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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Let's Go To The Movies!

Previously on IMX:
title="06/2/05">My family
I don't get to see many movies. The genres I am limited to are sci-fi/superhero blockbuster and Pixar animation. There are two major Israeli theater chains: Rav Chen and G.G. Gil. The former is good; the latter is so bad (with horrendous audio and tiny screens) that I much prefer to watch on my computer. At home, I get to see movies when someone from the family is kind enough to buy me a DVD (as my grandparents, who are visiting now, got me 2001: A Space Odyssey). If I see there is no chance in the Real World I am ever going to see a movie fairly, and I haven't had all the enthusiasm for seeing it sucked out of me, I download it illegally off the internet. This is how I get to see movies when I do (and I don't often).

I loved the first two X-Men movies. I got to see them because they are superhero movies- otherwise I never would have. I knew that the third, X-Men: The Last Stand, had a different director and different writers. I saw the trailers and thought they looked ridiculous. I learned that the premise of the movie was a mish-mash of various completely unrelated ideas from the comics. And I heard that it was fun to watch. I wasn't all that interested; I'd see it, someday, downloaded off the internet, if I hadn't forgotten about it by then.

Dena wanted to go see X-Men: The Last Stand. I had heard that it was fun to watch. It's showing at Rav Chen. I agreed to go with her. She wanted to go on Tuesday, which is to say tomorrow. I figured I was always free, so it was as good a day as any. On Sunday, the two of us rewatched X-Men, and today we watched X2. When you see movies as rarely as I do, seeing a movie -any movie- becomes an event worthy of such build-up. The two films were, as is the case with most really good works, better than I had remembered. (You only remember the bigger picture.) I was genuinely excited to be going.

Rav Chen is a good theater. It is also very inaccessible to us. It is in Jerusalem, which means we would need to take a bus to Jerusalem which takes an hour, give or take a little. (There is no one who might drive us.) Once in Jerusalem, it takes another half hour to get (by a second bus) to the theater, give or take a little. Dena gets out of her school (as on all days) pretty late. We would have just an hour and a half from leaving the house to the time the movie starts.

This is when my mother intervened.

Did you have your heart set on seeing it tomorrow?
Dena, you may not get out of school earlier- What am I supposed to write on the note, "Let her out to see X-Men"?
But it's such nonsense!
It's not the note that's the problem!
It's all such nonsense!
You could watch it another day!
Would you die if you didn't see this movie?
It's impossible to get there in time!
You're going to take my money to watch this?
And what are you doing for supper? I'm not paying for-
If your spoiled brat of a brother didn't need to-
If your spoiled brat of a brother-
There's no way you can get there in time. No way.
Thirty seconds late? That's not worst case scenario, that's best case-
More like a half hour late, you mean-
What are you talking about? It's a thriller- you won't keep watching if you miss-
I am not going to pay for you to go to this movie twice just because-
What are you talking about-
That's funny- you'd watch the movie like that?-
And why am I supposed to pay for this nonsense?-
-pay for this nonsense-
-this nonsense-
It's all such nonsense!
I am not trying to stop you from going- I'm just thinking of all scenarios so that you won't be disappointed-
No, you may not see a later showing! No way.
And do you know which bus you're supposed to be taking??
And do you know which bus stop to take?
No you don't, you don't know which bus stop to take-
And how do you know you'll get there in time-
And what do you think you're going to be doing for supper
-spoiled brat of a brother-
I don't have a car-

Why should I have to fight my mother to get to see a movie? It's just a movie- is that so much to ask for? And it's not really worth it...

I keep telling myself that nothing has changed. We are still set to go tomorrow, my mother is still (however reluctantly) going to pay for it (I have no money to spare of my own.), it should still be a fun movie. But everything has changed. It's turned from a fun event into a guilt-ridden nightmare. I can't just enjoy the movie now- I have to spend the entire time watching thinking of how to spin the fact that it's not the greatest movie ever made so that I can pretend it was worth the fight. Because when you're not that enthusiastic to begin with, and you have to fight to get there, it's never worth it.

I don't get to see many movies.



It's 12, and Dena is already home. Looks like all will be well.

I hope you enjoyed the movie. ^_^

Well, since you ask:

It was excellent. Not much like the first two at all, but excellent in its own way.

The first two were provocative sci-fi. They were sophisticated and nuanced. They had very tight plotting. They had one foot in reality.

X-Men: The Last Stand is none of these things. Its metaphors are watered-down recitations of the more powerful ideas in the comics, thrown in to keep you entertained and then quickly pulled away as soon as they've registered so they shouldn't bore anyone. Its morality is muddled, with a villain easier to agree with than the heroes and an ending which doesn't really resolve any issues. It is packed with one-liners and fun action. The plot isn't terribly coherent, is full of holes, uses a "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" mentality to decide what goes in, and feels completely unresolved at the end. And all this is done in an over-the-top style with one foot in the 60's comics.

And I loved it. It never fails to be spectacularly entertaining. When it was tense, I was squirming in my seat. During action scenes, you couldn't have peeled my eyes off the screen with claws. The climax was breathtaking. Taken as an action movie, WOW!

If I were more of an X-Men (comic) fan, I'd probably be furious at how much they've messed up the series by the end. But I'm not, so I'm not. After the credits was a cliffhanger of sorts for the next movie. I look forward to it.

Taken as an event, this was a good day. First the two of us went with our grandparents to the restaurant (and I use the term loosely) Village Green. The food was good, but very bland, and I'll know better next time. Then we rushed to the theater. I don't know what Dena thinks of the movie, because she refuses to say. I hate it when people do that!

Unfortunately, we didn't have enough money. Dena had three sheqels too few to get us back to Beit Shemesh. So our grandparents drove us back home, in what was an overly long trip because of one lousy wrong turn and the "no U-turn" signs. I'm glad I'm not a driver.


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Friday, May 26, 2006

God Bless Google

In the past few days, I noticed something very odd. See, I use StatCounter to watch the people who come onto my blog. On Monday the statistics suddenly cut off. No one, I saw, had been to my blog since updating the template to allow for 74s with comments. This was especially bewildering when I started getting notifications of comments- title="The Long Friday">how could there be comments if no one had visited? I just figured it out now. Yep, it's every computer user's favorite scenario- at 2:30 in the morning, I realized that the entire second half of my blog's code was missing. The sidebars were gone. Blogger, understandably, has no recovery feature when it comes to templates. And it took me many hours to get that just right, so you'd better believe I was in full-on panic mode. (The reason I'd lost the statistics is that the statistics-collecting script was at the very end of the page.)

I hurriedly wrote up a "For Now", just in case anyone popped up in the 12 hours or so it might take to completely rewrite the second half of my template. Now, I've been using a program called Google Desktop for a while now. Its main feature is giving instantaneous search of everything on your hard drive, which I've found is much more convenient than using the start menu. It also has all sorts of other features I now can't do without, but I digress. Anyway, it searches everything- files, e-mails, shortcuts, and all the web pages you've been to. In order to do this, it archives everything. The second thing I did on discovering the damage to my blog was search Google Desktop for "Edit Template". To my astonishment and extreme gratitude (which you can probably guess based on the way I sound like a walking advertisement for Google right now), it had saved every version of the template, going back to October. And what really took me aback was that it didn't just save the format of the page, but saved the important part- the part written into the form. I wouldn't have expected the archive to be so thorough.

But it is, and the blog is saved, and I am saved, and I am filled with gratitude to the good programmers at Google. Now all we need is an operating system from them, and the world will be a happier place.



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Wednesday, May 24, 2006


The continuation refuses to present itself- What am I to do?



Patience is a virtue; art should not be forced.

Yeah, I guess you're right. Too bad I have no patience.


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Sunday, May 07, 2006


Ariel was very busy building his new house.

On Sunday, he drew the blueprints.
On Monday, he set the foundation.
On Tuesday, he laid the bricks.
On Wednesday, he added doors and a roof.
On Thursday, he painted the walls.
On Friday, he installed furniture.

And he was tired. But the house did not yet exist for its own sake. He needed to live in it for a day. He wanted to sit back in his living room, sip some lemonade, and admire his work.

On Saturday, he was about to do just that when a man wearing black appeared.

"A lawbreaker!", cried he, "O, how it pains me to see such disregard for my master's wishes!"
Ariel did not understand.
"I serve the owner of this land.", the strange man explained. "Do you see that sign?" (and he pointed to a small sign near their feet which Ariel had never seen before.)

And this is what the sign said:
Thou shalt not enter thy house
nor sip lemonade on the seventh day.

It was clear enough. There were no loopholes to be found, no exceptions to be made. But Ariel did not understand. "Why?", asked he.
"Once upon a time, you built a house. Though that building no longer stands, it must still be taken into account." Ariel did not understand.
"When you built that house, you entered it. This was a necessary part of the building process, yes?" Ariel supposed so.
"And when you built that house, it so happened to be a hot day. You refreshed yourself with a glass of lemonade, did you not?" Ariel supposed so.
"Well, there you have it, then."

Ariel did not understand. It did not seem like he had much of anything anymore. His remaining books were inside. His comfortable furniture was inside. His achievements were inside. But there was no use arguing- the master of the land had spoken. What was he to do today?, he inquired.
The man in black smiled reassuringly. "The master of this land allows us many pleasures on the seventh day. If you would like, I will stay here and permit you to talk to me." Ariel could accept this no longer. "Why in the name of Nonazangian nonoccurence would I want to talk to you?", he yelled. "I want my books! I want my rooms! I want my furniture! I want my glass of lemonade!"

The man looked down at the unenlightened soul before him with sympathy. He opened his mouth to helpfully suggest scrubbing the master's feet, but Ariel was already walking away uffishly.

Ariel walked on. He passed rocks. And then he passed more rocks. Each rock was grayer than the next. Finally, he passed some rocks. There was nothing to see, nothing to do.

He walked all the way to the edge of the land, where the rock gave way to sea. (He dared not go further, for he could not swim.) Many men were standing by the edge, all wearing black. They were yelling at a man in a nearby boat.
A coalition for the public's right to rest and relaxation emerged Wednesday, as MKs from across the political spectrum announced their intention to pass a bill making Shabbat a legal day of leisure. The legislative initiative presented to the Knesset, however, lacks the support of religious parties.

The bill, called the Culture and Recreation Day Law, would crack down on commercial activity on Shabbat while permitting more cultural and recreational activities and a limited schedule of public transportation The bill was proposed by MKs Natan Sharansky (Likud), Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), Michael Eitan (Likud), Michael Melchior (Labor), Arye Eldad (NU-NRP), and Dov Kheinin (Hadash).

"More and more people are forced to work seven days a week, 365 days a year," said Sharansky. "We want to strike a unifying compromise between secular and religious that would allow Shabbat to retain its special character as a day of rest. At the same time, we want to allow the non-religious limited access to transportation and places of entertainment."

A Shas spokesman said his party was likely to oppose the initiative, as it would encourage more desecration of Shabbat.

United Torah Judaism MK Meir Porush also attacked the initiative. "Shabbat is a holy day with obligations and commandments," he said, "not just a day with cultural, socioeconomic and national-historical meaning... Shabbat is God's everlasting covenant with the Jewish people. The bill distorts both the content and the soul of the Jewish day of rest."
It was a houseboat which he had built with his own two hands, and he was living in it. He was sitting back comfortably, reading a book and sipping lemonade. Now this, Ariel thought, was how a Saturday ought to be spent. The boater's girlfriend walked into view; he had taken her along to show off the boat which had been so frustrating to build. Why were these people shouting?, Ariel wondered. He is not in our territory, and he understands what homes are made for. Should we not let him be? Ariel headed back to the direction of his house.

Now, it was still not even noon, and Ariel was beginning to worry that he'd be condemned to walk through rocks for the rest of the day. But then he saw an old man sitting outside his house making a pile of rocks. The man had a long, white beard, and when I say "long" I mean that it was twice as long as his height. Ariel was curious. "There is a secret to passing the time.", the old man whispered.
On Shabbat, I now do jigsaw puzzles. They keep me busy.
"I will share it with you, and perhaps you will bring it to good use. See, you take a rock like so-", and as he said this he picked up a rock as gray as any other, "and then (and this is the crucial part) you put it in a pile while focusing your entire mind on its shape. It's the strangest thing, but after just a few rocks, you will get so involved in this activity that it will sustain you for the rest of the day!"

Ariel walked back to his house and started making a pile of rocks. It wasn't very entertaining, but it kept him so busy that the end of the day actually came. By this time he had a very large pile. He looked at his work, expecting to be proud of his accomplishment. Curiously, he wasn't. He felt... empty.




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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Typical Story

Last night my father told me I'd be going to shul this morning. It's a special davening, he said. How is it special, I asked. It's a special davening, he said, there's hallel. But how is it special, I asked. It's a special davening for Yom Ha'atzmaut, he said, there's hallel. But how is it special, I asked. There are some tehillim we say, he said. It's a special davening, he said. It's at 8:15, he said. The special breakfast is at 9:15, my mother said. We'll wake you up at 8.

This morning at 8:15, my mother woke me up. She said my father had woken me up fifteen minutes earlier; I didn't remember that. I got up. My parents left. I got dressed. I drank some Nestea. I started walking to shul.

It's been really hot out lately. It's only going to get worse, you know. I kept my head down as I walked so the light wouldn't hurt my eyes. I got to shul and went upstairs. I saw people coming in carrying their tefillin. I'd forgotten my tefillin. I started to walk home. I wasn't going to come back. It was really hot out. When I got home, I read a comic book 'til 9:15 then headed back.

The room was filled with tables, but no one was there yet- they were still davening. I sat down in a corner. People started coming in. When my father got there, I knew, he'd be angry. I waited for my father to show up. He came in, and started laying on the guilt. The breakfast is not the ikar, he said. I'll give you my tefillin and you can go upstairs and daven, he said. No, I said. (I had no excuse, but then he never had any good reason for me to come to begin with.) Then you can go home, he said. Breakfast is at home, he said. I stayed.

Everyone sat down. We found a table. I looked at the food. I went home.



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Hollow Depth.

I was wondering this morning what an RPG would be like if every non-player character had a story, a personality, etc. If you could stop and just observe, seeing a fictional way of life as vivid as any in reality. If it felt like these characters were living their own lives, whether or not you know anything about it. Very few people would actually listen to all their stories; very few people would care to. I wouldn't. But it would add so much depth to the experience, don't you think?

There was a kitten in our back yard yesterday. We didn't know how it had gotten there, but there it was, crying. It seemed healthy enough; we gave it food and drink. I didn't pay much attention to it. I don't know anything about it- I don't even know if it was male or female. I don't know what went wrong. This afternoon, it died.

I don't know anything about Gary Pollevoy- I don't even remember her face. My mother just got a call- She died.




I don't think people would like that kind of depth in an RPG. People like to feel that they are important, that the world revolves around them. They forget that there are billions of people surrounding them, and they live for themselves.

We could do with more caring, with more interest in the rest of the world - but it isn't really expected of us. We're here to live our own lives, not anyone else's.

Sometimes we try to care. We pay attention to everyone and momentarily forget about ourselves. But we cannot take much of that. It is in our nature to ignore things which have no interest or relevance to ourselves.

And thus we continue to lead our selfish lives. It's who we are.


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