Thursday, May 31, 2007

Random Access Culture

Alternate Title:
Schoolhouse Rock [Slash] The World as We Know It

About eight months ago, I was hanging out with some of my cousin the revolutionary's friends when the conversation turned to Schoolhouse Rock.

"Have you watched them?" Codename Judy asked a friend. "They're musicals about things like conjunctions, or how a bill becomes a law. They're really funny. You should take a look."

I realized that Codename Judy was talking about YouTube.

Now, my cousin graduated this month, three years after I graduated. In demographic terms, that makes us both upstanding members of Generation Y, but, in college terms, that puts my cousin and his friends about a generation away from me. Which is to say, MCTR spent the majority of his college years in a post-YouTube world, and I spent the majority of mine in a pre-YouTube world.

A sociological rule of thumb is that technology invented before you were a certain age is commonplace and to be taken for granted, technology invented in your adult life is kind of cool and something you may be able to make a living at, and technology invented later in your life is foreign, alien, not to be trusted and certainly not worth understanding.

I had one of my post-take-it-for-granted moments during this conversation.

Schoolhouse Rock is plausibly timeless in that it's catchy or educational no matter when you watch it, but ultimately it's a very iconic relic of the 1970s.

Up until now that meant that you had to either live through the '70s or go out of your way to watch Schoolhouse Rock. Now, you can watch it any time. Go ahead. It's right here.

Of course, it's not just Schoolhouse Rock. For the first time in history, we can experience the detritus (or at least the recorded television detritus) of any previous culture at any time. Which would mean I just went a long way to demonstrate a very simple point if it weren't for this fact's odd and far-reaching implications.

Like We Even Needed Another Victory For Postmodernism

I took a U.S. television history course at my high-pedigree school and we had a section on post-modernism.

For those of you who haven't been to college (or who have been to college but somehow avoided the idea of post-modernism, presumably by taking a lot of bio classes), postmodernism is the idea that in the present day, there is somehow so much information that we can't reliably run down a definition of anything. Or that there's so much change in the modern day that in a way you can't expect anything to go unchanged. Or it's a breakdown between the signifier and the signified. Or it's something else.

There's a million definitions of postmodernism (which is one of the most post-modern things about it, as my professor was fond of saying without irony). In television history, it's significant because no two people ever have the same experience with television, so there's no common understanding of what it is, or what it means, or its history.

Obviously, YouTube has some important implications here beyond the citizen journalism stuff you can go explore somewhere else, because for the first time we can access these obscure or outdated things whenever we want.

It's a direction television has been moving towards for awhile (rise of DVRs, etc.) I don't want to go in to it too much because there is, by definition, no end to how far you can take the idea of an increasingly postmodern world.

Culture as a Tap and Not a Resevoir

If everyone can access different aspects of culture at any time, maybe we need to think about culture differently, as more of a utility and less as a resource.

Take jokes. In the past, if someone (a comedian, say) made a reference to something, you either got it or you didn't. Humor was time and culture sensitive.

It still is, but now, if we hear a reference we don't understand, we can just google it. We might not get a joke quick enough to laugh, but we may get it the next time.

Take, for example, John McCain's comment (in a blogger conference call, significantly) that his Republican primary opponent Mitch Romney’s immigration plan might be to “get out his small-varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his yard."

I was watching Stephanopoulos, and a panelist pointed out that the brilliance of that comment was that in referenced no less than two Romney campaign flaps in addition to his the actual point about immigration, leading everyone who talks about the comment to also explain those references in full and so spend a lot more time talking about Romney's problems than McCain had to.

Remember how I was talking last week about how eidetic memory is the ultimate modern superpower? Maybe we don't really need it.

In the imminent future when all Americans can google whatever they want from their personal cell phones, what's the point of retaining information at all? Information changes all the time. What the best schools have already learned is that they need to teach understanding, techniques for learning, and a way to evaluate the relative value information much more than they need to convey the information itself.

It's one difference I also notice between my generation and older ones. We seem to have an almost instinctual understanding of the kind of information on the internet.

It isn't instinct, of course, it's experience - we search casually all the time - but I'm so conditioned to it that it's strange to watch my parents look for information without the internet. It's like another world - a world before google. [via Absurd Notions]

Brangelina: Another Drawback to Random Access

Another weird thing is that there's also a leak factor here. Random access means that bullshit information is written right next to good information, and that characteristic holds true just as well for culture as it does for computers.

Example: around when Teti lambasted me for not knowing offhand the definition of DRM, I just some stupid idea that I ought to be reading the big blogs. Anyway, as a New Yorker, I decided one of the significant ones was Gawker.

Anyway, after a few months, I just had to give Gawker up. I had been trying to figure out why I knew more celebrity gossip than I had at any previous time in my life, and I realized as I clicked back through whatever the hell was going on with Lindsay Lohan at the time that Gawker was probably why.

I was never trying to seek out information on celebrity marriages. I was casually following some series of references and it just happened to me. I still feel like I can't get away from it - I know that Brad is having trouble with Angelina. It's just that this useless, waste of time information is sandwiched next to the good information, like the copy of The Economist next to US Weekly at a newsstand.

I Am Next to You

Okay, I'm coming up on my last point, and it involves a little geography lesson.

Manhattan is an island. Horizontal space is limited. This means that, where in a city like San Antonio, we would build out in to ever-expanding borders, in New York everyone built up.

As a result, New York has always had a lot of people living in a geographically small space that was easy to get around. This led to a thriving regional specialty in all things niche.

Let's say that one in 1,000 people is interested in anime in 1995. In San Antonio (pop. 1,000,000), that's 1,000 people spread all over the city. In New York (pop. 8,000,000), there's not only 7,000 more people interested in anime, they are in a much smaller geographical area, and it's much easier for them to get to an anime store.

So when I came to New York for one of the first times to visit my friend Josh, he introduced me to a bunch of anime that it turned out was really interesting, and which I never would have heard about if it wasn't for my trip to the city.

By concentrating a large market on an island, New York allowed specialty vendors to thrive - which helped increase interest, which spurred the sellers, etc.

Result: New York has consistently been one of the few places in the world where you can pretty much buy anything at any price. And, more than that, it concentrated a community of like-minded people in to a space where they had greater access to each other.

The point is that the internet has lowered our barriers to entry to particular cultures or interests to just time and search capabilities. The niche thrives on the internet. We can find support for a particular cause, like-minded people or markets for niche products almost without any effort.

Random Access ribbles
Whenever I get to the end of one of my Big, Long Essays That Take Forever to Write I feel like I've taken a lot of trouble to explain something very simple.

There would be no way to give this kind of an explanation without the internet - just look at the number of links in this post alone. I'd still be thinking about these things, but the reason I like this medium so much is that I don't have to explain all my references, ideas and examples completely because I can just link to the appropriate information.

In a way (and once again, this is by no means a new idea) this means that we each have access to an entirely new medium to express ourselves. But it also means that there is no end to the depths of the trivial we can explore (for example, after this I fully intend to write about either Manu Ginobili, the weather or my cat.)

It would be one thing if I were spurring the country to a new national debate, but I suspect no one reads these things, but Johnny took his blog, arguably just a series of rants on National Ice-cream Day, and turned it in to a job at The Daily Show, so maybe there's hope for me yet.

Maybe I should send Gawker a resume...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I've been reading the TV Tropes Wiki. I don't know what to say except that it is so obviously my sort of thing. Once I feel satiated, I might try to find a place there for some of my clearer media-obsessed ideas.

Hippo Talk

Very interesting (and detailed!) discussion of this post about long-distance relationships over at hipporetriever, the blog of one of my friends from college.

Hippo has a great blog and has actually linked to me in the past. Hippo, thanks for trippling my traffic to near twenty-two hits in a single day. Wow!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

ribble's New Obsession

I have a new obsession: the New York Times crossword puzzle.

I've been a diligent Times reader since I was old enough to read. For years, I would ignore the puzzle because I knew my mom did it and she's always been smarter than me.

There's nothing that changes one's life like finishing a movie. Once I finished Proud Mary, I immediately went to sleep for a week, and then I started getting bored.

Now, I've seen Wordplay, but I am not one of those who ran out and bought a book of puzzles right after. Those guys made it look easy, and that just made me think crosswords looked awfully hard.

But we'd done a movie-related puzzle on set at Mary and just destroyed it, and I'm a deliberate but veteran Sudoku player, so when I blundered into the Monday crossword in the arts section I took a look. Like that first, free hit from your local dealer, I immediately got hooked.

Times crosswords get harder as the week go on, and I was very impressed with my ability to consistently make it through the Monday and Tuesday puzzles (not bad, right? Maybe Mom isn't that smart after all!) By Wednesday, of course, I'm generally worthless, and Fridays - forget about it.

I am, then a crossword amateur, and not even a very good amateur. For one thing, it takes me at least two 45-minute train rides and one long lunch to finish a Monday or Tuesday puzzle, and for another, I rarely give up.

Upshot: there is now a stack of half-solved crossword puzzles in my apartment. Also: I no longer follow the news except on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

For awhile, the punchline of this post was going to be that after discovering my new obsession, I went out and bought a book of Monday puzzles, only to find that those were (counter-intuitively) much harder than the Monday puzzles in the paper. Luckily, my mom provided me with a much better ending.

Yes, it turns out my mom had never done the daily Times crossword at all - all this time, she has been doing the Acrostic in the Sunday New York Times Magazine.

For those unfamiliar with the Acrostic, the player is given various clues and puts the letters of their answers in to a given order to form a quotation. Or at least supposedly, because I've tried a few and it's kicked my ass every single time. So, friends and family, rest assured - my mother is still smarter than I am.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan is the Spurs' superstar.

Duncan was a #1 draft pick in 1997, and without him, this would have been a much different team. For years (years!) the Spurs, a great team with a great center and superstar in David "The Admiral" Robinson, had gotten to the playoffs only to get knocked out in the first or second round. Jeez, that was awful.

96-97, we'd had a terrible season, the worst in memory. Everybody had been injured. Robinson was still a strong big man, but his career was starting to wind down, he'd been playing 48 minutes a game for most of his adult life, and you just had to feel sorry for the guy for working so hard for us for so long and having nothing to show for it come the end of April.

I've seen the footage of the team rep. when the Spurs card got pulled for the first pick of the '97 draft. If there's a picture of joy in the dictionary, it's that moment.

Duncan was, and has been, everything the Spurs needed. Big, strong, unselfish with the ball and nearly unbeatable in the low post, Duncan is the quietest superstar in the league.

Duncan will get the ball and wait. Facing the rim or away, it takes him about three seconds to feel out his defender before he makes his move, either getting to the rim, shooting in a jump shot in off the glass (his favorite), or drawing a double team and passing the ball out to a perimeter shooter for an easy shot (my favorite).

There's a reason that Parker has improved so much, that Ginobili so often finds his way through a defense, that Horry, Bowen or any of a series of 3-point specialists have found their own opportunties with the Spurs franchise - Duncan is such a wonderful threat that he easily creates opportunities for his teammates. He has no qualms about passing the ball instead of netting two points of his own.

Quiet, humble and a hard worker, he also sets the tone for his team. Defense as good as the Spurs' and the discipline to rotate to the open man or to make the extra pass takes a lot of hard work. Sticking to a system, never panicking, winning in 48 minutes - the defining characteristics of the Spurs - are there because Duncan has led by example in accepting them.

Robinson helped guide Duncan in his first few years in the league. It's easy to see his influence, even with the bad stuff - Duncan looks flabergasted whenever he's called for a foul, something Robinson had started doing in his last years in the league as he started to realize he had a limited number of games left.

In return, Duncan took on parts of the role that by that time was really hurting Robinson. Together, as the "Twin Towers," they proved unstoppable. When Robinson and many other Spurs veterans retired in 2003, they had captured not one but two long-awaited championships.

Robinson, now 42, spends a lot of his time with his family and watches every home game. Whenever the camera cuts to him in the stands, he is always smiling. The Robinson era has ended, but all of the great Spurs from my childhood can watch the Duncan era they helped create as it continues to transform the game.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

I Have Always Been Sir

I was watching Scrubs the other week - I think it was the episode "My Big Brother" - and it started with that obiquitous t.v. moment where two guys are out, a young clerk calls them "Sir" and they get all freaked out about getting older.

I've seen this device in sitcoms forever (I specifically recall seeing it in an episode of Dave's World, if you can believe that). Here's the problem: I am not an old man, and I have been "sir" as long as I can remember.

I'm not "sir" everywhere. I'm "honey" or "sweetie" in Mexican restaurants (the good ones, anyway). In New York, I was refreshed slash disoriented to hear people call me "boss." In a Walsh bar everyone is "chet," and here I'll get an occasional "buddy." My old roommate in Wales always called me "mate," which I was so impressed with as a non-judgemental, semi-respectful, semi-casual way to refer to another man with whom one has an non-hostile but undefined relationship that I now call almost everyone "mate."

Most of the time, and as far back as maybe 13, people in stores or restaurants have called me "sir." It's been going on so long that I never realized T.V. believed I needed to freak out about it.

Have I been 38 for my entire life? Is it some crazy race thing? What the hell is going on?

Friday, May 25, 2007

San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker

I've always identified with Tony Parker. This was back before he was engaged to Eva Longoria, before he was a championship point guard, before he was a superstar, way back when he first joined the Spurs.

Parker is just a little younger than I am, a little taller than I am, and, most importantly, he was just a strongly international person coming to America, and that made him very easy for me to relate to at the time.

Belgian but raised in France by his African-American father and Dutch mother, Parker was coming to play in the States for the first time after playing a few years in France. This was in 2001, when I was coming back after living abroad for the first time (at my odd and obscure international school in Wales) and experiencing that coming to America culture shock over again.

It has been incredible to watch Parker grow. Young but incredibly quick, smart and talented, with an amazing ability to get in to the lane and find the open man, he just kept getting better as the years passed.

I remember distinctly when Parker emerged as a potential superstar one playoff round against a mediocre team. He just kept driving and getting in to the lane, driving and getting in to the lane, and the other team had no answer for him. I think he did that for four straight games. That was when the league realized that if they didn't have an answer for Parker, they didn't have an answer for the Spurs.

Parker has quickly emerged as one of the fastest players in the league, maybe second only to Suns star Steve Nash. He works so well with Duncan and Ginobili, and he's still learning.

There are ways to stop Parker - the Suns did a respectable job keeping him out of the lane - but he's tough to catch once he gets moving, and once they start forcing him to make jump shots, a lot of teams have learned that he can do that to. He's also very good at penetrating to draw the defenders and then finding perimeter shooters to drain 3's.

Parker is so much fun to watch, even when his game isn't at its peak. He's one of the best reasons to watch Spurs basketball.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

ribble's Superpowers

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the question a man my age must inevitably face: if I had a single superpower, what would it be?

For a long time, I was thinking flight. Then I read a Real Life comic where a fan points out that everyone chooses flight - it's a cop-out answer.

Then a question on the everybody votes channel, "Which would you rather have: invincibility or telepathy?," got me thinking in a different direction.

We all know that Claire Bennett is just so much cooler than Matt Parkman. However, whether I look back at my life or think about my future, I can imagine a lot more circumstances in which telepathy would be useful than invincibility.

When you think about it, an average person could interact with thirty people a day who want something, but he is unlikely to be shot even once in a lifetime. Invincibility could let us do a lot of stuff no one else can do, like rush in to a burning building, but the potential of telepathy is limitless.

Here's the thing: telepathy is possible. Or, at least, some people can understand what someone's feeling (and surmise what he is thinking) just by looking at his face. It's not even outside the realm of possibility for you and me.

For years, a researcher named Paul Ekman has been researching the human face and how to understand it (I first read about him in this Malcolm Gladwell article). Ekman trains people to read faces - he even publishes a CD-ROM that purports to teach people how to do it (doesn't run on Mac, so I can't yet say for sure if it does).

I keep coming back to this idea, which I've tried to explain before but never to my satisfaction, that conventions of fiction, especially fantasy, are possible in the real world if only one imagines them in a slightly different way. I keep trying to get to it in my (fiction) writing, but I've never quite pulled it off.

Five years ago, I wrote out a list of these conventions or cliches - things like aliens, time travel, vampires - and tried to think about their equivalent in the real world.

Take aliens. An alien is a transplant from a totally foreign culture, operating by a set of rules that may make sense somewhere else but don't fit in here. In my script, the alien is an immigrant. He is brutal and ruthless, but not out of any particular malice - they just do things differently in the dimension where he comes from.

Or time travel. Time travel means that you can witness and influence events of the past or future. In our world, we can witness the past by reading or learning about it and influence it by changing the popular view of what events occurred or what influence they had.

I believe that we are also moving towards an ability to predict the future but, imporantly, only if we interprete it more in the psychohistory sense than in the more outdated prophetic vision sense. Techniques like prediction markets are harnessing very accessible technologies to make seeing the future closer to reality. Exciting stuff.

And vampires? Vampires are people who suck the lifeblood out of someone in order to survive. I'm not naming names, but I've struggled with vampires my whole life.

It's easy to get off track with this stuff, but what I'm getting at is that abilities, cliches, fictions that were outside the boundaries of thought even thirty years ago are now achievable or even commonplace. Incredible powers or freedoms, things like instant communications, are ours for the taking.

Once again, I've built a blog entry into a treatise on the powers of man, and all without answering my original question.

After thinking about the challenges I face in my daily life and what it means to be a superpowered person in the world that we live in, I'd take total recall. How about you?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

San Antonio Spurs: Robert Horry

After three championship teams (Lakers, Houston, us) and six championship rings, Robert "Big Shot Rob [Formerly Bob]" Horry is the veteran's veteran.

Horry was a topic of heated discussion at the ribble Compound in San Antonio way back in round one, my dad's position being that Horry was next to worthless in that all he did was make big threes at crucial times in big games, and my position being that he was a very particular sort of superstar for the same reason.

Horry's full playoff highlight reel would take longer to watch than many 12th mens' whole seasons. I heard an interview with Greg Popovich where he said that he played Horry during the regular season to keep his weight down, but he only dusted him off to really play in April.

"Big Shot Rob [Formerly Bob]" makes big shots, but it's not the only thing he does. Like all Spurs (at least, all the ones who've stuck around) he plays a very strong defensive game. He's a strong guy, and he's a veteran. He makes his rotations and plays the system with the best of them.

At 37, he's also one of the older players in the league, and I've heard speculation that this will be his last season. I'm never surprised when a veteran player settles in to San Antonio to play until the end of his career. My favorite-ever Spur, Avery "The Little General" Johnson, played for five+ teams before settling in for a total of eight seasons with the Spurs. San Antonio is a great place to settle down.

What's a little surprising, maybe even suspicious about Horry is how he keeps finding his way on to championship teams. There are championship-level teams every year, but only one gets a championship. Why does Horry choose championship teams? Why do they choose him? Doesn't it kind of make him a freeloader to always get on these championship teams and steal the glory with pressure shots, like how he never picks up his share of the check at a restaurant?

I heard an interview with Horry during the Suns series where he said the reason he could make big shots was that for him, it was just another shot. Horry has played long enough to know that life is about more than basketball - his friends and loved ones aren't going to abandon him if he misses some stupid shot - so he doesn't.

Over and over during the playoffs, I've heard announcers talk about how the Spurs are a veteran team that are not easily rattled. They can fall behind by seven, 12, 19 points, not panic, and rally for a win by the end of 48 minutes.

This is a carefully cultivated attitude. There are no showboaters on the Spurs team, which is why so few people talk about them.

I remember way back when Dennis Rodman got traded off the Spurs, back when he was making the transition from incredible rebounder to potential surreal life cast member. It probably cost us a couple of championship - we needed those rebounds - but he couldn't be a part of the kind of championship franchise that coach Gregg Popovich wanted to build.

Result: a stable, reliable, friendly, veteran, unselfish and championship team that is going to be a factor in this league long past the Duncan era.

Making big shots isn't just about aiming and delivering, it's about having the balls to put a ball up with a championship on the line. Horry's biggest asset is being able to play a solid game and make big shots, but his biggest strength is being able to recognize a good thing when it comes around.

Friday, May 18, 2007

ribble's Five Rules for Long-Distance Relationships

This is one of those posts that I have said out loud to so many people so many times that almost no actual writing is required.

1. Know the next time you will be living in the same city indefinitely.

So many people screw this part up.

Have no doubt: being in a relationship with someone means that you see them regularly, that you live close enough to each other that you can spend time together.

Long distance relationships are place holders. For some reason, you have to live apart temporarily. If you can't figure out how to get your lives to a state where you'll be together, in the same city, for an unspecified amount of time, then no matter how much you care about each other, you are going to have to break up eventually.

Once you know how long it's going to take before there's even a chance of living in the same place, you need to make a common sense decision about whether the relationship is worth continuing.

If, for example, you are going to be apart about as long as you've been together up until that point, I'm guessing things aren't going to work out.

Sometimes, being in a long distance relationship is the easy way out - it's like having a boyfriend or girlfriend that you don't have to deal with all the time.

But if it's not going to work, it's not going to work. Ending it now is a lot better than ending it once the two of you have been in the same place long enough for you to realized that you've wasted a year of your life on someone you don't care about as much as you thought you did before.

2. When you spend time together, make sure it is for at least three weeks.

Here are three problems with having a long-distance relationship:

You are in love with someone who isn't there.
You are growing apart.
Part of your life is somewhere else.

When you get a little time to be together in the midst of these long separations, these three problems disappear. Suddenly, you're together, you are both experiencing the same things, one of you gets to see the rest of the other one's life, and you can fuck again.

Great. But. This rush of this initial mix of being together again, no longer pining for the one you love, and fucking will wear off. After about three weeks, you will settle in to the old routines of your relationship.

If this is a bad relationship, that means running in to all the old problems you assumed you'd left behind, plus all the unexpected ones you didn't know had come about since the last time you saw each other.

If this is a good relationship, it means finally being able to enjoy each other the way you should, as two lovers taking each other for granted ... AND it means dealing with all the old problems you assumed you'd left behind, plus all the unexpected ones you didn't know had come about since the last time you saw each other.

This is wonderful only because it's important. If you spend around three weeks together, you'll either come to understand that your problems are real and get out of a relationship that is wasting your time, or you'll solve those problems and go back to your separate lives with a stronger relationship than you had before.

If you dodge the three-week rule, you'll be really, really happy ... until you live in the same place for longer than three weeks. Then you'll be miserable.

3. Fight.

Being in a relationship means having problems. Being in a good relationship means being able to solve those problems. (By the way, I've got a working theory that being in a great relationship means you love solving those problems together just as much as you love having them solved).

If you are in a long-distance relationship and you do not fight, it's not because you don't have problems. It's because you don't want to deal with these problems.

This is normal.

In a long-distance relationship, you're apart, you're lonely and vulnerable, blah blah blah. You will want the time you spend communicating with your loved one to be happy, pleasant time - talking about how much you miss each other, exploring the depths of your love, possibly having phone sex. No one wants to talk about problems.

But, face it, you didn't want to talk about your problems before, either. The nice and horrible thing about face-to-face relationships is that they don't let you avoid your problems (that is, unless you have found a way to avoid all of your problems).

When someone's right there in front of you, you have to start talking about what's going right and what's going wrong before you gnaw your own arm off.

Long-distance relationships make your problems with your loved one easy to avoid. If you don't talk about something during this phone conversation, you don't have to face it until your next phone conversation, and so on.

The problem with this approach is that when you do finally get together for three weeks or more, you're going to have an enormous backlog of things to fight about.

Being together after being apart is stressful enough. If you don't fight about things while it's still optional, the mandatory fight is going to kill off your relationship for sure.

4. Keep living your life.

...and make sure your significant other does the same.

When you're separated from the love of your present (especially when you are moving to a new place) it's tempting to turn off the rest of your life or leave it undeveloped.

They're gone! (at least for now.) It's depressing! Why face all these new people - or even your old friends - when the person you really care about is only a phone call away?

But you can't live for that next phone call or visit, because what kind of a life is a life of waiting? It's important to create your own life around you - friends, places you like to go, things you like to do. You wouldn't put your life on hold if you were living in the same city as your significant person. Don't do it just because you're apart.

That done, talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend about your life. Make sure that the next time he or she comes to visit, he knows about the people you'll introduce him to and about what kind of role they play in your life.

Because you're separated, you two will necessarily grow apart, or at least in parallel. The trick is to keep up to date with what's changing with her, and to make sure she is up to do date with what's changing with you. That, and making sure you'll have plenty of time later to grow together.

5. Do not talk every day

Lastly and leastly, do not talk to each other every day. For one thing, one day worth of material is not really all that much to talk about. For another, you need to have that emotional distance from your person of interest to be able to live your own life. And, for a third, those international phone calls really blow through your savings fast.

That's it, gentle reader. Hopefully you have your own opinions about long-distance relationships, because it's been three weeks without a fucking comment.

Get on it, ribble's readers.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I have just finished watching "The Falls"

Once, Sean Penn came to my college and spoke to my film class. He had just seen Amores Perros, the first internationally recognized movie by the guy who ended up doing movies like Babel and 21 Grams. Sean Penn said that if he had made Amores Perros, he would stop making movies.

If I had made The Falls, I would stop making movies.

Odd, long and unexpectedly funny, The Falls is a British mock documentary about 92 victims of something called the Violent Unknown Event, or VUE. There is no narrative, but there are a number of narrators. The names of each of the subjects of the documentary start with the letters F-A-L-L, hence the name of the film.

The style of the narration is very straight-forward, but the stories themselves are absurd - or, rather, there seems to be some sort of strange internal logic too it, but you could easily drive yourself mad trying to figure it out.

The VUE itself is suitably abstract, but seems to give its victims a number of new languages, some characteristics of birds, immortality (rather more incidentally), and either an obsession or a fear of birds, flying, running water, and cataloging some specific aspect of the VUE itself.

I am not really equipped to fully describe the oddness of this film, or why it seems so effective to me when I'm sure it would be very frustrating to someone else (it took me over four months to watch, which is ridiculous).

My best guess is that it's the presence of a fully formed and detailed world, abstract enough that it seems just outside our understanding, but seemingly present and real to its creator. Also that that world is so absurd, and how conscientious its author is to present that absurdity with humor.

I can't explain it any better than that. Here are a few other works that accomplish exactly this, and just as well. Like The Falls, they are the sort of thing that I can pick up to read or watch from any point in their narrative. Here they are, from least to most obscure:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter S. Thompson

My Family and Other Animals
Gerald Durrell

Shannon K. Garrity

The Crime Studio
Steve Aylett

Unicorn Jelly
Jennifer Diane Reitz

Monday, May 07, 2007

San Antonio Spurs: Bruce Bowen

It is playoff time again, and you may remember that the only sport that matters to me (with the exception of women's two-crew bobsleigh) is San Antonio Spurs basketball.

Today I'd like to talk about Bruce Bowen.

If you watch a Spurs game on T.V., I guarantee you will hear Bowen referred to as "the defensive specialist."

Bowen is one of the best defensive players in the NBA. He glues himself to his man, and he has a habit (I'd call it a talent) for getting under other players' skins.

Good players - veterans - get angry with Bowen, often quite early in a series, because he doesn't let them play the kind of games they like to play.

Bowen's defensive style is always right there, arms out or flailing or in the face, contesting every shot. You can score on Bowen, but only if you earn it.

The Spurs play a great defensive game, and I can't help but think Bowen is at least as responsible as Head Coach Gregg Popovich.

I was just watching the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Suns, and I thought I saw Bowen running up to contest a late shot against Suns star Steve Nash - arms out and waving, hand towards the face. Thing was, Bowen looked a lot shorter. I realized it was actually Tony Parker.

(Sidenote: I have a really shitty T.V.)

Bowen is not just a defensive specialist, though. He is always adding new weapons to his arsenal.

My favorite thing Bowen does is to shoot 3-pointers from the corners. Bowen's like a cockroach - he loves the corners. No one ever seems to see it coming except me.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Can't Stop Watching

I am not usually a "hey, look at this" kind of blog. There are plenty out there that do it bigger and better than I ever could.

But, okay, why hasn't anyone linked to the His and Hers video by The Rifleman? Who are The Rifleman anyway? What are they saying in this song (I mean, literally?) And why can't I get it out of my head?