THIS IS SO TOTALLY RIGHT ON:

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

By and about computery programmer types, but exactly correct for young lady screenwriters who go on meetings, also. I’m guessing it also will make sense to you if your job involves any variant of Making Stuff.

PS, I love the new-to-me phrase “speculative meeting”.

On military hairstyling

July 29, 2009

Today I watched Husband Guy get a haircut at the local military base.

I am fascinated by the local military base. It contains things like “SPACE AND MISSILE COMMAND” (thrilling!) and also “CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER” (actually a kind of daycare, but I imagine parents going “Don’t get me wrong, he’s great, but we’re really looking for a kid who’s more universal, like Taken… What could we do to amp up the stakes in his second act?”) and also in one of the buildings is something called a “DECISION SUPPORT CENTER”.

OH. And, the base’s honor guard motto is “To Honor With Dignity”, which is the best.

So anyway, sometimes Husband Guy has to go there for Army-related things, and sometimes, like today, I go with him. One of the things we needed to do was get my Official Married To Army Dude ID card, which I failed at spectacularly because I didn’t know I needed two forms of ID. The other thing was that H.G. wanted to get a haircut. So we went to the AAFES (or perhaps it is called the PX? I don’t know… I am really slow understanding the acronyms.), which H.G. had previously described as “Sort of like a mall… except really lame.”

It is SO LAME! You know how sometimes malls have kiosks in the middle where young people will try to sell you ionic salt lamps? This “mall” also has kiosks, except they sell TOTALLY AMAZING OIL PORTRAITS OF MEL GIBSON and COMMEMORATIVE OBAMA PLACEMATS and shit like that.

The mall also has a place where you can get your hair cut. I have not seen a lot of men get their hair cut, so I don’t know if this is just a dude thing in general or particular to dudes in the military, but what is kind of awesome is that instead of going (as girls would do) “Um, I don’t know… I just don’t like it! I think I want more movement. Maybe some long layers? Ugh… I DON’T KNOW, can you make me look like this picture I tore out of a magazine?” military guys are like “High and tight. Skin on the sides. 1 on top.” and then the Korean or Filipino lady barber nods briskly and commences with the hairclippers. There is no chit-chat about how you need to use specific products or flatiron your hair anything like that. The whole thing takes like 9 minutes and then the lady vacuums your scalp and then rubs your head with foul-smelling lotion for unclear reasons. And it costs ten dollars.

Husband Guy found this outrageous.

“TEN DOLLARS! At [former base] it was like two dollars and maybe a sack of rabbits…”

(As I stared at him and tried to think how I would explain that ladies often get haircuts that cost more than nice pair of shoes.)

OH ALSO, if you are an older gentleman and maybe have some tufts of hair growing out of your ears, the lady will take care of that as well. Honestly, I feel like for 10 dollars, I might not be willing to clip someone’s ear hair. So I feel like that’s really quite the deal.

Tortoises; Food, INC.

July 28, 2009

I am dog-sitting and tortoise-sitting for my friend Julie. The dogs consist of one extremely sweet, extremely dull-witted Shi-Tzu* and one extremely charming Chihuahua. The tortoise is… I don’t know. About the size of a pancake. Only, obviously, more three-dimensional. Otherwise I don’t really know anything about his personality except for the fact that he constantly tries to escape (when he’s not sleeping). Like you have to take him out once a day and put him in a kind of little bath, and he’s all “I’M OUTTA HERE SUCKAS!” and then you put him back in his house and he’s all “YOU’LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!” and then he realizes that you gave him food and then he very slowly wanders over and starts nomming on the pile of greens.

The other awesome thing about the tortoise is that the Slow Shi-Tzu is obsessed with him. She gets extremely excited if she sees him out and about. If he’s on the floor, she lovingly lies down next to him and kind of embraces him with her paws. Even though the tortoise is trying to eat her the entire time.

***

I saw Food, INC the other night. It’s a documentary about the American food industry. It will fill you with rage, even if you’re not some kind of Vermont hippie. It’s all about outrageous corruption and deceit and corporations taking handouts from taxpayers and then turning around and BENDING TAXPAYERS OVER THE TABLE… ahem. Pretty much if the bailout made you mad, Food, INC will make you want to go to your state capitol and be the weirdo on the corner holding up a sign reading DEMAND A SAFE FOOD CHAIN NOW.

The one thing I would liked to have seen more of in the movie is something I am kind of obsessed with: food security as it relates to the fact that huge swathes of our food production are way too closely related.

About 90% of all soybeans grown in this country are GM soybeans sold by a single scary corporation. Depending on your politics, you may find that splendid, a real triumph of capitalism, or scandalous. But unless you are a rare breed of, um, slow Shi-Tzu, you will probably find it kind of alarming that a major base of the food-chain pyramid that feeds you and your family and every other family in the country (and many families around the globe!) has very little genetic diversity. Even a generation ago, individual farmers saved open-pollinated crop seeds from one season to the next, picking out the best seeds from the best plants, creating a kind of sub-breed exactly adapted to their micro-climate. But in the charge to increase production (or, you know, profits for giant corporations) we’ve since wound up with this system where most people who grow soy are growing basically the exact same plant, coast to coast, border to border: they – and almost all other soy farmers – have to purchase the seeds each year from the single scary corporation.

Pretty much all you need is one freaky airborne fungus to come through that this particular soy has no resistance to, and entire crops could be lost. Soy and its many derivatives are in everything. It’s not just tofu-munching hippies who would lose out if we lost a year’s worth of soybeans. Same goes for corn. Same goes, weirdly, for a lot of our dairy cattle- YOU LIKE CHEESE, right? Then it should kind of give you pause to realize that lots of the dairy cows born every year are half-sisters of each other, because the dairy industry naturally pushes for higher and higher output, so if you have a bull who sires good milkers, you, uh, take his semen and freeze it and sell it to dairy farmers all around the country. So again, you end up with these clusters of highly efficient cows (whoo!), who are too closely related to have a good spread of resistance to weird diseases that may yet pop up (boo!)

I have no illusions that Food, INC. will change anything, because I kind of suspect that people who are interested in seeing it are people who already think about things like safe food supplies and feed lots and how E Coli ends up in the food supply (THE ANSWER IS: FEED LOTS) and why we subsidize corn even though it’s grown by giant monolithic corporations who should probably not be subsidized by taxpayers. But, you know… it’s a good movie. I also thought it was reasonably even-handed. It does not present organic farming as some kind of pastoral fantasy. It shows Joel Salatin** slaughtering chickens, and the chickens are not like “La la la, organic farming is the BEST!” (although in comparison to the Tyson and Perdue chicken farms shown earlier, you know… the Salatin chickens are basically like the old dude in Soylent Green who gets to drift off while listening to music and watching a slide show of nature.)

***

I had a meeting last week, and there wasn’t any parking. I mean… there WAS parking, but they were all labeled spots, spots labeled things like “SORKIN”. So I parked somewhere and ran in and asked the assistant where I should park, and this other writer sitting there waiting said: “You should park in Aaron Sorkin’s spot.”

And I said: “Ha ha ha.”

And he said: “Seriously, what could go wrong?” because of course Aaron Sorkin seems like the kind of guy who is SUPER easy-going about finding someone else in his spot.

(I did not actually park in Aaron Sorkin’s spot. They found me plebe parking elsewhere, thank you.)

Ah, meetings, where other writers try to TRIP YOU UP SO THEY CAN GET THE JOB…

*Seriously. Have you ever wondered if there is such a thing as a retarded dog? This dog, bless her heart, answers the question.
**Joel Salatin, a nice Christian-libertarian type who runs a traditional farm in the Shenandoah Valley, is super-famous to a certain kind of person. Do you ever think about how weird stuff like that is? Like I bet I could poll 50 people and most of them would go “…who?” and then two of them would go “OMG POLYFACE FARMS I WISH TO SEE IT BEFORE I DIE!!!!!!!!”

I saw the BEST movie recently: THE HURT LOCKER. I feel that many people will not go to see it because:

1) It does not star Michael Cera
2) It is set in Iraq and is about US soldiers
3) It has a sort of hard-to-grasp title
4) It appears to still be in limited release

But you know what – in spite of all of that, you should make an effort to seek it out. HERE ARE MY ARGUMENTS:

1) It is one of the best movies I have seen this year, and you know that I am not some kind of film snob but instead the kind of person who is like “…that explosion was AWESOME.”
2) It’s a movie built of a series of crazy set-pieces centering around the activities of a small team of bomb-disposal techs. Basically you’re talking all the good parts of Speed. I kept hyperventilating into my hands because watching someone defuse a car bomb is SUPER TENSE.
3) It’s funny. When the team is leaving the FOB, one of the guys points to the row of tanks they’re driving past and is all “Man, I’m sure glad we deployed with all these tanks. That’s going to be so useful in case the Russians attack and we end up in a pitched tank battle.” and his teammate is all “…”
4) Also, once someone comes back to a base and the guard is understandably suspicious of him just showing up, and the guy makes up an excuse and says “OKAY OKAY, I was out at a whorehouse” and the guard pauses and then says “If I let you in, you have to give me the exact location.”
5) The writing, the directing, the editing, the cinematography, the acting – just excellent.
6) I am a liberal young lady, but even I get really sick of stories about war (invariably brought to you by someone who KNOWS WHAT IT’S LIKE because this one time they heard this really loud backfire while they were driving on the 101) that take the “OH HOW AWFUL FOR YOU POOR IGNORANT REDNECKS THAT YOU GOT TRICKED INTO JOINING THE MILITARY!!!!!” approach (AHEMSTOPLOSSAHEM) – this movie is not like that at all. I fear that people are so sick of lame axe-grindy Iraq movies that they’ll hear “Set against the backdrop of the Iraq war” and go “Let’s go see that movie about action guinea pigs”. But it’s really not like that. It’s just a story about what some guys did and went through while deployed.
7) It has gun battles! It has explosions! It has mercenaries! It has snipers! It has heart! It expects the audience to stay up to speed!

I AM TELLING YOU.

YOU WILL LIKE IT SO MUCH!

I know – you’re probably still not going to see it. But really. It’s excellent. There was nothing I didn’t like about it. (Come on, go see it. COME ON.)

***

The other night Husband Guy and I tricked ourselves into getting Aerobic Exercise by punctuating a 4-mile loop with, um, a burrito. The burrito was one of those ARTERY BOMBS that is so, so delicious, because it’s a stack of PORK, LARD-SOAKED BEANS, CHEESE, AVOCADO, ETC wrapped up and finished with like a cup of sour cream.

Like (I hope) many people, I have this problem with burritos where I eat more than I actually want to. I think it’s because burritos are such a self-contained unit! If you’re eating a bowl of soup and you don’t want to finish it, no problem. Or a salad. Or if you’re eating some kind of stir-fry. But a burrito is a UNIT. SERVING SIZE: 1 NOM NOM NOM.

So then you get to the middle of the giant burrito and instead of being sensible and pushing your plate away, you try to finish. Which you regret for the next four hours as you waddle around, etc.

While eating this burrito, I felt the point of BURRITO DISMAY approaching. So I pushed the plate across the table and suggested that Husband Guy eat the rest (he is ordinarily pretty reliable in terms of being the person at the table who will Put It Away) but he declined, having slogged through his own ARTERY BOMB.

FINE. So we go back home (somewhat more slowly than on the way there) and everything is fine. Cut to two days later.

ME
Man…

HUSBAND GUY
What?

ME
Guess what I wish I had right now.

HUSBAND GUY
Is it “A dog”? Because I have noticed that the answer is almost always “A dog”.

ME
No! I wish I had the rest of that burrito.

HUSBAND GUY

ME
You know, from the other night–

HUSBAND GUY
Let me get this straight. You’re having genuine regret that you didn’t finish a burrito. That you ate two days ago.

ME

(It was a really good burrito.)

***

Here is a trailer for the Neill Blomkamp film DISTRICT 9:

I am so excited about this! I think it is going to be really outstanding.

***

Mayonnaise Bathtub is my friend Chaia’s thrilling new blog, where she reviews really terrible B movies. Recently she invited us over for a screening of DEAD MEN DON’T DANCE, a movie about- I don’t know. It was the kind of movie where five people got killed, but in the final scenes Ryan O’Neal and his father pushed six bodies overboard.

You should check it out! (Her blog, not necessarily DEAD MEN DON’T DANCE.)

WOLVERINES!!!!

July 1, 2009

So I was watching this documentary on, uh, The Military Channel, and it’s about this bunch of Marines in Iraq. And before you continue, you should know the following:

1) As previously stated, I am a pretty big military nerd.
2) I am something of a military apologist. Although I am a bleeding-heart liberal, I will almost always be On The Side Of The Troops (although I also object to cheesy things like FREEDOM ISN’T FREE stickers… but that’s because I’m a snide jerk.)

This documentary airs in three parts, and the first part is about how the Marines go on “knock and talk” missions in their area, where they walk the streets and go up to houses and are all “Hello. Do you have more than the one rifle per military-aged male you are allowed? Also, do you know any insurgents? Great – have a nice day, AND ENJOY YOUR CRAPPY, FALLING-APART PSEUDO-DEMOCRACY.”

Total hearts-and-minds stuff, etc.

Husband Guy sometimes points out to me, when I am grumpy about such things, that you can’t really train Marines to be stone-cold killers and then also expect them to be effective beat cops, diplomats, and grassroots nation-builders. And yet the way we currently invade countries* seems to require exactly those skills of them. So I get that there’s some tension there.

And I’m just rambling because I’m trying to set up that I am ordinarily SUPER ON THE SIDE OF THE DUDE KNOCKING ON THE DOOR ASKING ABOUT YOUR RIFLE. But man – by the end of this first hour of documentary, I was basically all

I ONLY CRY FOR THE VIETNAMESE!!!!

Which was weird.

There was this one platoon sergeant who you just know walked around flexing his jaw and saying things like “You have to DOMINATE the SITUATION, gents! Establish your territory!”, and who was the most startlingly ineffective Ugly American I have ever seen in action.

Like for instance! So he’s in this marketplace, and the shoe-seller guy who speaks about six words of English and is AFRAID OF HIM and who keeps doing this placating fear-grimace can’t or won’t tell him who keeps planting IEDs.

And the Marine starts to lose his temper, so he reaches out and puts his hand on the guy’s throat and FEELS HIS PULSE (…) and then is all snide all like “Wow, his pulse is kinda fast for a guy who’s not lying…”

(…or, you know, right on target for a guy who’s afraid of the heavily armed bully who showed up and started getting all in his FACE and then put his HAND ON HIS ACTUAL THROAT.)

The Marine did not seem able to make any kind of connection between his own behavior – which was repeatedly shown to be, uh, really emasculating and humiliating and fear-inducing and just RUDE (like when he barged into the lady’s house even though no adult male was around and kind of strutted around her little room, poking at her stuff, demanding to know where the family’s rifle was kept. Which is obviously a really terrific way to win hearts and minds in a majority Muslim country.) – and the fact that the people he talked to were unhelpful and kept declining to lead him to insurgent hideouts.

The best, though, and the one where you could really see that this guy had literally NO IDEA how he was getting the result he was getting, was when he kept losing his temper at this late-teens kid who was saying that his father had taken the family’s rifle – so, no, he couldn’t show it to him. When the finally dad showed up, SSG Dillweed started to berate him and his son in this kind of chest-bumping way- you know. I don’t really know how to put this. Just to say that I would not have been at all surprised if he had single-handedly taken a family who just wanted to handle their business to a family who were ardent supporters of their local DEATH TO AMERICA chapter.

Fabulously, the dad eventually produced the rifle, and the Marine kind of flipped out into an honest-to-God temper tantrum, yanking it out of his hands, stomping off to a nearby pond, and dramatically flinging the rifle into the water, SO THERE.

(The rifle, of course, was a Kalashnikov, a notoriously sturdy weapon that insurgents probably TOTALLY STORE AT THE BOTTOMS OF PONDS ALL THE TIME WITH NO PROBLEM. So… good job, sir. Way to show that dude who’s the boss.)

So while I find this guy annoying on a personal level, it’s kind of fascinating (TO ME, BECAUSE I AM A NERD) when you think about how the US is currently trying to control an insurgency in Iraq. Which is something that seems to me to hinge somewhat largely on your ability to create fewer Angry Young Men. And yet this Marine, the first line of offense against this problem, was unintentionally spreading bad mojo all over town.

I mean, if someone said to me “Hey! I’m thinking of invading a country, do you have any thoughts on conducting a successful occupation and suppressing insurgency?”

I would say things like “Man, you need to watch Red Dawn. Also, I personally would learn from the lessons of the second Iraq invasion. So you know, when you overrun a nation with your shock troops, you want to IMMEDIATELY take control of all the weapons caches you find, instead of relying on the honor system. (“Why would anyone want to take these mortars? That’s ridiculous.”) And you should instantly implement basic services, because basic services keep people docile and happy. And also, men need jobs. I mean – ladies need jobs too, obviously. But if women don’t have jobs, we grumble to other women and then have a snack and mope around. Whereas when men, especially young men, don’t have jobs, they tend to hang out on street corners. You don’t want young men hanging out in groups on street corners. That’s a really great way to foment yourself an insurgency. But! Even if you do nothing else, you really, really, really don’t want to have your military folks going around the country being emasculating dicks to the few people who are still relatively neutral to your cause. EVERY TIME YOU HUMILIATE A LATE-TEENS BOY, AN INSURGENT GETS HIS WINGS.”

Obviously, that Marine’s job is astoundingly hard. I, of course, could not do it. Very few people could do it even to the degree that he was able to do it, I’m sure. But it does make me think that maybe we need to (if we plan to keep invading countries, that is**) have two separate military forces. Like first you have your SHOCK TROOPS: your Marines, your Army guys with Ranger tabs and thousand-yard-stares. They come in and just wipe out the opposing force. And then RIGHT BEHIND THEM you have smooth operators selected for their skills in the areas of empathy, linguistics, organization, persuasiveness, and general interpersonal goodness. So instead of

1) SHOCK AND AWE SUCKERS
2) Um, we didn’t really have a plan for the next part
3) Shit.
4) Let’s hire KBR! THEY WILL FIX EVERYTHING!
5) Shit.

You would have more like

1) SHOCK AND AWE SUCKERS
2) Hello. My name is Stan. I’m with the First Diplomatic Division. We’re here to restore your water and power and survey the needs of your village. Can I invite you to step into the shade and join me for a cup of tea? Oh, and this must be your lovely wife. How nice.
3) Hearts and minds, small American flags on a stick for everyone, huzzah!

That’s all I’m saying. If President Obama decides to invade Iran or anything. This is a way I would consider going.

Here is the trailer for RED DAWN. Because it is awesome:

*I AM NOT ADVOCATING INVADING ANY ADDITIONAL COUNTRIES.
**So I guess maybe the simplest solution is to knock it off? Pffft.