Mirror, Mirror

Avert your eyes if you don’t like spoilers!

If the trailers made “Mirror, Mirror” look like a comedy, it’s because they had the funniest parts. Maybe I should have known better. That guy who imagined up “The Cell” directed “Mirror, Mirror”, meaning it manages to be bright and colorful and creepy all at the same time.

It’s a fun movie, but not a very good one. I think it was the seven dwarves that turned me off. There was a faint reek of political correctness about them. They aren’t indentured miners or whatever they were supposed to be in the Disney film. They’re ruggedly and independently employed as a merry band of bandits. The actors playing them had many unnecessary lines—as if there was contractual obligation to be equitable—that killed the momentum of their scenes. In this case, adding depth to the characters didn’t contribute to the story. A film that wants to avoid the appearance of being exploitative should probably not involve dwarves at all.

Julia Roberts was a hoot, the best part of the movie, better than even the costumes. Actors must find it liberating to play villains. It always makes their performances more enjoyable. Or maybe it’s us and we just like a good baddy. Oddly, I didn’t find her wicked queen to be a fading beauty because Julia Roberts is just as pretty as ever. But I suppose a hypothetical society that fetishizes baby-smooth white skin would indeed find Snow White “fairest of them all.”

More on Chinese food

Speaking of Chinese restaurants, we haven’t had Chinese food since last spring’s outing to that nasty downtown place. This time we stuck to the tasty and reliable take-out joint nearby.

Looking at the menu, Lore said “What the hell is human beef?” “Oh, that’s Hunan beef,” I said. “I used to make that mistake all the time.”

Which reminds me of a time when my mother snarled at a radio announcer who reported on a case of “wonton murder.”

The agony and ecstasy of General Tso

After hearing some of last weekend’s “This American Life” I was thinking that I’d like to hear Mike Daisey review local Chinese restaurants.

The old cook held out a plate of moo goo gai pan with his gnarled, claw-like hands. “Since the price of chicken went up,” he croaked, “my wages have been cut in half and we have to turn off the kitchen fan to save on electricity costs. Please tell Steve Jobs to right this terrible wrong and that we have a lunch special for $6.95 from 10:00 to 2:00, Monday through Friday.”

Puppy love

You may know that gay marriage is legal here in Iowa. You may also know that some would like to reverse that legality. Some of those folks protested in the state capitol this week. Their leader, Bob Vander Plaats, said during the rally:

If we want marriage equality, let’s just stop for a second. Why stop at same-sex marriage? Why not have polygamy? Why not have a dad marry his son or marry his daughter? If we’re going to have marriage equality, let’s open this puppy up

Emphasis added. According to the Iowa Public Radio story, Vander Plaats insisted that the protest wasn’t about hate. Of course it wasn’t. It was about opening a puppy.

Long Island whats?

Having joined a fantasy baseball league, I am struggling to come up with a suitable name for my team. I want to go with something Long Island-themed, like the “Terminal Moraines”. That’s how I came up with the domain name for this website after much ruminating many years ago.

Let’s begin with a quick review of Long Island professional sports team names, past and present:

  • New York Islanders. Too literal, sort of like calling a city team the New York Citizens.
  • New York Nets. Now the New Jersey Nets, the name is so totally inappropriate for baseball.
  • Long Island Ducks. Cute—I like ducks—but overused since it was used in the past by a minor league hockey team and is now in use by a minor league baseball team.
  • New York Arrows. They were a soccer team in the old MISL. I have no idea why they were called that.
  • Long Island Rough Riders. This is the present professional soccer club on Long Island. They are Theodore Roosevelt-themed, which I like (he was the only Long Island president), though the Rough Riders had little to do with Long Island itself.
  • Long Island Lizards. The professional lacrosse team (remember this is New York) is named after lizards? In my entire childhood on the island I never saw a lizard or even heard of one living there.

So what to do? For starters, ethnic mascots are out, so exit the Long Island Shinnecocks, Unkechaugs, or Guidos. But as you can see, it is not easy to come up with a team name for Long Island. It lacks charismatic megafauna and fossils. Most of its interesting natural features are glaciological (i.e. terminal moraines) or are unintimidating marine animals and phenomena that suggest only the following:

  • Littoral Drift, which describes the formation and reformation of barrier islands by along-shore ocean currents.
  • Limuli, from Limulus polyphemus, scientific name of the horseshoe crab, one of my favorite animals.
  • Wampum. You can’t walk along a beach on Long Island without the finding purple and white quahog clam shells bits once used by the Indians to make ceremonial currency. Wampum is pretty inert and uninspiring.
  • Quahogs. Along the same lines as above, but it has unfortunate associations with “The Family Guy”.
  • Pine Barrens. The Long Island pines sure are an interesting biome, but how would the logo distinguish pine barrens from pine anything else? Maybe a flaming pine tree?
  • Lloyd Aquifer. A gold star for you if you even know what it is.
  • Nor’easters. That might be a good one (or the “Glorias”).

Long Island also has little in the way of nationally familiar landmarks, historical events, or cultural contributions. The Montauk Lighthouse (after which the local microbrew Montauk Light takes its name) is popular among Long Islanders but is not well known elsewhere. The island’s military history is inauspicious: the Battle of Long Island was rout of the Continental Army at Brooklyn Heights (the “Evacuators”?) and the landing of German saboteurs by submarine is not exactly a point of pride (the “Infiltrators”?). And I’ll pre-empt the Billy Joel references right now, so no Long Island Piano Men or Uptown Girls.

The “Long Island Baymen” is in use by an amateur baseball team in Lake Ronkonkoma (Ooh! “The Bottomless Lakers”!). A local term for near-shore fisherman and clammers, “Baymen” has regional charm and working class connotations but could be denounced by radical feminists are “promoting traditional white patriarchy” (something I heard about my college’s mascot once). And I don’t think the “Baypersons” would cut it. What about:

  • Snapples? Nah.
  • Roast Ducklings? Iced Tea? Maybe for a chuckle.
  • Buttafuocos? I’ll throw that one out with the other ethnic stereotypes. And harem pants aren’t easy to play ball in.
  • Gold Coast, or even better, Gatsbys? Both are dated and each are respectively elitist and tragic.

Long Island is associated with some high-tech achievements in physics, genetics, and aerospace:

  • Heavy Ion Colliders. Pretty esoteric physics stuff goes on at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and from a shadowy federal department to boot.
  • Double Helices. That at least won someone a Nobel Prize, but Cold Spring Harbor Lab was also waist deep into eugenics at one time.
  • F-14 Tomcats or Lunar Excursion Modules. Unfortunately Grumman left Long Island a long time ago.
But now I think we’re getting a little obtuse. Maybe I’ll just go with the “Eagles”. Blah.

Shoots of green

When I got home from work today, I saw the tree outside the window is growing its leaves. They weren’t there yesterday and I don’t think they were there this morning either. Lore pointed out the dilapidated bird nest left over from last summer. “Maybe some new birds will move into the nest soon.”

“I don’t know,” I said, not being able to help being the know-it-all naturalist. “Some birds do that and some birds don’t. Sometimes building nests is part of the breeding ritual. Male house wrens, for example, build a bunch of incomplete nests. If a female likes one of them, she moves in and finishes it.”

“Oh,” said Lore. “Just like people!”

A cheesy state somewhere between Massachusetts and New York

A visitor from Kansas commented that Wisconsin is not in the Midwest. It’s in the Northeast, she said.

I accept that everything is relative, that Wisconsin is northeast of Kansas, and that an equitable quartering of the coterminous states might make it part of “the Northeast”, but I have never heard it referred to as so in common usage. Being from the actual Northeast I assert that Wisconsin is certainly not a part of it.

From O to Zinn

I’m about halfway through “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn but at breakfast this morning I set it aside in favor of the back of the Cheerios box. It turns out that General Mills put its high-minded marketing strategies of promoting child literacy and cardiac health on hiatus in favor of “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 3-D” merchandising. Instead of a bilingual children’s book inside, this box offered a cheap plastic pen in the shape of begoggled pod-racing eight year-old Anakin Skywalker. It was right on top, too. I didn’t have to open the liner bag or dig through puffed O’s of oat dust or do anything to get to it. I felt like I was acting out a little skit about degenerate corporate commercialism right there at my breakfast table while Howard Zinn peered at me smugly from the cover of his book.

This week’s Doonesbury

A couple of Iowa newspapers have supposedly backed off on their decisions to censor this week’s Doonesbury strips. There is never any good excuse for a newspaper to avoid controversial topics. On the other hand, I can see it from their point of view. Most readers don’t turn to the funny pages to see a patient getting raped by her doctor. Just put in the OpEd section.

Things I know from flies

I’ve finally given up on winter. Spring is here. It’s warm this week, with highs in the upper 70s at least through the weekend. I know the warmth is here to stay because I saw three pairs of flies copulating on the windows at work. I figure insect copulation in March is a sure sign of warm-weather optimism.

Interesting note on fly mating: they don’t move. The just sit on the window “in congress” and don’t move. They were on the outside of the window so I could walk up an watch without disturbing them. What a pervert.

The busy night sky

The sky is full of planets tonight. This weekend I noticed two bright ones (Venus and Jupiter) right near each other in the west sky, and another bright one in the east (Mars). After consulting a chart it turns out Mercury and Uranus are in the west as well, but I don’t know if they are high or bright enough for me to identify them. And Saturn will be up with the moon later tonight. There’s a lot cooking up there.