Thursday, July 31, 2008

Can I show you something awesome?

So ZombieKid made me a clay robot at Camp. Actually, theGnome made me some stuff too, remind me to take this post down before he's old enough to surf the internet unspervised as I would hate for him to run across my blatant favoritism for his brother's gift.

But ZombieKid's robot rocked my world. I freakin' love this robot and I've had it on my desk since the Monday morning after he gave it to me. I look at it all the time and smile.

Today, my boss goes sweeping through the office, carrying her lunch.

"Can I run something by you?" one of the secretaries asked her.

"Is it gory or disgusting or anything?" My boss asked in response. This is an extremely logical question in Workers' Comp.

"Kind of,"

"After lunch!" She said, gliding into her office.

I grabbed the robot and followed her.

"How about awesome?" I asked. "Is awesome OK?"

"I guess you can show me something awesome," she said, taking a bite of salad.

"Check out this cool robot my best friend's nine-year-old made me."

"WOW!" She said "That is AWESOME. What a GREAT ROBOT!"

She's mom, so her standards are correspondingly odd, but I don't think she was humoring me. I'm a lucky girl to have such a robot.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blatant self-promotion

I'm mentioned at the end of this newspaper article.

Also, here's a complete list of my reviews for the City Paper.

Oh, and there's apparently a complete tour of my car in Epilonius' PodCast

Oh, how I hated the Batman movie.


Long time readers know that at one point, I threw fundraising parties for Republican members of Congress professionally. It wasn’t as hard for me as I suspect it would have been for a lot of UUs as I’m plenty socially liberal but have something of a libertarian twist to my thinking on economic and government power issues.

Anyway, I often ate lunch with my boss, who was the wife of a retired army guy. She knew I was fairly socially liberal and sometimes liked to quiz me on why I believed what I did. I would do the same in turn for her views. It was fun and I learned a lot. Anyway, one time, the subject of torture came up. She brought up a lot of toy situations where her husband was in danger or there was a ticking bomb. There was a certain unfairness to the conversation in that there was no way I could say “Actually, I would rather your husband be blown to smithereens than have my country torturing people, Boss.” But I think I got that message across, as annoying as she found it.

Watching the Batman movie felt a lot like having that conversation over again, albeit with an imaginative emo college kid rather than my relatively staid and realistic ex-boss. The whole movie to me felt like one big toy situation contrived to make me sympathetic to the “There are times when we have to destroy our values to save them” cause and I’m just not gonna get on that bus.

Heath Ledger's portrayal was technichally good, but his character just felt like a big cartoon in that the Joker for all practical purposes has magic powers in this movie. He can do anything, and the movie wants us to believe this so badly it doesn’t bother to explain how he does some of his more amazing feats. (E.g. Joker can sneak lots of bombs and arguably surgical equipment into jail with him.) Also, Joker has to have 30 mooks throughout this movie that follow his orders to the letter, no matter how dangerous or weird they are. Said mooks have to have heard that everybody who helps Joker do anything dies, but they play along anyway and are all dead by the end of the movie. Joker’s mooks can dress up as a police honor guard and of course they look exactly like one with convincing military manuvers and the mooks had no problem kidnapping the real honor guard and stealing their uniforms.

So much of this movie feels so incredibly contrived. For a non-Joker example, a mob boss is either going to visit Prosecutor Harvey Dent in the hospital, or just happens to be standing around alone outside his hospital room, convenient for questioning at a crucial moment. There are a couple of obvious moral dilemmas set up that made me feel like I was back in torts class.

I’m annoyed because I defended Batman on Peacebang’s blog a couple of weeks ago, saying that his brains made up for his lack of super powers. This Batman doesn’t have much in the way of brains as far as I can tell. He doesn’t design and build his own stuff, Lucius Fox* does it for him. He doesn’t even do much detective work. Commissioner Gordon seems to do a lot of the actual thinking and Batman’s technology does the rest. I wasn’t a tremendous fan of Iron Man, but when FortiesGirl pointed out that Tony Stark won his battles by being a better engineer, I had to respect that. This Batman doesn’t need brains. He has toys. But he didn’t build them himself.

One of Batman’s most impressive toys is a pretty clear stand-in for domestic wiretapping (I guess thanks to Obama and McCain's agreement on the issue, Wayne Enterprises won't even get fined) and even my beloved Lucius Fox is taken in by the argument that “We will only use it just this once. Because we REALLY REALLY need it right now. Then we won’t use it again ever." (Admittedly the machine self-destructs, but lots of stuff blows up in this movie and that doesn’t always mean it is permanently gone.)

I’m already getting crap in the comments for having called Batman “neo-con” in what I posted last night, but I think it’s a pretty fair call. Batman is all about protecting Gotham and talks about Gotham City in much the same way as Bush talks about protecting America, almost as if he’s protecting the concept and the ideals rather than the actual people. But then, Batman and the police repeatedly betray those ideals as they torture people**, a quality I feel they share with the Bush administration. The movie spends much of the time trying to convince us that things are so bad that our cowardice justifies betraying who we are.

No, it doesn’t.

Washingtonians have a pretty good idea how people react to a couple of crazy guys randomly going around killing people and then seeming to disappear only to reappear a few days later and do it again. Frankly, we’ve been there. Were some people nuts? Yeah, I guess. But most of us pretty much went on about our lives as usual rather than rioting in the streets or calling for revenge at press conferences.

The sort of mass hysteria the Joker causes is just so extreme as to be unbelievable. Even in after 9-11, people were a little nuts but not this bad and Joker does nothing on 9-11's scale.

I know, I know, it’s a comic book movie. And I know I’m giving it a very large compliment by taking it so seriously, but it still freaks me out to see the number of people who see this as a deep and thought-provoking study of evil.

To me, it looked like one big excuse for the inexcusable.


*Morgan Freeman was great, I gotta say. I think I enjoy him more as Fox than I have in any other role. Please Mr. Freeman, stop playing mystical folks and concentrate on playing tweedy super geniuses.

** At one point the Joker obviously baits a cop into beating him in the interrogation room. Even the cop gets what is going on with the baiting, but attacks Joker anyway, setting in motion a chain of events leading to the Joker’s eventual escape. If the cop hadn’t let himself lose his cool, the movie would have ended a blessed hour earlier with the Joker in the pokey for good. Yet of course, nobody in the movie seems to learn anything from this.

They can guest blog here anytime...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

If they ever make a "Lucius Fox fights crime" movie, I will go.

But I may never go to another Batman movie, especially in this "Batman the neocon" franchise that to me has the budget of a blockbuster yet the feel of some Emo kid college student's senior project.

Hated it. HATED IT.

More later, perhaps in the morning.

Oh, and for my money Gary Oldman deserves the oscar if anyone's getting one.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Courage in Knoxville

This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy's motives for
creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues
really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that
courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of
every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point
of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which
yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on
conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.

-C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
(which are written from the perspective of a devil, therefore "the enemy" referred to is God)

I join the rest of my blogosphere in thinking about the shooting at the UU church in Knoxville yesterday, but I find my thoughts centered on Greg McKendry, who died shielding the congregation's children with his body. Like Screwtape, I think about courage a lot. I wish I had more of it, and I wish I were certain that I would do the right thing in desperate circumstances.

One UU did, and I hope we don't forget him for a long time.

who can't go to the service the UU church of Rockville is having because of school, but will be there in spirit.

Ps. Here's another insightful column about the tragedy.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

You people ARE watching Dr. Horrible, right?

Just making sure.



Eww... Seriously.

who notes again how quickly racism sunk Ron Paul, but McCain's sexism is apparently no big deal.

So has anybody seen "Mamma Mia?"

I love me some Christine Baranski and see just about everything she does. (Yep, even the Grinch.)

At the same time, the reviews "Mamma Mia" had gotten, combined with the fact that, well, it's an Abba musical, has pretty much everyone I know not wanting to see it.

TheCSO still owes me big because I sat through "A Scanner Darkly," so I COULD cash in that chip. But do I want to?

Has anybody seen it? Is it that bad? How much screen time does Christine Baranski get?



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Corporate America reassures Chalicechick

"Good afternoon," I said to the bank teller, "I forgot my wallet, but I'm in here all the time. Can I just withdraw a hundred dollars?"

"I do recognize you" My bank teller Inga said, peering into her computer. "Do you know your account number?"

I didn't, of course. So I gave her my social and she looked it up. Inga filled out the withdrawal form and handed it back to me.

"I'm sorry, I don't have a pen." I said. "I'm just useless this afternoon."

Inga handed me a pen. "No," she gravely said. "We disagree. We are your bank, and we do not think you are useless at all."

"Thanks," I said, signing the paper.

She handed me my money and I left the bank.

What a strange little interaction.

And now, in honor of the fact that CC has not had a normal evening at home followed by a normal night of sleep in at least ten days, we will practice the traditional Chaliceblog Self-Care exercise: Watching that "Alan Rickman-I'm too Sexy" youtube video.

Please enjoy, and know that we at the Chaliceblog do not think you're a bit useless. Not at all.

Let's review those rules one more time...

In which a bunch of guys talk to reporters about their fight club.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Yes, it has come to this

I printed up a bunch of these and am going to keep them in our new car.

Frequently Asked Questions About Our Car

What kind of car is that?
It's a Smart Passion Cabriolet, but most people call it a SmartCar.

Who makes it?

Where did you get your car?
At the Smart Dealership in Tysons Corner, VA. It's next to the Mercedes dealership on route 7. Tell Lance we said "Hi."

Is it a hybrid?
Nope, it runs on premium gasoline.

How much did your car cost?
Manners, please! OK, we're kidding, sort of. They start at about 12k but we got ours fully loaded, so we paid about 20.

What kind of gas mileage do you get?
The EPA got about 36. We drive conservatively and get about 40, but we drive on highways a lot.

Does it have a trunk?
Kind of. You can stow stuff behind the seat. About as much as two people can take on an airplane, both checked baggage and carry-on.

Do you have to peddle that thing?
Didn't your Momma ever tell you it's rude to make fun of people's cars? Our Mommas did.

Can I peek inside your car?
We'd really rather you didn't. If you'd like to see what the interior looks like, you can check out

How is it on snow?
Canadians don't seem to mind it.

Does it have a GPS?
No. But some people get aftermarket ones installed.

How many cylinders?
Three. It’s not a performance car, at all.

How fast does it go?
It tops out at about 90.

I hear you have to order SmartCars a year in advance?
We ordered it in April of 2007 and picked it up in April of 2008, so yeah, we did. The wait is about 12-18 months right now. We found out about the car from a friend of ours who loves cars. He recommended it.

How do you like it?
We love it!

Is this FAQ really necessary?
We know this is weird, but yeah, it kind of is. LOTS of people ask about our car. Sometimes several times a day. Sometimes they flag us down at stoplights or find us in restaurants. We want to answer questions, but we’re kinda shy and sometimes late for work.