Begging The Question

Saturday, December 18, 2004

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Hank: "Bobby, did you drink my grapefruit juice?"
Bobby: "Yeah, sure, Dad, I drank your grapefruit juice. I had it with a big bowl of broccoli."



Friday, December 17, 2004

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Hank: "Can Daletech do anything about getting me a privacy hedge?"
Dale: "To be honest, we're more into the invasion of privacy business, not the creation of privacy business."





All-Request Weekend: Forget Paris
Back in the mid-nineties, in between dropping out of college and getting married, I happened to accompany an Athletes in Action women's basketball team on a month-long tour of Russia - well, mostly Moscow. I was able to go on this trip because my father coached the team. I was listed as a trainer in the brochures, but I was really just a hanger-on taking advantage of the chance to spend a month in Moscow. To earn my keep I carried equipment, recorded the girls' games on video, taped ankles, and suited up to play a defending center during practices. Remind me to post some pictures and stories from the Moscow some time.

Anyway, on the return flight from Moscow to Chicago we had an overnight layover in gay Paris. Paris, one night only. The Eiffel Tower, the Rive Gauche, the Louvre. Some many things to do, but so little time. But did I get to see any of Paris? Non. Pourquoi? Because I got sick from the meal in the airport hotel restaurant. My father and I wanted to grab a meal at the hotel before we headed out on the town for our one night in Paris. I ordered pork loin - I can't remember the exact meal, but I think it was in a brandy and peppercorn sauce. That's not really important to the story. So, the meal arrives and we dig in. I'm not really paying any attention to the food, because we're chatting about the trip and about our plans for the evening. Well, several bites into the pork I look down and notice that instead of the white / very very very light pink color I'm accustomed to in a pork loin this one exhibits a rather crimson color. Yep. Seared, raw pork loin. Kinda like ahi tuna but not. I summoned the waitress who decides to go into that whole "I don't understand English" act when I demand that she take my food back to the kitchen and have the chef actually cook it. Parlez vous trichinosis? Non. Parlez vous no tip?

The retching began about 5 minutes after I returned to the hotel room. The vertigo and headache about 5 minutes later. The dry heaves lasted all night and the cab ride into Paris never materialized. I spent my one night in Paris on death's door just begging to be let in. By the next day I was fit enough to travel, but we had a plane to catch. So, sadly, my only view of the Eiffel Tower was from a window seat as we headed back to the States. That, unfortunately, is my Paris story.





All-Request Weekend: The demons in the tenth circle of hell are navel-gazing bloggers
The only explanation I can think of for this is that TP is a glutton for punishment. I thought that I had exhausted this subject. I complain about my dark master the law with some frequency, but it's one of the few subjects on which I feel expert enough to opine. Apparently, TP just can't get enough.

Lawyering was never something I wanted to pursue. In high school, I mocked classmates who talked of becoming lawyers. In college, as a poli sci major, I never once took a course on domestic American politics or the legal system. That Con Law course y'all loved so much? I took tennis instead. My original plan was a career in the Marine Corps, but that fell through for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of a Jack Black level of immaturity on my part. That's a story for another post, though. No, flying helicopters was the only goal I'd ever had. When that didn't work out, I had to figure out what to do with a poli sci degree.

Turns out, a poli sci degree is not the most marketable asset. The career options in related fields are surprisingly few. In fact, I ended up applying to law schools only once I realized that my only other real options - a Foreign Service posting in BFE or six more years of school working toward a PhD - were not quite what I was looking for. Add the pressures of being newly married, the urban legend that law degrees are "very flexible" and you have a recipe for desperation. Desperation can cause one to make poor choices. I'm not suggesting that law school was a poor choice or the wrong choice. Rather, I'd like to think of it more as making the best of a bad situation.

Off to law school, where I could have excelled, but instead pulled a Peter Gibbons and put in the bare minimum of effort to avoid complete embarrassment. It was hard to be motivated about law school when I just didn't care very much about legal issues. It's not that I hated the experience, but the material rarely if ever interested me. The one thing I learned for certain is that the practice of law did not interest me. Still, on the whole I count law school as a positive experience because of the friends I made and the amount of fishing I did. And the work I've done since school has not been horrible - in fact, I am quite capable of turning out high quality work product - but this is not something I could do for another 30 years.

However, the answer to the question of what I would do instead of lawyering eludes me. Given my lack of a trust fund, I'm going to have to work. That much is clear. Given my legal training, my best bets for law-related but non-lawyer type work might be in lobbying or politics. Not sure that those are directions I'd be interested in going, but lobbying for someone like Trout Unlimited or the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation might be interesting. Law enforcement / intelligence community jobs seem interesting, too, but I've been soundly rejected by every possible legitimate source of those types of jobs.

Everything gets hazy from this point on. Not to invoke Seinfeld too many times on this blog, but this process of trying to figure out what I should do instead of the law is like George telling Jerry he'd like to be a Civil War buff, or a history professor, or one of the Coast Guard's land guys. Beyond my legal training, I've few if any marketable skills. I'm a hell of a salesman, but I find no joy in retail. I'm a hell of a fisherman, but there's no money in it. Ditto on hunting guide. I can rope the hell out of steers, but rodeo is a lot of hard work for a lot of heartache. I'm a hell of a cook, but I know that the best way to make a small fortune in the restaurant business is to start off with a large fortune. Screen writer? Sure, because there aren't 50 million other kinda funny guys also trying to get into that racket. Plain ol' writer? Soupie's grassroots efforts on my behalf notwithstanding, even the little corner of the blogosphere which I frequent is home to at least a couple dozen writers who exhibit more skill with words than I. And that doesn't even count all the very talented real authors who struggle to make it as writers. Besides, to write, you really need to have something to say and I don't.

To go back to Peter Gibbons for a minute if I may. In Office Space the guys consider the high school guidance counselor question, "If you had a million dollars, what would you do?" If I use that as my guide, my answer would also be Peter's answer. Nothing. Well, not quite nothing. I'd travel, I'd fish, I'd learn to surf. All of those would be a lot fun, and I'd blog about all of it. But none of those distractions could realistically replace the law as my source of income. They only pay in experience - and that is tax free, as Hank Hill would say - but experience doesn't put food on the table. The point of this is that the million dollar question doesn't help me, because the things millionaire Fitz-Hume would fill his time with are things the destitute Fitz-Hume can only use to fill his spare time.

And that's it in a nutshell: the things I'd like to do are not things I can afford to do for a living. So for now I'm stuck with the law. And that's okay, really, despite all my complaining. Would I prefer a job that I looked forward to every morning? Absolutely, but I am not the only person who doesn't have that in his life. And as far as life crises are concerned, hating my job is really pretty mild compared to what many people deal with.

So there's a little more useless navel gazing from Fitz-Hume. Enjoy. Next up: My 48 hours in France.





All-Request Weekend: Love Life Update
A reader emails to ask for an update on the "pretty and nice young woman" who works in my building whom I met at that CLE a few weeks ago. I'm always appreciative that there's so much interest in my moribund love life.

The sad fact is that there isn't anything new to report. I haven't seen her since then, which isn't unusal, because of course I hadn't seen her in my building until the CLE. But, a few of us are planning an all-clerks get-together soon (but probably not till after the new year), so I hope to see her again soon.

I know what you're thinking: Call her up and ask her out for this weekend. A couple of responses. First, I have some plans this weekend. I need to be in the office a while, and I am planning on going to a friend's house to hang out with her. No word yet on whether some of her single friends will be there, but I'm prepared for that eventuality. Second, I don't really know anything about CLE girl, and I need some more background. For example, I don't know if she's seeing anyone. Also, I think I need to work at getting in her head, Costanza-style, so I need to plot a leave-behind:
George: And I got a date with the sales woman. She's got a little Marisa Tomei thing going on.
Jerry: Ah, too bad you got a little George Costanza thing going on.
George: I'm going out with her tomorrow, she said she had some errands to run.
Jerry: That's a date?
George: What's the difference? You know they way I work, I'm like a commercial jingle. First it's a little irritating, then you hear it a few times, you hum it in the shower, by the third date it's "By Mennen!".
Jerry: How do you make sure your gonna get to the third date?
George: If there's any doubt, I do a leave-behind keys, glove, scarf, I go back to her place to pick it up...date number three.
Jerry: That's so old. Why don't you show up at her door in a wooden horse?
I think I feel less pressure when I'm in a group. Like I did when we were at lunch at the CLE, I'm able to make a few observations and conversation-movers, without forcing anything. So, I'll keep you posted if I ever see her again. I guess I should also say that while I thought this woman was pretty and nice, I didn't hear bells or have my breath taken away or anything, so it's not like I'm worried that I'm missing out on The One or anything.

What I really need, have always needed, is a little help from my friends. I've never been set up in my life. None of my friends, male or female, have ever fixed me up on a blind date or anything like that. The closest I've come is a group outing at which another single person might be present. Like a wedding. But somehow I never got the impression that the point of the wedding was to fix me up. I need an event focused on my happiness. I do have one good friend (the one I'm seeing this weekend) who at least thinks about it. And that was only after a lot of harping by me on the subject. My take was this: I knew good and well that at some point in her life, she had been consoling a friend who was complaining that there were no good men in the world and she was destined to wander the earth alone, Caine-style. So, I argued, why didn't my friend ever say, "You know, Milbarge is a good guy -- you should think about him!" That's all I'm asking for -- plant the seed. *sigh* Anyway, I never get that from my friends, but at least that friend keeps it in mind. The problem is, she has a pretty good idea of what I'm looking for, and none of her friends are it.

The interesting this was that when I asked her why she (or my other female friends) didn't fix me up, her answer (admittedly, I put her on the spot) was that, basically, she thinks of me as a friend, and it's hard sometimes to think of me as something else, even for somebody else. I give some credence to this because it matches up with another friend's "there are no single guys in the office" comment (while I was sitting next to her!). I really truly cherish my close friendships with women, and I have several, but sometimes I think that there is something mutually exclusive about platonic relationships and fix-ups if the friendship creates some kind of mental block to picturing me dating someone else. To put it bluntly, it appears that since these women don't want to have sex with me, I have become sexless to them.

Also, while I'm on the dating subject, a brief update on my e-harmony situation (previously lamented here. I discovered the other night that part of their matching system is a page of "must haves" and "can't stands." Hooray for this, because I have several of each. We'll see if that changes things. I'll go ahead and make the resolution that after new year's I'll dish out the dough to subscribe to the thing, at least for a month.

Thanks to our emailing reader for the suggestion for this post. I know I wandered kind of far off topic, but I made no promises to discuss only the suggested topic. Keep 'em coming, people. I'll be here all weekend.

UPDATE: I got home and talked to my friend, and it turns out she was thinking about fixing me up! I couldn't have planned the timing of this post better if I had tried. It's not the get-together tomorrow -- I'm going to be the seventh wheel amongst three couples. But my friend met an attractive lawyer recently, and the lawyer was saying that she had just moved here and didn't know anyone, etc. Apparently the conversation went on long enough for the lightbulb to go off over my friend's head that "I have a lawyer friend, and you two might get along!" The lawyer's response: "Great." My friend: "And he's single." The lawyer: "Even better!" I guess my friend thinks all lawyers have a lot in common or that we would hit it off some way. But this is how I got the news:
She: "How do you feel about older women?"
Me: "Well, it depends on how much older, and if that's the only...well, 'negative' doesn't seem like the right word, but I guess if that's the only thing that would give me pause, it might not give me much pause. How old is she?"
She: "Eh, I'm not really sure. [Turns to fiance and asks his estimate...this is where I start losing faith.] I guess late thirties, like maybe 38."
Me: "Yeah, that's older, alright."
I'll be 29 next month, and that's quite likely too great an age difference, for her as well. The age things didn't come up in their conversation, so who knows what her thinking is. I'm perfectly willing to meet this woman, and offer whatever networking contacts I have since she's new to the local legal scene. I'm not holding my breath for anything more, but it was nice of my friend to think of me in a prime fix-up moment.





All-Request Weekend: The Importance of Abs
THL also requested something about "the importance of abs." I have less to say about this that I did about robotic monkeys, but here goes.

I'm pretty sure I have a six-pack, but I keep mine safely protected under a layer of cushioning. Like a lot of Americans, I could stand to lose a couple-five pounds. Also, I'm not attracted to men's stomachs, so I'm not really the person to opine on their effectiveness, although second-hand observation tells me they work well.

I won't use this as a platform for railing on the unobtainable standard of beauty perpetuated by the likes of THL, so consider this a PSA: Guys, get some abs and get some ass.





All-Request Weekend: Robotic Monkeys
The Hot Librarian is first out of the gate with a request for thoughts on robotic monkeys. More precisely, that story from Wired is about monkeys being trained to control a robotic arm simply by firing neurons in their tiny brains. By thinking about grabbing some food, they can make the arm go get food and bring it to their mouths.

Now, a few thoughts.

1. Does this remind anyone else of the "Simpsons" episode with Mojo the Helper Monkey?

2. If they can get a monkey to use the robotic arm to fling its own poo, alert the Nobel committee.

3. What would be really cool is if they could use this to give other animals opposable thumbs. Or give Sherry's dog her fourth leg back, maybe.

4. While it's nice and all that they're thinking of using this technology to help paralyzed people and stroke victims, isn't it clear that eventually it's going to be used so that able-bodied people can have three arms? I know there's a lot I could do if I had another arm. Sometimes you just need a free hand for things. The article notes that monkeys are even able to send these mental signals over the internets to manipulate arms miles away. Given that, what would prevent developing an arm on a rolling platform that would act as a crude robotic helper? It could carry my groceries to the car and I won't have to fumble for the keys. You just need some kind of wireless hookup that allows me to send my thoughts to the unit a few feet away. In the experiments in the article, the arms are attached to the monkeys at the shoulder while their own arms are restrained. Humans, I would think, have more of a capacity for abstract thought and spatial reasoning, and would be able to maneuver an arm situated nearby, but not adjoining them. So the "food" they grasp wouldn't have to be within arm's reach. If the arm is controlled by me, but not a part of me, isn't it really more than an arm, but more like a real robot?

And if so, are we really that far away from an army of rampaging killing machines? Have we jacked in to the Matrix? Just this week, the New York Times Magazine "Ideas" issue had a little piece called "Dumb Robots Are Better." An excerpt:
Steven Skaar, a robotics professor at Notre Dame, is the prophet of a not-so-brave new world. His creation is a wheelchair that can take its occupant among just a handful of destinations -- the toilet, the kitchen, the bed. And it makes this journey very slowly. Skaar's students taught the chair its course by painstakingly pushing it along all the permutations of possible routes and methodically saving them in the robot's memory. What's significant about Skaar's wheelchair isn't the invention itself as much as the idea that it represents. This simple robot, Skaar argues, is about as good as a robot gets.

[snip -- Skaar says abstract human thought is incredibly difficult to replicate]

Recognizing that robotic technology is at a "dead end," Skaar says, our solution should be to make a lot of pretty dumb robots that do what they do well. The future, he contends, is going to belong to androids with robotic arms spot-welding the same joint in the same car at the same spot on the assembly line.
Well, if we've reached the dead end, where's my monkey arm?

Thanks to THL for the suggestion. Keep 'em coming, folks.





The Phone Lines Are Open; Operators Are Standing By
As Fitz's latest post demonstrates, BTQ is happy to receive requests or suggestions for posts. And since I can't think of much to say but am desperate to say something, I'm going to formalize that and make this an ALL-REQUEST WEEKEND. Use the comments function, or email us if you prefer, and give us something to talk about.

Just be glad I'm not calling this "pledge week." You've gotten so much free entertainment and edification from BTQ over the last year...isn't it time to give something back? Like an idea for a post? Is that too much to ask, ya ingrates?!

Honestly, I need some help shaking myself out of the non-posting doldrums I've been in lately. I'm willing to try posting on nearly any reasonable subject -- the value of my liberal arts education is that I can b.s. about most anything when necessary. The catch is that, whatever you suggest, I need to be able to find a link using a work computer. But otherwise, I consider anything else fair game. We need the help, and we're kind of curious what our readers want to see.

To clarify, this is going out in Fitz's name, too, even though I haven't asked his permission. So feel free to direct something at both of us, or one of us, or take your chances.

Anyway, this specific call for requests will be open at least through the weekend, but don't forget that we need your support all the time. So feel free to request or suggest something anytime.

I won't level any ultimatums, but in candor I should let you know that without your requests and suggestions, we might not have any ideas of our own. So give us something to say! Thanks, folks.



Thursday, December 16, 2004

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Connie: "Your mom's a cheerleader?"
Bobby: "Wow, I thought that was just more of her big talk. Maybe she really did see Dan Rather at the mall."





"Indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial is anathema in any country which observes the rule of law."
Or so says Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead of the British House of Lords. In an 8-1 decision, the Law Lords recently ruled that Britain's laws permitting indefinite detention without charge or trial of suspected foreign enemies of the State is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Britain is a signatory. Despite the ruling, the Home Office said that the appellants - nine detainees in all - would remain in custody. If the government does not take swift action to comply with the ruling, the detainees could pursue their case before the European Court of Human Rights.

I think it was Jean-Paul Sartre who once said . . . how do you spell Sartre? How is it that the British realize you can't keep people locked up without trial and still keep your dignity while the US doesn't? The Brits for crying out loud. They don't even HAVE a constitution. Or a cuisine.

The BBC report can be found at this link and a .pdf file of the decision of the Law Lords can be found at this link. (hat tip to long-time commenter Col. Rhombus for the links and the Sartre quote) You can also read William's post on this subject over at Southern Appeal here. I second William's dismay at the rapid subjugation of elected bodies to unelected judges, and I share the good colonel's anger with our own government's behavior vis-a-vis indefinite detentions. But as Col. Rhombus is fond of saying, every people gets the government it deserves.

Update 12/17/04: See also this post from Brit blogger (and recent addition to the blogroll) Unconstituted on Red.



Wednesday, December 15, 2004

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
One from what may be Fitz's favorite episode: the run-in with the hippies while camping.

Dale: "Fish hate loud hippie drums and so do I!"





Awkward SWM seeks wingman to help him score. Must be witty and charming but not overly so. Willing to intercept "her" ugly friends a plus.
Professional wingman. That could be the perfect job for me. Heck, Milbarge, I won't charge anything near $50 an hour like the pros in Chicago.





The Presidential Medal of Freedom: Because America needs another awards show
Yesterday, President Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tommy Franks, Slam Dunk Tenet, and Paul Bremer. My first reaction was to pen a rant bemoaning the choice of George Tenet. That prompted me to look at a list of past recipients of the Medal of Freedom. Here are some of the past winners:

Bob Hope
Gregory Peck
Arnold Palmer
Edward Teller (the father of the H-bomb)
Coach John Wooden
Julia Child
Charlton Heston
Gerald Ford
Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy's)
David Brinkley

That's quite a varied and puzzling list. In fact, I'm not quite sure what lasting contributions some of the listed people have made to our country. The ones who I recognize seem like decent people, but I can't really decipher what they've done for our country except excel in their chosen fields. Which got me to thinkin'. With that criteria in mind, I was all wrong to write this post as a rant about the wisdom of awarding the Medal of Freedom to George Tenet. If excellence in your field is the deciding factor, then giving a medal to George Tenet for his outstanding work in uncovering and preventing the 9/11 attacks does make sense. Then I remembered that he was at the helm of the CIA when the agency formed and executed the plan to capture Osama bin Laden for his confessed role in the USS Cole and Africa embassy bombings. Then I recalled that Tenet also led the agency as it collected and presented the incontrovertible evidence - nay, the "slam dunk" proof - of the size and location of Saddam Hussein's illicit weapons stockpiles. That is exactly the kind of leadership that deserves a medal. But not just any medal. It is deserving of the highest honor our nation bestows upon civilians. Hell, if Arnold Palmer deserves a medal for designing golf courses and shooting under par, then George Tenet deserves knighthood or a memorial on the Mall. Bravo, Mr. Tenet, bravo. Here's hoping our next CIA director will be able to fill your shoes. *cue stirring music as blog author rises to feet and slowly, proudly renders a quivering salute*

(story via CNN)

Update: In writing this post, I unwittingly [isn't that an oxymoron? -- Ed.] channeled Andrew Sullivan and, I am sure, dozens of other bloggers who found it witty to refer to George Tenet as "Slam Dunk" Tenet. The title of "Mr. Original" is not one I deserve.



Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Hank, concerned about the site of Peggy's Boggle tournament: "I don't want you going to Dallas at all! That place is crawling with crackheads and debutantes. And half of them play for the Cowboys."





I Am A Moron
A funny but annoying thing happened this morning. It all started with me oversleeping. Well, not so much oversleeping as just not wanting to get out of bed, and more sleep seemed like a better use of my in-bed time than listening to the wacky morning show guys on the radio. So I finally crawled out of bed about twenty minutes after the very latest reasonable time I should be getting up. So I'm already pretty behind.

After I shave, I turn to the shower and throw back the curtain. And lo and behold, the tub is full of water. This seems odd to me. Let me back up. My drain has been slow ever since I moved in here, and has steadily been getting slower. It's not something that had really bothered me, because up till now, it drained; it was just slow doing it. But sometime in the last day it went from "slow" to "stopped." So, I weighed my options. A few days ago, in what seemd like a stunningly uncharacteristic bit of foresight on my part, I had bought a bottle of Drano or Liquid-Plumr or whatever, and so I considered using that. But I knew that it would take a while to work, and I didn't really have the time to spare. So I considered going ahead with the shower and dealing with the stopped drain later, after I got home. But (a) I was worried about overflowing the tub, and (b) the water was absolutely frigid. It was incredibly, teeth-rattingly cold, and I couldn't imagine standing in it for more than a second.

On the horns of this dilemma, I decided to roll the dice and use the chemical de-coagulant. I poured in the whole bottle (it was a smallish bottle, I guess) and waited. With nothing else to do, I read a magazine and listened to the wacky morning show guys on the radio. I think you're supposed to let that stuff work for as much as a half-hour, so I probably rushed it, but I didn't feel like I could wait any longer. So I attempted to flush it out with hot water like the directions instruct. I think the water level went down maybe halfway.

So now I've got maybe a quarter of a tub full of cold water, topped by a nice film of Drano. Out of options, I realized I was going to be stuck with both bad results: taking a shower while standing in cold water and having to wait all that time for the drain opener to "work." Needless to say, it went pretty fast (and I am Kramer-esque in my shower length, normally) and was uncomfortable, not least because the fumes from the Drano were pretty strong. At this point, I'm terrifically late for work, and I end up not even leaving home until a half hour after I should have been here. But just before I walk out the door, as I am tying my shoes, a realization hits me.

My house has two bathrooms.

That's right, folks, I put up with all this nonsense for nothing. I could have simply gone to the spare bathroom and showered there. I never, ever use it -- haven't used it one time since I've lived here. But it's certainly available. The shower doesn't have a curtain, but I have an extra somewhere, and hanging that would surely have taken less time than the buffoonery I actually went through. I couldn't do anything but sigh and call myself a dumbass, and tell myself that if I blog this story, at least some good will come of it. In case you're curious, I did manage to tie my shoes and remember the way to work, but in retrospect, it seems like neither were sure things.





Ten Most Depressing Films
Spurred by my mention last week of the very depressing movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar, I decided to run a list of ten of the most depressing films I've ever seen, just in time for the holidays!

Note that there are a lot of movies that I'm sure plenty of people would rank as depressing that I just haven't watched, so take this as "Milbarge's Guide" rather than an authoritative list. (So the "most" in this post's title should be taken as "very.") And I'm sure I'm forgetting something really good; these are just the first ones that sprang to mind. (Interesting sidenote: almost all of the ones on my list were based on books.)

My definition of "depressing" for these purposes is not "sad" or "tear-jerking" or even "moody" or "downbeat." And it's not even the type of movie that makes me sorry I watched it, like Natural Born Killers, although that's a downer. I'm talking about movies that make you feel awful and despondent and hopeless and despairing. No uplifting endings or schmaltzy morals to save these. I should also say that I enjoyed watching most of these and think most are good films. Anyway, in no real order...

Oh, one last thing. I debated whether to go full-spoiler here. My thought is that it tells you the essence of what you need to know if the movie makes this list: it does not end with "happily ever after." But I won't give away the details here.

I'll leave out Looking for Mr. Goodbar because I mentioned it already. This one I didn't like as much as some of the others, but Diane Keaton does a good job in the lead role as a teacher who has a sex life, which was tres provactive back then. Sadly, her love life is not all giggles and roses.

1. Welcome to the Dollhouse, by the brilliant Todd Solondz. A painfully accurate character study of an adolescent loser: Dawn "Weiner Dog" Weiner. There are times when you want to cringe and look away, but Solondz won't. Note that a lot of people would call Solondz's follow-up, Happiness, depressing, and the subject matter is pretty bleak, but at least one character in the later movie has a happy ending.

3. Chinatown. "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." 'nuff said.

4. Au Revior Les Enfants, a Louis Malle film. Actually, it's Malle's autobiographical apology. Two boys become friends at a Catholic school in occupied France during WW2. One has a secret; one is betrayed. The first time I saw it, I inadvertantly missed the "betrayal," and was still torn up by what happened after. When I saw it again and realized what transpired, I was devastated. This one is on the "sad" side of my definition of "depressing," but it really disheartened me.

5. Ordinary People, with Robert Redford directing a great cast in the 1980 Best Picture Oscar winner. It's been a while since I've seen this, and I'm afraid there might be a tiny ray of sunshine at the end of the film. But it's a very heartrending story of a family falling apart after the death of one of the sons.

6. The Ice Storm, a really beautiful film by Ang Lee. Another families-falling-apart story, and also very well-acted.

7. Boys Don't Cry. Probably no summary necessary here. It's the story of Brandon Teena, a woman who lived as a man and suffered for it.

8. Kids, a controversial drama about, as one reviewer says, "vacuous, thoughtless New York City teens." I actually saw this one on a date, believe it or not. Most of the kids in this movie are pretty much devoid of any sympathetic characteristics. Honorable mentions in a similar vein: Bully and Thirteen.

9. The Pledge and The Virgin Suicides. I couldn't decide which one to put on the list, so I added them both. The Pledge is a Sean Penn film starring Jack Nicholson as an ex-cop who becomes obsessed with solving his last case. It's not pleasant to watch, but is really good and downbeat. The Virgin Suicides is one of my favorite books, and the movie, by Lost in Translation's Sofia Coppola, is very good too. It's a lot easier to watch, and pleasant in a lot of ways, but ultimately somber.

10. Love Liza, which may take the cake on this list. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is masterful as a man totally consumed by grief and confusion over his wife's suicide. He can't bring himself to read her note to him, and to deal with the pain he starts huffing gasoline. Not pretty, not pleasant. It's almost nihilist it's so bleak.

Anyway, that's a dozen or so depressing movies if you're looking to go all "Humbug!" this time of year. They're not for you if you like formulaic Hollywood sappy sentimentalism. But that's not for everyone, so this is an alternative viewpoint. Enjoy!



Monday, December 13, 2004

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
Bill: "It must be nice having a man around the house, huh, Peggy?"
Peggy: "Actually, Hank has only been gone an hour and a half."
Bill: "I tell you, Peggy, I'd never leave you for an hour and a half."



Sunday, December 12, 2004

"King of the Hill" Quote of the Day
From the flood episode, two from Kahn:

Khan, trying to angle for prestige: "Chaos already ruling. This like when city of Luang Phrabang fall, and we snag sweet diplomatic license plates!"

Khan, lamenting Bill's rise to a leadership position: "Your hillbilly friend is drunk on power for once, instead of corn squeezin's."





Do You Have a License to Carve that Turkey?
I'm in favor of reasonable gun control, but I don't think I would extend it knives. Yet it looks like that's what they're doing in Britain. Fearful of a "knife culture," there are now calls for searches and tougher laws. Thank goodness for neutrality, or the British would be at the mercy of the Swiss Army.

UPDATE: Thanks for all the interesting comments to what started as a throw-away post. If you're really a knife enthusiast, or more to the point, if someone on your gift list is one, be sure to check out the Christmas Stocking Full of Knives!!



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    The views presented here are personal and in no way reflect the view of my employer. In addition, while legal issues are discussed here from time to time, what you read at BTQ is not legal advice. I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. If you need legal advice, then go see another lawyer.

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