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When in downtown Seattle, I often see this billboard:

Man, this is a complete drag. It’s tiresome to have to turn to the camera, give a thumbs-up, and intone “Thanks Key Bank …” every time The Squirrelly says a new word.

Although I do find it interesting that company have apparently abandoned the quaint, 20th century practice of sponsoring individual things like the Olympics or local t-ball teams and are now laying claim to entire classes of objects and events.

I imagine the competition amongst corporation to appropriate every single thing in the world is going to get fierce.

Three Many Dating Truisms

1. No woman, in the history of courtship, has ever uttered the phrase “he’s a really great guy” and not followed it with the word “but.”

2. Getting involved with a girl who has stuffed animals in the back window of her car is rarely a good idea.

3. Unless otherwise specified, the correct time to microwave something is three minutes.

Update: Some readers are asserting that the final one is not, technically speaking, a “dating” truism. And, okay: I’ll grudgingly cede the point.

In its place, though, here are some other dating truisms from the comments:

  • Alkelda: It’s a terrible lapse in judgement to kiss a guy who thinks making Donald Duck sound effects is cool.
  • theinsider: If a guy introduces you to a girl and says, “We were just good friends,” they weren’t. Watch out, they probably still aren’t.
  • Joy: Never date anyone who’s ‘getting his band together.’
  • Stephanie: Never date outside of your political party in an election year.
  • Erin: Don’t ever be the “other people” in “We’re seeing other people.”

Adventures With The Highly-Strung Cashier

As my items trundle down the conveyer belt at the local co-op, the cashier grabs a bag of cherries, sets them on the scale, and then reaches for the bananas. As he does, he glances at the scale’s display.

Highly-Strung Cashier: Whah?! That’s ridiculous!

Me: Huh?

HC: Oh, this thing is telling me to “mind the scale.” Like, who’s the cashier, here?! I know what I’m doing.

M: Ah.

HC: It’s ridiculous. Why is it only telling me to mind the scale, when there are so many other things that need minding?

M: I, um, don’t know.

HC: Next these things will be telling you how to do everything. It’ll say, like, “mind the … “, uh, like “get with the program.”

I decide to play along.

M: It’ll say “Don’t forget to pay your taxes.”

HC: Oh yeah, “pay your taxes” — so your money can go to wars instead of schools!

I decide to stop playing along.

He eventually finishes ringing up my items in irritated silence and announces my total. I swipe my card through the reader.

HC: Credit or debit?

Without waiting for my reply he starts to push a button.

M: Debit.


Movies: Batman Begins

My opinions of the last four Batman movies — Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin — were, respectively, “so-so,” “wretched,” “good, but only in comparison to the others,” and “it’s stuff like this that makes me wish the Neanderthals had clubbed homo sapient into extinction back on the savannah.” And after each and every one, even the ones I kinda liked, I walked out of the theater thinking the same question. Why, when scores of excellent Batman comic books have been written, does Hollywood feel the need to hire some screenwriter with zero comic book experience to come in and make up the entire mythos from scratch? And I’m not just talking about the big stuff, like “The Joker killed Bruce Wayne’s parents?” and “Catwoman gains superpowers after being licked by cats??!” but even the minutia, like making Batgirl Alfred’s niece. You could argue that things like Batgirl’s identity don’t really matter, but that’s my point: if they don’t matter, what’s the point of changing them?

What I really wanted was for someone who wrote Batman comic books (or read a few, at least) to take a crack at the script. Who woulda guessed that Christopher Nolan– the genius behind one of my all-time favorite movies, Memento — was that guy? And the co-writer, David S. Goyer, is not only an honest-to-goodness comic book writer (he pens Justice League of America), but has worked on such films as The Crow, Blade, and the forthcoming film The Flash — not to mention the sublime Dark City. Put ’em together and you get a Batman movie that (mostly) feels right.

Batman Begins at the beginning, even before the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents (which is not at the hands of The Joker, thank God — signaling that this new series is completely divorced from the earlier claptrap). In fact, we don’t even get to see the familiar cape and cowl until the midpoint of the film, as the story focuses on the events and training that shaped Bruce Wayne into the legendary crimefighter.

Right from the gate it’s apparent that Nolan’s approach to the material is radically different from Tim Burton’s, as he strives to make the narrative as realistic as possible. Burton created a fantastic, comic book universe for his Batman movies; Nolan grounds the hero in our own. In fact, my one gripe with Batman Begins stems from this fact. Nolan does such a good job of making the back-story believable that that Bruce Wayne’s transition from “angry guy who’s really good at martial arts” to “angry guy running around in a cape” is a bit jarring, taxing the audience’s suspension of disbelief to the limit.

But, in my opinion, two things make up for all of this movie’s other deficiencies: Alfred Pennyworth and Commissioner (sory, “Captain”) Gordon. As the mythos of Batman has evolved in the comic books it has become clear that these two men are more than just supporting characters, they are every bit as integral to the success of The Batman as Bruce Wayne himself. Batman Begins treats them as such. As far as I’m concerned, this alone shows that Nolan (and Goyer) understand the story of Batman better than any of the previous screenwriters did.

Batman Begins is not perfect, and there’s a few scenes and lines that ring false. But it’s a quantum leap better than the older ones, and, as superhero movies go, on par with the X-Man series and Spiderman II.

A waited a month and a half after Batman Begins’ release to see it, and then only because it was getting rave reviews. I assumed that no good Batman movie would ever be made. But when the sequel debuts — and assuming Nolan is still behind the helm — I may well be there on opening night.

PIC 20

One of the sponsors of the geek-a-thon I’m attending is, inexplicably, Gibson Guitars. While all the other vendors were handing out software and flash drives at their booths, Gibson gave out picks.

I dunno — this doesn’t seem like the target demographic for Gibson. If we were guitar players we would have had girlfriends in high school, instead seeking solace in our Commodore 64s.

Pushes My Button

Speaking of this, you know what I think they should do? I think they should make it so if you press an elevator button that’s already lit, it goes off. This would serve two purposes.

First, it would allow a rider to cancel a button pressed in error.

Second, it would thwart those A-personality types who enter the elevator and press the button for their floor even when it’s already lit. This would obviously be the greatest boon of the technology, because, as we all know, those people are totally fucking annoying.

My Baby Can Beat Up Your Baby

The Squirrelly is shaping up to be quite the bruiser. At seventeen months he stands a head taller than most toddlers his age and has already wearing the largest size in infant footware. Upon meeting him for the first time and observing the discrepancy between his physical and behavioral development, many people understandably assume that he is a retarded three year old.

There’s no way to know if this trend will continue. But, if it does, and he winds up a hulk compared to his elementary school classmates, it will be incumbant upon me to teach my son the fine art of not being a bully.

Alas, this may prove to be a problem, as I have no expertise in this area. Which isn’t to say that I was bully in school — far from it. It’s just that bullying was never viable career path for a child of my stature, so I never had to grapple with any ethical quandries when opting not to pursue it. Indeed, any sentences describing my childhood years that contained the verb “bullied” was infinitely more likely to feature my name as the direct object rather than the subject.

So I’m not really sure how to go about imparting the whole “with great power comes great responsibility” message, and I’m often afraid that I am inadvertently teaching him the wrong thing. Take the other day in music class, for instance. All the parents were sitting in a circle with their toddlers on their laps, and the instructor was clapping her hands in assorted rhythms. Most of the other children were clapping along, but The Squirrelly was just looking at the other kids with curiosity. So I gently took hold of his wrists and brought his hands together repeatedly in time with the beat.

After about a minute of doing this, I glanced down and noticed that The Squirrelly wasn’t exactly clapping; while his left hand was flat, he had the fingers of his right hand curled into a ball.

So there he was, looking at each of the smaller children in turn and ominously punching the fist of one hand into the palm of the other.

Bush Appoints Bolton To UN

In a move that critics decried as "a slap in the face to a venerable institution," President George Bush today bypassed Congress and appointed Michael Bolton as ambassador to the UN. "As the winner of two Grammies and six American Music Awards, and as an artist who has sold over 52 million albums and singles worldwide, Michael Bolton is unique qualified to represent America's interests in the United Nations" Bush said during a public appearance with the aging "easy listening" maven. "He'll be more than just a reformer, he will also serve as the UN's 'Soul Provider'."

Wasting no time, Bolton spent his first day on the job today, where he addressed weakening ties between the US and Europe by singing "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?," gave tribute to a former USSR territory with "Georgia On My Mind," and inexplicably interupted a spirited debate on debt relief with a soulful rendition of "Can I Touch You ... There?"*

Bolton's nomination had been stalled for months, as Democrats threatened filibuster unless the White House blocked release of the upcoming "Best of the Bolton" album. Upon hearing the news, Senate Minority Leader Henry Reid blasted Bush's use of a recess appointment as "an outragous abuse of power" and derided Bolton as "a no-talent assclown."

Rings False

I’m spending the week at OSCON, a conference so geeky that they won’t even let you in the door unless you have in your possession a Linux boot disk, the root password, a 20-sided die, or proof of virginity.

I whiled away the morning in a three-hour presentation given by perl