This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Let sleeping dogs lie, they say.
Pictures by Crapipics

Does seeing this thing make you want to buy a car? Didn't think so.
Pictures by Crapipics

These are the Wandering Sons, a great band we saw in Austin. The guy on the left is Dan McMahon, a former student of my wife's. She taught him how to play like that.
Pictures by Crapipics

I Feel Stale

In order to keep the blog fresh, I will be going on a weekend hiatus -- this will be the last post until Monday. Actually, I'm going to finally post that Austin photo, and then I'll be done. I'm going to take another walk, get some exercise, and plan out portions of my life that need planning. And I just haven't felt like blogging ever since that remnant fellowship thing. Maybe that cult drained all my life force, I don't know.

Big things are afoot -- I have a devastating rant in me about the Christian Right, plus one about the Kneejerking Left. Plus, Revenge of the Sith is coming out, I have to discuss some TV shows I find interesting and TV viewership in general, I have some weight loss tips to give out, I have to talk about the NBA playoffs and give my second round predictions (by Monday night, actually) -- there's just a lot of hay to make here in the next week that I have to mentally prepare for.

So, take Sunday off from reading this blog. Go play some video games or feed the homeless.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I thought of an idea for a children's book tonight while delivering pizzas. It's about this squirrel in a hover-refrigerator (long story) who goes from house to house delivering food and getting stiffed by everyone he visits. Tentative title/catchphrase: "Maybe These People Will Tip Me." Isn't that cute? It'll make millions with the right illustrator.

Seriously -- I got stiffed 5 times out of 15 deliveries tonight, and twice got the "apologetic stiffer" -- you know, the one who apologizes and says, "if I had some singles, I'd give them to you." What do you say to that? Nothing. As the Humongous once said, "Just walk away." That's some good advice there, applicable to a lot of situations.

I also had an idea for a t-shirt. It would say, "I'm Christian, and I'm right, but I'm not the Christian Right." Hey, I would totally buy that.

I Don't Have Anything to Post But Loose Ends

Wait...I was going to tell you about the apartment complex in my delivery area, right? Well, it's mentioned in the second half of "These Pizzas Won't Deliver Themselves" -- it's Waterview Park, the gigantic apartment complex at UTD. I was at the Ghengis Grill (mmm...) on Sunday and I saw the Dallas Observer (local independant Dallas newspaper, kinda like a good version of the Shepherd Express) sitting there in a bin. I picked one up, and the cover story was about Waterview Park and how bad it is. I just had to read all about it, since I deliver so many pizzas to those Waterview potheads.

The article started with the salacious story of a campus rape from the rapist's point of view that was a bit much but illustrated both the campus' lack of safety and the campus' reluctance to provide info that people need, i.e., that a rapist is living in the apartments. The guy admitted to the deed (though now has lawyered up and claims he only admitted it because he wanted to help the victim, whatever that means), and was allowed to live out the rest of the semester in the dorms. But he wasn't the only criminal up in there. Assaults were all over the place, and the Apartment managers were deciding to deal with it by doing nothing, which saves money but doesn't help anyone.

Crime turned out to be the least of the residents' problems. Black mold was making people sick, maintenance requests were received and not acted upon for months, and emergencies like a leaking toilet took hours to get dealt with. The amateurish SMU writers detailed these things with interviews framed for maximum horror. Things were looking pretty bleak for the poor students of UTD. Now I should mention that this is probably the most expensive school in the area. I mean, the elites of Dallas send their children there, and they are constantly expanding and building new and exciting buildings in which to presumably brainwash students. Many of the students also come from other countries, and are trapped on campus like rats because they have no cars. So the apartments being dangerous and evil is really bad for them, since they can't even move to some other apartments without messing up their foreign lives. My point is, the parents who pay for this "education" couldn't have liked to see that the University and Waterview Park were less-than diligent about crime and maintenance.

When you got to the meat of the story, however, by far the most interesting thing turned out to be the comments of the President of the company that owns the apartment. He said things like, "Oh, I don't believe all of that" when confronted with student complaints about maintenance delays. He talked about the 10 million dollars investors like he had made on the public/private partnership. He sounded rich and condescending, and seemed to feel bulletproof. He wasn't.

This article was written last week, and two nights ago I spied a letter written to every resident of Waterview Park hanging by a door. In the letter (which I stole), the property managers detail their response to the article, which was to eventually make maintenance response time 48 hours and improve the property aesthetically. The President also apologized to the school for his evil condescension and greed in the article. See? Journalism, even of the dilletantish muckracking kind, still can get things done.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Introducing...The Marquette...Huh?

Marquette University's Board of Trustees yesterday completed their six-month study into whether or not the school should change their nickname back to "Warriors", or stick with the current "Golden Eagles". The Marquette universe had been waiting to overturn the 1994 name change since its inception, and it looked like it might finally happen. What the Trustees decided was:

Surveys found that fans were unenthusiastic about the Golden Eagles nickname and found it boring, weak and too common.
This is all true, which is why many expected the University to change back to the popular Warriors name the school had when the basketball team was good. But that turned out to be way to easy and popular for the needlessly courageous and sensitive trustees, who also decided:
The perspective of time has shown us that our actions, intended or not, can offend others. We must not knowingly act in a way that others will believe, based on their experience, to be an attack on their dignity as human beings. We cannot teach one principle about respect for human dignity in our classrooms, than fail to act by the same principle when making decisions.

Which is a wonderful sentiment, but doesn't take into consideration the fact that sometimes those who are offended by something are offended for no good reason. This statement lays down some disturbing ground rules that I'm sure the Marquette alumni (who overwhelmingly wanted the Warriors name back) will be howling about:
1) "Time" is apparently a stand-in term for "Postmodernism".
2) It doesn't matter if the offense is intentional or not, it must be treated the same way.
3) Some Native Americans believe the extremely generic and non-ethnic term "warrior" to be an attack on their dignity as human beings. They believe this based on "experience" instead of rational thought, and we must view them as right about this, even though they're wrong.
4) There is apparently a class at the University that teaches "Respect for Human Dignity". Therefore, if anyone says the University is taking away that dignity, the University should stop the offending action, no matter how spurious the claim might be.

I don't want to harp on this too much, because deep down I don't care about the Marquette nickname, nor do I view it as a slippery slope into politically correct oblivion because we are already there (as evidenced by the brainwashed Marquette students' quotes here. I especially liked the girl who said, "Anything would be better than Warriors". Really? How about...I don't know -- Injuns? Redmen? See what I mean when I say brainwashed?) What I want to concentrate on is the Trustee's solution to this nickname problem, which was to come up with a new name entirely. The name they chose:

The Marquette Gold.

Hey, I kinda like it, even though it's just a color. Wait -- it's also a currency. The Marquette Money. They are so money. At least nobody will ever be offended by it. I wonder if they considered "Golden Warriors" or "Blue Warriors" or "non-Native American Warriors" as a possible solution. We may never know.

This just in -- the Milwaukee paper has the early poll results on the name -- 94.2% of respondents say they don't like the new name, 5.8% say they do (ever the iconoclast, I voted as one of the 5.8%). This was a slap in the face to the alumni, and will not go over well. I can't wait to see what happens.

If You're Going to Join a Cult, Make it the One With the Hot Chicks

I was reading one of my daily blog stopdowns yesterday,, and I came across a bizarre thing. There was a post on the many "Christian Diet" books that are becoming popular these days, and someone mentioned Gwen Shamblin and her best-selling concept called the "Weigh-Down Workshop". This led me to her creepy cult church, the Remnant Fellowship. Not only does that title sound creepy, the things they believe in are creepy as well.

If you look at the opening page of their website, you will notice 3 areas at the top of the page on which you can click: "What We Believe", "Photo Album", Questions & Answers". As Sesame Street would say, which one of these is not like the others? Well, if you look at "What We Believe" and "Q&A", you get Straw-Man Questions with answers designed to get the reader to believe that Jesus' death really isn't good enough to save you, and that you must be "obey God" to get into heaven. They don't put it like that, but that's what it adds up to. It's a classic, almost textbook man-made Religion based upon misinterpretation of the Bible. They rail and rail against the idea that grace through faith is what saves people, even though that's a clear point both from the text and the subtext/context of scripture. Oh, and they deny Jesus is true God, too, mostly because they can't take any mystery in their God so they try to literalize him into a box that suits them. Again, it's textbook. Lots of people throughout the ages have had a problem with the doctrine of the Trinity, and have fallen into ridiculous thinking because of it.

The sum total of all this church's beliefs add up to it being about as Christian as Bishop Spong or Anton LeVay. Which is to say, not at all. It's all work-righteousness BS, and in this case it's pure evil because the church is really trying to add converts through their insecurity about their weight. If you click on "photo album", you will see a hundred pictures of sweet, clean, attractive people. What does this have to do with a church? Is this the newest phase in "church marketing" -- come join our church so you look better in a suit or a dress? Some of the pictures look like they were example pictures ripped from picture frames at the store. Many look digitally altered (although I'm not sure if they actually are, or if being in a cult just makes you look really creepy. Judge for yourself). But all of them feature attractive people. Hey, who wouldn't want to worship God while looking at this on Sunday Morning? Example Song:

"Jesus, you aren't God or anything
You died to save us from our past sins only
But now it's up to us to obey you
By being hot and giving Gwen all our money"

Peppered throughout the website's spiel about how Lutherans are the Great Prostitutes are negative references to being overweight. It's the craziest thing I've ever seen -- this woman, Gwen Shamblin, started a church based on a combination of works-loaded theology and a weight-loss plan. Now, I know we joke about Weight Watchers being a cult and all, but these people actually found a way to make it one. Isn't that scary? What's next, a church based on the teachings of JoAnn Fabrics that guilts you into sewing more of your own clothes?

Oh, and for those of you who are skeptical of their creepy cult-ness, check this out. Or this Nashville local news investigation. Or the Bible.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Dilettantes and the News

Ever since Arvin Sloane on Alias called that one guy(you know, the guy he beat to death with a rambaldi artifact) a "dilettante", I have seen the word twice. Is this just an example of that phenomenon where you become aware of something and then all of a sudden see it everywhere -- it was there before, but now you happen to be aware of it? Does this new and interesting word qualify as news? As an educated U.S. human, am I supposed to know what this word means? Well, defines "dilettante" as a synonym for "amateur". A dilettante is a dabbler in something who isn't serious about it. It is another word used by people who are established in a particular interest or field of study to use against people who aren't as established. It's a word that doesn't need to exist.

Thank you for reading my dilettantish efforts at writing. I'm just an amateur, I'm not cool like real writers.


A daily suicide bombing in Iraq, this time as the "new Iraqi government" did something that was supposedly big. Didn't Iraq just get a new government last week? And the week before that? Is this a 30-step process? Could I be more ignorant?

This brain-damaged patient all-of-a-sudden woke up. Hmm. I don't know what this means, but it could be important.

Finally, a computer virus that attacks the dregs of society! Seriously, if you know any soccer fans...wait, nobody knows any soccer fans. Sorry, Pete -- don't you play soccer or something? That story was for you, then.

In sports, Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy was hit with the biggest coach-fine ever, $100,000, for saying that he was recently told by an "unnamed referee friend" that playoff refs are "looking harder at Yao" because of complaints to the league office from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Of course, this is just him trying to use the media to get better calls, which many coaches have done in the past. However, by introducing the concept of "my referee friend told me this" and not telling the NBA who that referee is, Van Gundy may have gotten himself into some sort of lifetime ban situation. The NBA takes things like referee integrity and privacy very seriously, and Van Gundy should have thought of this before saying something so stupid. If he had left his theoretical ref buddy out of it and just said, "The refs have changed the way they call the game, and are calling more fouls on Yao since game 3," nobody would have cared or noticed, especially since it's not true. I'll be following this story closely, but for now the usually unreliable Mark Stein makes some good points about it here, if you're interested.

Dilettante Pape. Sounds like a good name for a first born. It could be either a boy or a girl name, it doesn't matter. The only potential problem I see is the nickname: "Dil."

Linkin Park will soon be writing the word "slave" on each of their foreheads and changing their name to a rune-looking symbol, if this impasse with WB records keeps up.

Look for "FKBK" clothing to appear in stores soon, causing many question marks to form over the heads of shoppers. But seriously (sort of), Former President Bill Clinton has decided to fight a different kind of war: A war against fat kids. And this war won't cost us anything except fat.

I've got a philosophical question: If there were a celebrity that was famous for just being famous, and that had no discernable talent, and she suddenly became very popular for no reason, would he powers that be in the entertainment industry even notice if everyone got tired of her, or would they keep giving her roles in movies and TV? After "House of Wax" fails, we may get our answer.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Guide to Hitchhiker's Guide

There is something about the book Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that is irresistible to those who are both 14-24 years old and smart. It's imagination is like crack to them -- they can't wait for more of the story, to see what Adams comes up with next*. For those who are older, or younger, or dumb, it's just not that great.

Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy
is therefore a movie that quite simply not everyone is going to get. There is first of all a big division between people who are familiar with the story and people who aren't. For the second group, it's possible to see this as just a movie; for the first, it's impossible to view it outside the context of the other Hitchhiker's incarnations. I saw the movie, and I literally have no idea whether or not it was any good in any objective sense. I'm not here to "review" it, I'm here to tell you what I thought of it, especially as it relates to the novel.

Reading the online reviews of the film, people generally fall into four camps:
  1. Hitchhiker's novice who doesn't get the movie and sees it as plotless, unfunny, and hard to follow.
  2. Hitchhiker's novice who sees the movie as a funny thrill ride.
  3. Hitchhiker's fan who likes the film despite it's flaws and changes to the original story.
  4. Hitchhiker's fan who views the film as ruining everything they ever loved, including baby kittens.
I'm a #3, but in one sense they're all correct -- how you see the movie depends on your previous exposure to Adams' work, as well as your sense of humor and tolerance for plotless comedies. Having made this long disclaimer, I will now attempt to explain why I fall into category 3.

My first criteria for evaluating a comedy is always: Is it funny? And I can say that HG2TG** is often very funny. So in that sense, it "worked" for me, and I was going to like it no matter what. People who claim that it's not being faithful to the original story need to realize that it's not just one story -- it's been a radio play, a book, a video game, a play, a miniseries, etc. -- and that each of these became slightly different to make it work in the specific medium the creators were dealing with. Hitchhiker's is not Holy Writ, nor should it be treated as such. What matters most is the overall story arc (from earth's destruction to Heart of Gold to Magrathea) and how funny it is. Like I said, don't panic, it's funny.

(Part of the genius that is Douglas Adams is his ability to write catchphrases in the text of his stuff that are infinitely usable and reusable. For example, how many reviewers do you think called the movie mostly harmless? I'd say three out of 10.)

Now, with some kind words said, I wish to register my complaints. The main problem with the film is that it's too short. I know, I know -- you don't believe me after sitting through as many overblown Hollywood blockbusters as there have been in the past 30 years. But I'm being totally serious -- at 1 hour 49 minutes, the film feels rushed (my theory is that it feels this way to appease Hollywood execs who wanted to cover up the lack of a plot), and more importantly leaves out a lot of the good lines from the book. If they would have added an hour to it, put all the good lines back in, slowed down the pace a little, made it more of a dialogue-driven thing (like the book was), then HG2TG novices may have been able to understand the movie better, and HG2TG geeks would have been overjoyed. I bet they just didn't want to spend the money or time to make a proper Hitchiker's movie, and the directors did what they could in under 2 hours. I don't know that Disney (the owners of the film) is to blame for this, but they're the main suspects.

Just about every problem I had with the film can be traced back to the film's shortness. For example, Trillian barely seems like a real character to me, and Ford not at all. This is not the actor's fault -- the characters just don't have enough defining lines. In the book, there were clearly 4 protagonists. In the movie, there's one protagonist, one sidekick (Ford), one love interest (Trillian), and one antagonist/clown (Zaphod). That Zaphod comes across as more fleshed-out than anyone besides Arthur is a problem. They left most of Zaphod's lines in, and took most of Ford's out. If there were more dialogue, this problem would have been cleared up. It's frustrating because the movie could have been near-perfect.

Also frustrating is the Church of Viltvoodle VI, which just has to look like a Christian church on earth, doesn't it? Ha ha, they're making fun of Theists. Isn't atheism fun? Seriously, I never thought of the books as Atheist when I first read them. Heck, the earth in the books is intelligently designed (well, designed anyway). There's a fascinating discussion to be had about Adams' Atheism and how his thoughts in the books constantly undercut the idea that there is no God. That discussion will not be had here.

A lot of hard-core HG2TG fans don't like the inclusion of an Arthur-Trillian-Zaphod bizarre love triangle one bit. I don't see what the big deal is (at least until the end of the film, but I get to that in a second). It makes sense in the context of the movie, isn't that enough? Don't people realize that all comedies made by hollywood these days have a pointless love story in them? Think about all the greats and supposed greats -- Office Space, Old School, Airplane!, etc. -- all of them have a pointless romance to drive the story along. Not only that, but this love story made total sense, like I said. At least until the very end of the movie, that is. You see, the book version of Arthur just wants to go home and be normal. It's his defining characteristic. The movie version gives him this love motivation that overrides that tendency for normality, and at the end he decides to explore space with Trillian and co. rather than stay on a completely remade earth. It's sweet and cheesy and totally Hollywood, so rabid HG2TG fans hate it reflexively.

Having gotten that crap out of the way, I will now concentrate on everything I liked about the film, which is most of it. The casting was inspired, from Office Tim as Arthur Dent to Hans Gruber as Marvin. Much has been made of Mos Def, black man, as Ford Prefect, but he's just fine. They just cut out a bunch of his good lines, that's all.

Jason Schwartzman as Gag Halfrunt. Am I the only one who noticed this? Judging by the imdb, probably so.

Although the song was cheesy and cringe-inducing, I liked the dolphin opening credits. It was a nice way to introduce such a zany world.

I am of the camp that says a HG2TG movie is only as good as its Infinite Improbability Drive, and the execution of that bit was pretty cool, especially when everyone turned into yarn people. They could have explained it a little better, though, since it's the narrative reason why Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian all ended up on the same ship. Somehow in the movie's blistering pace I don't think the average Hitchhiker's novice got that.

The mice...are funny. As is the Deep Thought bit. As is the Vogon Poetry bit. As are the Guide entries with the minimalist animation. Zaphod Beeblebrox as a Clinton/Bush Hybrid was winkingly awesome, and made me laugh out loud. The doors' happy whine killed me the first time I heard it. Vogsphere is a testament to great design, as are the Vogons themselves. I liked how everything the Vogons did was dependent upon people filling out the correct forms. Very Brazil-esqe. In fact, just about everything that was amusing in the book is amusing in the movie. That's got to count for something, right? All you hard-core Guide fans who hated the movie -- are you that jaded and blind? What's your problem, anyway? What's the frequency, Zaphod?

I say, go out and see it now, everyone. It beat XXX2 this week, and not only because America is unwilling to believe a 5'2" black guy who's named after a water formation as an action hero.

*Which is why many of us found the fifth book, Mostly Harmless, so disappointing, since the middle-finger-to-the-audience ending made it clear there was to be no more Adams imagination, at least in book form.

**The standard internet convention for acronyzing Hitchhiker's is H2G2, which is stupid because it sounds like one of those spare robots in Star Wars that were captives of the Jawas with R2D2 and C3PO, and whose action figures were the only ones you could find on the shelf (besides Greedo of course).

Monday, May 02, 2005

What If?

When I was growing up there was this comic book called What If?, where Marvel comics could put their "alternate universe" stories (DC, on the other hand, put their alternate universes in actual alternate universes, which ended quite badly for them I'm afraid). The comic went something like this: There would be the story's title in huge letters on the cover -- i.e., "What if so-and-so succeeded in taking over the earth?". Behind it would be some picture desribing the alternate universe event, such as so-and-so sitting on a throne or somesuch. I mention this for no other reason than I was thinking last night about what the Milwaukee Bucks would look like if they had simply made no trades, and signed no free agents -- only keeping the players they drafted. Here's what I came up with:
Starting Five:
PG -- Stephon Marbury
SG -- Michael Redd
SF -- Glenn Robinson
PF-- Dirk Nowitski
C -- Dan Gadzuric

Eric Snow
Ronald "Flip" Murray
Joel Pryzbilla
Gary Trent
Pat Garrity
Danny Fortson

12th man (take your pick of these point guards)
Keith Bogans
Jason Hart
Moochie Norris
Rafer Alston
TJ Ford's broken body

Can you imagine: a) the amount of basketballs you would need to please the first four of the starting five; and, b) how many points that team would score? The mind boggles. It also proves that all you really need in a GM is someone who can draft well. If a mythical Bucks GM has just kept all the draft picks and done nothing else, the team would have been much better off.

Last night I also watched Ray Allen score 40-some points for the Seattle Sonics, not the Milwaukee Bucks. I'm happy for him, because I love him, but every time he does that my soul gets one inch closer to the giant circular saw of total annihilation. He beat his career playoff high in that game last night, previously set in 2000-2001 in the historic game 6 that saw the Bucks go up on the Sixers by 40 and only win by 10, and in which Scott Williams committed the historic flagrant foul that got him suspended for Game 7. I remember all of this very well. Maybe I'm the only one who does anymore. When he set his little record, it's not like they did a cut-away to highlights of that 2001 game. Everyone forgets Ray was a member of the Bucks. When he goes into the Hall of Fame someday, he'd better be wearing purple and not just green, that's all I have to say.

Potential Blog News


I have signed up for a "training event" through work that will probably give me good material for this blog. It is on May 24, and a bunch of vendors from around the country are going to be lying to me in an organized setting to get me to sell their stuff. There will be prizes. There will be free food. There will be greasy salespeople. I will report on it all, because you people who have nothing whatsoever to do with this have a right to know what goes on at these things. I haven't been to one in at least 2 years. I went to a Microsoft training event right after I got hired here -- that netted me my free copy of Windows XP Pro a month before it came out. I also ended up going to a training event put on by the same company that is doing the one on the 24th, but that was just to get my $100 (they stopped giving the $100 to everyone who shows up, and consequently I haven't been to one since).
Now I have a new reason to go, however -- to tell you about it. This blog has strangely given my life new purpose. Maybe not a noble one, but a purpose nonetheless.

Also, coming very soon: I bet you're wondering what I thought of Hitchhiker's Guide -- I'll tell you...
That picture from the Austin trip...
More news about ghetto apartment complexes in my delivery area...
But for now, let's watch a house burn live.
(cut to house burning)