Showing posts from May, 2012

Man, that throws off your gossip something awful...

The Straight Dope Message Board has got this thread running at the mo', about which celebrities are gay and haven't come out yet. If you don't hang out there, IIRC the opening poster is a humanities professor at a university in the American South somewhere, and is, as a friend of mine used to say, queerer than a football puck. He's also known for posting family stories that are mostly entertaining in the same way Woody Allen comedies are entertaining, i.e., hilarious when they remain on the other side of the screen.

I've noticed in the past few years, these threads have started turning into something of a muddle. Someone will post a name, and then a few other people will go 's/he's already out', and someone else will say 'nuh-uh', and eventually it'll degenerate into a discussion of what does and does not count as 'out' anymore. There are a few fairly public cases, like Neil Patrick Harris stomping a very stupid maelstrom of rumor wi…
If anyone was wondering where this came from, it popped up because I'm writing a memoir (sort of). Historically, a lot of my best friends have been male, and taking a tally of "my girlfriend thinks you're awesome" vs "my girlfriend gets exceedingly upset when I talk to you" made me realize how goddamn depressing the ratio was. I have never intentionally stolen anyone's boyfriend, and to my knowledge I have never been The Other Woman, either. I don't think I have a reputation as a man-eater -- if I do, it's news to me, since I don't even date much. I don't act any differently towards the guys whose girlfriends have a cow than I do towards other guys, or the girls I know, and many of the girlfriends who flip out have not flipped out over other girls, so my best guess is that they think I'm attractive and therefore a threat.

There are probably more girlfriend freak-outs in my past that I don't even know about. I tumbled onto the Mag…

A friendly reminder that I am not perfect

When I post stuff about people-reading, especially with example videos, I don't expect to be 100% accurate every time. I've been known to tell people I have spooky psychic powers, but only because I think it would be rude or tedious to explain that my only actual superpower is the ability to pay some fucking attention. This is totally okay. Being wrong is, in most cases, not a big deal. You explain what you drew the wrong conclusion from and end up looking kind of silly, which is fine because "did a thing and ended up looking silly" is a pretty good descriptor of probably half of all human social interaction.

When you do this kind of analysis on fictional characters, it's much easier to come to a conclusion other people agree with. This is because you're working with a "complete" picture. The information presented to you in the movie or show or comic or novel is literally all there is to work with -- everything else is speculation that is, however w…

What the fuck is wrong with you people, Part four: Just because you didn't die doesn't mean it was good advice

Like everyone else on the planet, I have been subjected to some completely goddamn useless advice in my life. Unlike many people, I have been told I am good at giving the stuff out, and perhaps unfortunately, I am arrogant enough to believe other people when they say this. I used to hang out on Omegle as the Advice Fairy, in fact. I got dropped northwards of 90% of the time when the other person realized I wasn't interested in watching them type out their wank session, but the people who hung around were for some reason impressed.

I have found, over lo these thirty years I have spent on Earth, that some of the most-repeated pieces of traditional advice are among the least-helpful fucking suggestions I have ever heard in my life. People say these things because at some point someone said it to them, and it didn't get them killed outright, so they figure it worked. The logic here is too dodgy for words. This is like remembering that you ate glue when you were in kindergarten and…

What do you see here?

Time for a pop quiz on your people-reading skills. I'm involving Robert Downey Jr again, becauseHe's funnyHe's prettyI could reproduce the 2006 Natick telephone directory, and if I got RDJ into it somehow, that entry would still get hits.Allons-y. He's doing press for a movie called Tropic Thunder, which I have not seen, largely because I have reached a point of quasi-catatonia where I am so insomniac and cranky that I cannot be arsed to go out into the living room and pull my roommate's copy out of the DVD shelf. I gather it's one of those things where the humor comes from watching people do incredibly stupid things while taking themselves far too seriously.
First: What do you think the guest thinks of the host? Why? Second: What do you think the host thinks of the guest? Why? Third: What do you think the audience thinks of the interaction?

What the fuck is wrong with you people, Part three: Beauty is not a zero-sum game

One of my favorite fashion bloggers, who has a body almost as big as her personality, posted a while ago asking if fat women expect to get more camaraderie from other fat women. I am totally cool with the whole Big Sisters club idea; humans bond over commonalities, and this one's as good as a hometown or a favorite sports team. The sociologist lobe of my brain has a sad over the fact that my skinny ass is never going to know what goes on at these particular club meetings, any more than my munchkin self will ever get to probe the inner mysteries of the WNBA, but that's about as upset as I get.

I didn't start getting mad until I got down into the comments, where a lot of the posters made it clear that the whole banding-together thing was based in large part on the shared experience of mistreatment at the hands of not-fat people. Jesus Christ. Sometimes humans just make me want to bounce my head off the desk until the argh goes away.

I would like to assure y'all that, for…

What the fuck is wrong with you people, Part two: Being terrified of everyone else on Earth

Another one of the things that I have run into lately that makes me grind my teeth is a post on the general topic of why it can be profoundly creepy when strange people come up to talk to lone women in public. Most of the post I have no problem with -- it was actually a very good primer on body language and how to tell if someone is interested in having a conversation with you or wants you to GTFO so she can finish her book. I am completely for teaching people how to interpret other people so that we can all get along more smoothly in our daily lives. Most people pick up socialization the same way they pick up their native language; the ability to describe what human beings are doing when they are doing human-being things is important, and we could all benefit from some externalization and analysis of our own social cues.

The thing that made me angry was the framing. The author's entire case for explaining all of this boiled down to, "You"-- and here read: men -- "h…

What the fuck is wrong with you people, Part one: Parenting a smart kid

Someone on one of my message boards just started a thread by going, "Holy crap, my three year old is doing stuff three-year-olds don't normally do. I think she's scary-smart. I have no idea what I'm doing. Help?"

Some people chimed in about being parents of gifted kids, some people chimed in having been gifted kids. And eventually someone chimed in to give one of the more popular pieces of parenting advice, which was to praise the kid for effort and not for native smartness, lest s/he get a swelled head.

You have no idea how hard I hate this. I speak as a former scary-smart kid, now scary-smart adult: This is not going to work how you think it will.

The message you think you are sending to your child: "Not everything is going to be easy for you. That's okay; no one will love or value you less if they see you fail sometimes. Learning how to work at things you want or need even when you don't magically get them the first time is admirable. I'm prou…
All right, Mouseketeers. In the past 24 hours, I have run into at least half a dozen things on the internet that make me want to punch the wall. Most of them were written with the best of intentions, and almost all of them have some grain of helpful truth within, but somewhere along the line they took a turn that made me go, "...Jesus Christ, what is wrong with people?"

So this week is going to be Ari Rants At Everyone Week.

I'm probably going to offend people. That's okay. Life is not a competition to see how many people you can get to like you. I can agree to disagree on most things, and on the few matters I think only have one correct answer (example: "Is it acceptable to murder obnoxious bloggers in their sleep?" The correct answer, in my opinion, is NO), if you don't agree with me then I think it's better if we avoid each other anyway.

I am not interested in being told I'm wrong. Not this week. Normally I'm up for intelligent debate but…


In the Wikipedia article on eidetic memory, it's suggested that Sherlock from the latest BBC series has it, but this is then disputed with the observation that he also seems to have cultivated the ability to 'delete' things from his internal storage.

What Sherlock seems to have is pretty close to what I call an eidetic memory, i.e., whatever I've got. The sticking point seems to be whether one needs to "know" things or merely "remember" them for it to count.

There is a distinct difference between the two for me. I obviously know a lot of stuff -- this can be attested to by any one of the probably thousands of people who, over the course of my lifetime, have stared at me slack-jawed while I ramble blithely across three different subjects that normally require a graduate degree -- but that's not my eidetic memory. That's the fact that my brain is a enormous filing cabinet. Facts and procedures require understanding, at least for me. I found it…
Apparently it is still possible to hang out on these here internets and not be aware of the breathtaking rapidity with which rabid slash fans will pick up new favorite people.

Yes. There is Stark/Banner slash out there already. I'm pretty sure it was out there before the movie finished its opening day. I had a look at it, once I managed to stop laughing at the entire blog entitled "Tony Stark Has Sex With Everyone". It obeys Sturgeon's Law just like everything else. Most of it is crap. Some of it is decent porn. A small amount is decent even for not-porn. None of it is at all unusual for slashfic, although unlike the anime stuff, very few people are using it as an excuse to mangle another language.

For the record, that was not where my brain went when I saw the movie. The part I found strangely charming was where the one man who must not be upset on pain of Hulk decided that his favorite Avenger was the one whose third-favorite hobby, right after playing with science…

For the curious...

For any of the Avengers fans curious about how the Stark + Banner bromance thing goes in the comic canon, I dug this here up for yas:

Hulk vol 2 071
Hulk vol 2 072
Hulk vol 2 073
Hulk vol 2 074

It's pretty much just Stark and Banner for this short arc, with a few vaguely peripheral people of whom I have never heard before, and of whom no one probably ever heard again. A few notes, for context:

Tony doesn't drink anymore. He dried himself out some years ago in the comics, because he noticed it was starting to interfere in his being a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. This is basically the only way to get Tony to do anything. He has kept the rest of his world-famous collection of bad habits, on the basis that he is TONY motherfucking STARK and he can do whatever he wants.
Bruce is on the run again, pretty much now and forever. He does typically show up when the Avengers assemble, but aside from that he spends most of his time being an itinerant supergenius and trying not to b…
One of the very nicest things about the Kindle is that, when I am insomniac and dysphoric and bored and realize that the internet will rise up as one and slay me if I write one more freaking thing about the Incredible Hulk, is that it makes it very easy to at least pretend I'm fixing that. It handles PDFs natively, which means I can put the 400+ page Hebrew textbook on it and not dislocate my shoulder carrying it around.

MIT and Harvard have also recently banded together (with a few other schools -- I think Stanford is in on this now, too) to publish a listing of free courses. You can't get an honest-to-God degree this way, but for a small fee you can get a load of certificates in whatever you manage to learn. It occurs to me that I may be able to use this as leverage to pry my way back into school, where I'm decidedly happier. And that if I can do so at one of the private institutions out here, there will be no faffing about with grants and loans -- if Harvard or MIT want…

Sometimes I think I over-think these things.

In which I apply way too much logic to the Hulk. Again.

[small Avengers spoiler. spoiler. spoiler spoiler spoily spoiler. this is getting monotonous, but i suppose it's better than being beaten by a rampaging mob of comic geeks.]

Why seventeen seconds of film "only" comes out to about two pages

Last night, I sat down and picked apart one of the more popular character moments in the Avengers movie. The clip was seventeen seconds long, and the analysis was several times longer than what was actually written in the screenplay.

Apparently this amazes people. What's amazing to me is that I managed to keep it down to just a couple of pages. Human interactions are fractal in nature. Everything people say and do is supported by personal experience and cultural context, which in turn is supported by cultural and familial history, which in turn is supported by the development of civilization. To drastically oversimplify: Everything is related, somehow, to everything else.

The problem with getting this down on paper is that after a certain point, it starts to lose linear structure. The trails of context start to shoot off in a lot of different directions, and rapidly diverge to the point where trying to hit them all in one explanation would make me sound somewhere between schizophr…

Lab scene: Kinesthetics and subtext breakdown

[spoilering. spoiler spoiler. for seventeen seconds of Avengers. when can I stop doing this?]

Time for a research binge!

Mark Ruffalo on Inside The Actor's Studio:

I love these things. This show is basically 45 minutes of pointing a camera at some poor guy in a strategically isolated chair who's compelled to answer questions ranging from silly to deeply embarrassing. You really can't get a better format for psych profiling.

The first thing you notice about Mark Ruffalo is that he never looks quite fully-ironed. I have yet to see him play any parts where he looks fully-ironed, either. Sort of like how Angie Harmon never plays anything where she looks entirely unlike a tomboy, and RDJ always manages to spend at least part of the movie looking like a crazy homeless man with puppy-dog eyes. Although, left to his own devices, Ruffalo cops to owning ties. He's got some fairly nice suits and everything matches, plus he can manage to stay clean-shaven when he tries, so I would imagine the scruffy thing is a combination of it fits his personality and he thinks it looks good. (I agree.) I don'…

Seriously, are you people ever happy?

Skipping around and reading reviews of the Avengers movie, I note there are still people complaining that the Black Widow is sexist.

[Click for spoilers. Also, consensus view please: When can I stop spoilering these things?]

Oh christ. The things I do for research.

When particular actors pique my interest, I often wind up tracking down and watching things I would normally not touch with a stolen set of eyeballs. Sometimes this is fantastic -- Sam Waterston once starred as Benedick in one of my favorite quirky little production of Much Ado About Nothing. Mostly this turns out like the time some friends and I decided to find all of the movies in which Ewan McGregor is naked (there are a large number of these) and we ended up watching something produced and directed by Peter Greenaway, which I will someday be telling my therapist all about.

A lot of completely random stuff turns up on YouTube if you go looking for Lou Ferrigno. I just sat through twenty-two minutes and four seconds of King of Queens to see what happens when he guest stars. I hate that show. This viewing reminded me exactly why I hate that show.It's not just written badly. It's also acted badly. And it was conceived worse. King of Que…

In which I am happy to be right, yet again

Do I get a prize for calling these things while the actors are still in character? I think I should.

I spend so much time IRL telling people that their new boyfriend/girlfriend/roommate/boss sends up so many red flags it's a wonder they aren't drawing the attention of bulls that are still in Spain that it's always a wonderful break when I notice that two human beings actually get along.

For those of you who hang around strictly for the technical breakdown: There are a number of standard sociocultural cues that indicate that two people are friendly. None of them are 100% accurate by themselves; you need to go for the 'balance of the evidence'. Even that will sometimes fail, particularly if one of the people involved is a manipulative sociopath -- if you want to know the tells for that, you should probably visit Eyes for Lies, who gives seminars for law enforcement and is in the habit of reading criminal cases. I deal more with the chronically weird.

There are severa…

Compare and contrast (loads of casual spoilers for various Hulk things)

Finally got around to watching the Edward Norton Hulk movie. And it is definitely that way around. It is not a Hulk film starring Edward Norton; it is an Ed Norton movie guest-starring the Hulk. I admit up front to not being a fan of his at all. His favorite themes in storytelling are pretty much the opposite of anything I find even remotely fun to watch or enlightening to ponder. They're generally good films for what they are, but what they are is not to my taste. Still, the compare and contrast between the character of Bruce Banner as written and played by Edward Norton and Bruce Banner as written by Joss Whedon and played by Mark Ruffalo is an interesting example of how far apart you can get with interpretations of comic book characters and still technically all be canon.

TV: Not always as bad as you think

It has come to my attention that less than 100% of the internet has seen the old Incredible Hulk TV series. I feel I should do my part to fix that. YouTube has several episodes, apparently at random. Among them are "Proof Positive", "Never Give A Trucker An Even Break", and "Prometheus (part 2)", the last being the one I referred to where Ferrigno actually gets lines for once. [WAG: It was probably Bixby's week off.] It probably looks oddly cheap in places, to a modern audience, even though it decidedly wasn't -- the per-episode budget was in the neighborhood of $600,000, which IIRC is comparable to the original run of The A-Team -- mostly because there was no such thing as CGI in at the time and they had to use a lot of practicals. The series debuted in 1978, so everyone dresses as if they were completely blind and every pair of flattering pants had been mysteriously wiped off the face of the planet, but if you can get over that then the show is …

Hulk Smash... ingly good, actually

[[Edit: Hi, people from some kind of Iron Man message board. Poke around the blog to find other stuff on Avengers, Iron Man, and RDJ.]]

When we went to see The Avengers I was not expecting to be impressed by the Hulk. The green guy has not exactly had a good record on either the big or small screen. The Hulk's story is really just your basic werewolf tale, and it's far too easy to ham it up to the point of self-parody, making Banner nothing but a giant bucket of angst and the Hulk nothing but a really big blunt object. For some reason, the casting is also often terrible -- prior to the Norton version, their greatest success in the part was Lou Ferrigno.

(Ferrigno is not actually a bad actor. YouTube has a few episodes of the infamous TV series, which happens to include one where a sudden infusion of plot-related unobtanium results in Ferrigno spending about an hour playing not-the-Hulk, and delivering lines other than "Rauuuuugh!" They manage to get tears out of him …

(Feminist) Avengers Assemble!

I went to go see The Avengers on Friday night. If you had any interest in any of the preceding movies, GO SEE THE AVENGERS. Without spoiling anything, I will note that the ensemble cast was very well-balanced, and the script gave each hero at least one moment of unadulterated awesome that made the theater break into cheers. They kept the previous casting for everyone except Bruce Banner, and both the new nerdy dude and the CGI green guy are an improvement -- the new actor is charmingly understated as Banner and, via a new mo-cap technique, also provided a lot of the (decidedly not understated) movement and expression for the Hulk, and the combination works very well. The Hulk still doesn't look 100% real, but even the real people in the movie don't look 100% real, so he fits in.

Also, if you're seeing the US release, there's a new stinger at the end of the credits. Stick around for it. We didn't stop laughing for quite a while.

I am here, however, to talk about the…

10 signs that you have chose the right taquería for dinner on Cinco de Mayo

The kitchen staff yells at each other in Spanish. And will take orders in Tejano Spanglish.They serve tacos made with things like spiced, stewed cow tongue or pork intestine...
...which go by their Spanish names on the menu, so as not to scare the gringos who are there for grilled chicken.
There is no cheddar cheese anywhere in the restaurant. Nor does shredded iceberg lettuce come standard on anything.The pico de gallo is made fresh in the kitchen.
The tortillas are made with real shortening.
You have to ask for vegetarian beans if you don't want them cooked in lard, and vegetarian rice if you don't want it cooked in chicken stock.
They have horchata, for the same price as soda.
They will deep fry any food on the menu if you ask nicely.
The tortilla chips are so greasy they soak through the paper bag. I almost forgot about Cinco de Mayo this year. I don't really celebrate it, but it wasn't exactly easy to miss in Arizona. The ER staff hated the holiday with a passion. It was…