Monthly Archives: October 2007

Untimely Reviews – X-men 3

Oh, the damage that video games have done to cinema. Every since I satiated my bloodlust with cultural tour de force "Halo 3", I have forsaken all other media. But too much of a good thing is somehow bad, in theory, so I took a break from saving the galaxy to watching the X-men save the world in "X-men 3: Last Stand"

"X-men 3" seemed exciting almost a year and a half ago, when it was released in theaters. For some reason, I never made it out to see it, and my excitement has since waned. There are no crowds, no long lines, and no fanboy talk before watching an untimely movie. Maybe this is how movie critics feel at their special screenings: "ho-hum, there's work to be done, wait, which movie is this again?"

I recommend Roger Ebert's review of the first "X-men" movie (watchable on-line). He wondered why the movie wasn't all about a character named "Storm". She can control the weather, and is in Ebert's view, the most powerful and interesting of the "X-men". The movies instead centers on a character named "Wolverine", who has metal forks in his hands and looks like he smells bad. Not that Wolverine isn't interesting, but when other characters can fly, levitate objects, and shoot lasers out of their eyes, he seems a bit boring. Regardless, Wolverine is one of the most popular comic book characters of all time. He just isn't very exciting in movies.

The rest of the movie is about the really powerful mutants. The movie sets forth a scale of mutant powers, with class 1 being the weakest and class 5 the strongest. It is like the Fujita scale for mutations. Most of the mutants in the movie are only class 1 and 2 and dress accordingly: boring blacks, browns, and greys. Near the end the movie, there is a delightful scene where one of the younger and presumably weaker X-men tricks a powerful villain into defeating himself. This type of scene is gold for me. I love it when superheros dig deep and defeat the forces of evil with their cunning and courage. This movie could have used more moments like that.

I will give props to "X-men 3" for its complicated theme of tolerance and understanding. The fictional President makes a powerful argument that mutants cannot go unchecked, for  one powerful mutant could subvert democracy. Hence the conflict between mutant rights and the right to vote. "X-men 3' thus breaks through the simple premise of using mutants as a metaphor for discrimination and gives us a more cerebral experience than "X-men" and "X2: X-men United".

So I actually recommend "X-men 3". Wolverine may not be as interesting as to play Master Chief, but he beats the pants off of "Greatest American Hero". As an extra bonus, "X-men 3" turns Frazier into a blue man-ape. If anything, you can discuss with your friends what you would want your mutant power to be or whether it is worth losing your power to fornicate.

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Time Machine – Stress Relief

Some memories are just too good to be left in the past. Back in the mid 1990s I was in college studying to be a chemist or biochemist or something like that. I kept changing majors, but that is beside the point. To ease the pressure of studentdom, My girlfriend gave me a "stress" ball. It was a squishy ball that supposedly relieves stress through abuse. While studying for organic chemistry, I was putting that stress ball into action, squeezing and squishing it for hours. Then it literally exploded. My desk, chemistry book, notes, keyboard, and all were evenly coated with soybeans and rubbery bits. Not only was the stress ball faulty, it was also eco-friendly. How forward thinking. Ironically, I found the whole explosion and cleanup to be quite cathartic

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Rants – Not quite an attractive $500 PC one might hope for . . .

Praise the DIYers. Long ago, I gave up on hardware modifications to my PC. Way back in the late 1990s I added two cheap Voodoo II cards to my Pentium II computer. These cards are legendary to 3D gamers for their inexpensive but high performance in SLI mode. They were also friggin` huge and hot enough to cook meats. My computer ran so hot, I had to leave the case open. This created problems with my fuzzy cat. The solution was an additional fan with vents created by sawing the front of the case with a kitchen knife. Many less disfiguring mods followed. Eventually the whole system was an unreedemable mess and I gave it too my Dad. He quickly replaced it.

Though I will never again spend the time and money to retrofit or build a computer, I admire those that do. This home made all-in-one computer fullfills a big need in my mind: cheap computers that can also play games. Now if only it`s looks were as attractive as it`s specs. (I suppose if you didn't want exposed parts hanging off the back of your monitor, you could sell out and just buy something svelter.)

Huzaa to George Ou!

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Personal Stories – Improving Myself

Every Tuesday night for the past 6 weeks, I have spent 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours in a Dale Carnegie Course. There are 6 more weeks to go, and I am looking forward to each new night.

Last June, I convinced my firm to pay for the course. Actually, they give every associate a marketing budget, so I am really paying for it myself with my own budget. But it was big of the firm to approve the expenditure. My stated goal: to improve communication and leadership skills.

When I was in law school, I read Dale Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Since then, I have strived to remember peoples' names, be positive, and get people talking about themselves. Usually, however, I forget peoples' names as soon as I hear them, take delight in coming up with witty complaints, and enjoy talking about myself. Taking the course is a real eye opener in how bad my good behavior can be.

As an example, being positive is easier done than shown.  I am usually smiling, enthusiastic, and optimistic about my ability to help clients with their legal problems. A few weeks ago, I met with a client and discussed a copyright matter. The more we talked, the more confident I felt about the case. My demeanor told a different story. I had such reverence for the client that I wasn't smiling or joking as usual. Instead I was straight faced, monotone, and likely displayed negativity. The client must have felt terrible about the case, the opposite of what I wanted them to feel. Dale Carnegie says that our actions speak louder than our words. Too bad that client meeting proceeded that class.

As another example, I pride myself on my ability to speak in public. I do not boast to speaking well, just speaking. But for some reason I learned never to volunteer. (Probably because of what I saw in all of the ersatz study government committees I observed in my many years of school). Well, in the Dale Carnegie class, I am learning the benefits of just jumping up and speaking to the group. Tonight, I even earned a reward for it, a coveted "break-out achievement" pen. What a proud moment, one that I had likely denied myself by choosing to put myself out there only when I had to.

There are tons of Dale Carnegie lessons best learned by actually taking the course: how to stop worrying, improving memory, breaking the ice at that first meeting, and the very important skill of remembering names. As an added benefit, I get to meet a ton of great new people. Somewhat isolated by parenthood, any additional human contact is a bonus in itself. As a final note, the book is somewhat outdated and the live instructors provide a very fresh and modern perspective to Dale's teachings.


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