotional hotspots, recalling and experiencing them can provide fuel for creative expression. Coming face-to-face with the most real and raw issues and feelings and then channeling that energy through a creative medium may produce not only intense work but also emotional catharsis. Instead of reburying a recurring memory, put on your spelunking garb and start exploring. Hard had suggested.

I'm going to be honest. I doubt I'll do this one. I read to escape. I writer for the same reason. To say that I have issues would be an understatement. Years of therapy haven't gotten me to a point where I can even think about my "hotspots" without having a meltdown. I am currently stressed out enough. I'm not going to go poking around without a boatload of antidepressants.

Creativity Resources:

Find Your Emotional Triggers - An interesting list of potential triggers.

Therapy Worksheets - A blog with links to all kinds of worksheets for psychological issues.

Getting Creative is a 52 week project where I will try to work my way through 52 Ways to Nurture Your Creativity by Lynn Gordon. You're welcome to come along as I do a card a week for a year.

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