Admit it. You’ve wanted to join the Dharma Initiative since you saw that first grainy movie back on the first season of LOST. Well, now you can.
Not sure what, exactly, ABC is doing with this, but I signed up anyway to fill that LOST void. If anyone else takes the recruitment test, you’ll have to let me know if some of the images and “answers” freak you out a little.
A reader, who knows of Marathon Girl and my fondness for Houston, forwarded me a great article from The New York Sun that compares New York City to Houston.
New Yorkers are rightly proud of their city’s renaissance over the last two decades, but when it comes to growth, Gotham pales beside Houston. Between 2000 and 2007, the New York region grew by just 2.7%, while greater Houston — the country’s sixth-largest metropolitan area — grew by 19.4%, expanding to 5.6 million people from 4.7 million.
To East Coast urbanites, Houston’s appeal must be mysterious: The city isn’t all that economically productive — earnings per employee in Manhattan are almost double those in Houston — and its climate is unpleasant, with stultifying humidity and more days with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees than any other large American city. Since these two major factors in urban growth don’t explain Houston’s success, what does?
Houston’s great advantage, it turns out, is its ability to provide affordable living for middle-income Americans, something that is increasingly hard to achieve in the Big Apple. That Houston is a middle-class city is mirrored in the nature of its economy. Both greater Houston and Manhattan have about 2 million employees.
When Marathon Girl and I visited four years ago, we were surprised at how inexpensive the city was yet still provided all the amenities and services that we’d want if we lived there. It was the last thing we expected from such a big city, but our time in Houston and the surrounding area was enough to make us seriously consider living there. (Honestly, it’s just a matter of time until we end up moving there.)
We were especially floored by the low housing prices. The reason for the low housing prices are addressed in the article
Houston… has always been gung ho about development. Houston’s builders have managed — better than in any other American city — to make the case to the public that restrictions on development will make the city less affordable to the less successful.
Of course, Houston’s development isn’t costless. Like most growing places, it must struggle with water issues, sanitation, and congestion. For environmentalists who worry about carbon dioxide emissions and global warming, Houston’s rapid growth is particularly worrisome, since Houstonians are among the biggest carbon emitters in the country — all those humid 90-degree days mean a lot of electricity to cool off, and all that driving gobbles plenty of gas.
But Houston’s success shows that a relatively deregulated free-market city, with a powerful urban growth machine, can do a much better job of taking care of middle-income Americans than the more “progressive” big governments of the Northeast and the West Coast.
Taking the cost of living, salaries (they’re much higher in NYC), taxes, etc. residents of Houston come out with more money in their pockets and a higher quality of life. That’s not to say that the city’s perfect. Houston does have hot, muggy weather most of the year and higher property taxes than NYC (and Utah, for that matter). But overall, it’s impressive that a city as big as Houston can be such a middle class magnet and a good place to raise a family.
Since I’ve been more vocal about my desire to live there, it’s amazing how many friends, co-workers, and acquaintances have family members who have relocated from Utah to the Houston area in the last five years. All say that the friends/family who moved there really like it.
(It should be noted that I have about a half-dozen regular blog readers who live there or have lived there at some point and have nothing but positive things to say about the city and living there.)
Yeah, I think relocating to Houston is simply a matter of time.
The “box man” – what my four-year-old son calls the UPS delivery person – dropped off a new pair of running shoes last week. All the kids gathered around in anxious anticipation while I opened it and tried them on. Then the questions came. I swear the White House press corps has nothing on my kids when it comes to asking tough questions.
Q: Are you going to go running right now?
A: No. I just had dinner. I can’t run on a full stomach.
Q: Can I try them on?
Q: Will these shoes help you run fast?
A: Yes, they’ll help me run fast.
Q: Will you be able to run fast like Mom [Marathon Girl]?
A: Probably not.
Q: Why does Mom run faster than you?
A: Because she’s a gifted athlete.
~blank stares from kids~
A: Let me rephrase. Mom is very a very fast runner. Not everyone can run fast like mom.
A: Some people are fast runners while other people are good at baseball players. Everyone’s good at different things.
Q: Can I run fast like mom?
A: One day you probably will.
Q: You’re bigger than mom, why can’t you run faster?
A: That’s a good question.
Q: Can I have your old shoes?
A: No. Dad’s going to throw them away.
A: Because they’re old and smelly.
A: Because dad runs in them all the time.
Q: Can I throw them away?
Q: Can I go running with you when you wear them [the new shoes]?
A: Of course.
Q: Can we go outside and run right now? The sun’s still up.
Marathon Girl and I were able to attend Nerdtacular 2008 on Saturday and, as part of the festivities, watch the best movie of the year: The Dark Knight.
The Dark Knight has to be one the best crime dramas in recent memory and might just set a new standard for comic book based movies.
Christian Bale reprises the role of Batman and finds Gotham slipping into chaos as the Joker goes on a psychotic robbery and killings sprees in order to turn the orderly city into one of chaos and mayhem.
The Dark Knight real quality to it that many comic book movies lack. Instead of special-effect laden stunts, we’re treated to the real thing. Several stunts, such as the semi being flipped over — left the audience in the sold-out theatre gasping. It proved that, if done right, you don’t need computer animation to achieve spectacular results.
But, thankfully, The Dark Knight is more than just an action film. Writer/Director Christopher Nolan lets us see the many layers of the main characters in the film including characters that often aren’t given much depth including the Joker and Commissioner Gordon. Throughout the film there are no easy answers or choices for the characters to make in this movie. Often the characters are presented with no-win situations and simply have to make the best choice based on the knowledge they have at the time.
All the acting is superb, but it’s Heath Leger’s Joker that steals the show. It’s too bad that such a talented actor is dead because he takes Batman’s arch nemesis to a whole new level. I feel bad for the actor that has to play the Joker in the next film – if they decide to bring the Joker back – because he’s going to have some impossibly large shoes to fill.
The Dark Knight is over two-and-a-half-hours long but doesn’t feel like it. Nolan’s pacing keeps the film moving from the opening scene and doesn’t let up until the credits roll.
More than your standard summer popcorn movie, The Dark Knight is a serious drama complete with complex characters, and intricate plot, and great acting.
One note to parents: Parts of the movie are very dark, violent, and disturbing. It’s a not your typical comic book movie like Iron Man or the Spider Man franchise. I wouldn’t recommend letting kids under the age of 10 or thereabouts watch it.
The Dark Knight: 4 out of 4 stars. (And , yes, I plan on paying to watch this movie again.)
Over the last two weeks there have been a couple of pop-culture controversies: The alleged environmentalist propaganda in WALL*E and the New Yorker cover depicting Barack Obama and his wife as leftist radicals. The first controversy has upset the political right while the second has upset the political left.
First to WALL*E. I saw the movie Saturday with my four-year-old son. The night before we went, the family attended a neighborhood BBQ. While talking to four other guys, the discussion turned into whether or not WALL*E contained leftist environmental propaganda. Two believed that it did. The other two disagreed. I was the only one in the group who hadn’t seen the film and therefore couldn’t comment on it.
When I went to see it the next day with my kid, my eye was open for both subtle and overt political messages in the film.
Much to my surprise, I didn’t find one shred of environmentalist propaganda in the film.
I say this as no big fan of the contemporary environmental movement. Most of the groups are run by a bunch of hypocrites who worship at the altar of global warming but are the first to file suit or protest the construction of wind farm because it will kill birds or ruin the view. Instead of a working towards clean environment while improving everyone’s quality of life, the look to lower it. They want gas, electricity and raw materials to be expensive as possible because they hate it that you fly across country, drive cars, and choose to live in the suburbs – I mean urban sprawl. Instead they want to force you to live they way they think you should live which is something akin to a living one bedroom apartment in the middle of Manhattan, having no more than two kids (the fewer the better), and riding public transportation for the rest of your life. The movement is increasingly sees people, technology, and freedom as the problem instead of the solution.
But back to WALL*E. (Warning: Minor spoilers follow.)
The film centers around a robot named WALLE who lives on Earth 700 years in the future. Humans have long abandoned the planet which has become a giant landfill. WALLE, the last robot of his kind, spends his days compacting and building large towers of trash. He falls in love with a probe named Eve and manages to hitch a ride back to her ship. WALLE discovers that humans live on a big ship where all the do is eat and even the most menial tasks are done automatically for them. As a result, they’re all a bunch of big, fat slobs who waste away their days bored and doing practically nothing.
Just because a movie of book shows a trashed planet 700 years in the future doesn’t mean it’s going to be a preachy. Such depictions of Earth in movies and science fiction literature have been going on a long time. Some have been done for political purposes while others haven’t.
The movie could have been preachy. The writers had every chance knock the human race for destroying the planet. They could have run everyone on a guilt drip for shopping at Wal-Mart, eating super-sized value meals, and become overweight slobs.
But they didn’t.
Instead they focused the story on destroyed planet or the slovenly human race the focused on the love story between WALLE and Eve.
If there was any message in WALL*E it’s that there’s more to life than sitting on your butt all day. Instead of wasting your life live, find love, and enjoy everything that life has to offer.
Where, exactly, is the political message in that?
Yesterday, the much talked about issue of The New Yorker arrived in my mailbox. It wasn’t the content inside the magazine that was getting the attention but the cover. Barack Obama is depicted wearing Muslim garb while Michelle is portrayed as a leftist radical from the 60s. An American flag burns in the fireplace while over the mantle hangs a picture of Osama bin Laden.
If you haven’t seen it, here’s an image.
Of course this sent the media into a tizzy to see their presidential candidate even though The New Yorker’s editor was on practically every media outlet explaining that the cover was a satire of the misperceptions that some people have about the presumptive Democratic nominee.
The media should be given some credit. Remember when they were similarly outraged when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were portrayed on the cover of The New Yorker as the cowboys in Brokeback Mountain?
Oh, wait. There wasn’t any controversy over that cover. I must have been talking about the time Bush was depicted as Nero – fiddling while the country burned.
Sorry. My bad. There wasn’t any media outrage over that cover either. I was thinking about the one that depicted Bush as surprised it was his fault the country was broken (drawn, by the way, by the same person who did the Obama cover.)
What’s that? Oh, right. There was no indignation or anger – at least in the press – over that one too.
So why the outcry over the Obama cover?
Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift shares a letter from an outraged reader that was also sent to The New Yorker.
There is no journalistic freedom to justify this cartoon that could have easily been generated by the merchants of hate and fear and will certainly be used by them to justify their own moronic diatribes against this most American family.
Clift adds her own two cents.
The problem is not just that the cartoons themselves are racist and tasteless, but they’re spreading images that are untrue and deepening a perception that Obama is not what he says he is.
While I agree that The New Yorker’s cover is stupid and in bad taste, I’d also say the same thing about the three other covers. Yet there was no similar outrage over them. A quick search of Newsweek’s archive didn’t show any columns by Clift worried that covers of Bush or Cheney are untrue or deepens a stereotype about them held by many in the political left or “merchants of hate.”
Makes you wonder if The New Yorker had depicted a satirical cover of John McCain, if Clift and others would have expressed similar indignation.
Took my four year old to the movie theatre for the first time on Saturday. We saw Pixar’s new film WALL*E, which was by far the best animation I’ve ever seen on the big screen and quite enjoyable overall. (I’d give it 3 ½ out of 4 stars.)
I was a little worried about whether or not he would have the attention span to sit through an entire movie. I know he can sit through a 90 minute movie at home without a problem but was a little worried whether or not he’d do it in for a movie he’d never seen before in an unfamiliar, dark theatre. Overall, he had a great time – especially since I bought him his favorite snack to eat: popcorn. It wasn’t until there was about 15 minutes left in the film that he asked if we could go home. (More on that in a minute.) I told him it was almost over and he sat through the rest of the movie without a problem.
On the drive home, when asked about his favorite moments he said, “The rabbit movie [a five minute short before the actual movie] and when the robot made trash.” Yeah, I think he could have watched WALL*E compact trash and build tall towers of garbage all day.
He also liked the popcorn.
Am I looking forward to taking him to another movie? You bet.
I also can’t wait until our other two kids are old enough to come too.
A quick note on WALL*E: I don’t know if this is the best movie for young kids. The movie has very little dialogue and when there is talking, most of it is between two robots that younger children might have a hard time understanding. I can see why Aidan grew restless toward the end. I’ll be interested to see if he asks Marathon Girl or me to buy it when he sees it at the store – the sign whether or not he really likes a movie.
Starting tomorrow, Room for Two is going on a virtual book tour. Below are the names of the reviewers (click on their names to read their blogs) that will be reviewing Room for Two over the next 30 days. Many thanks to Candace for setting this up!
I’ll update this post with links (along with the links on the side of this blog) to the actual review once they’re up.
Online videos are quickly becoming an effective way for authors to promote their books. Best-selling author Michael Connelly has just posted a video on his website that depicts two scenes in his upcoming book The Brass Verdict. The next video will be released next month. You can watch the video below. It gave me all sorts of ideas for making a video for Room for Two and my forthcoming novel.
While running the other day, I tweaked a muscle in my left calf. Though rather painful, the injury wasn’t very serious. It would simply require a week of no running to heal.
In the meantime, I had to find a replacement cardio activity. Yesterday, I decided to give swimming a try. I figured I had strong arms, legs, and lungs, how hard could it really be to swim for 30 minutes? Besides, when Marathon Girl is working through a running injury, she can swim non-stop for an hour or more without a problem. If she can be Super Woman, why can’t I be Super Man?
I forgot that there can only be one adult superhero per family.
Thirty minutes after I started, I dragged my wet butt out of the pool completely exhausted.
It would be nice to insert a story here about how far and fast I swam and that was the reason for barely being able to exit the pool under my own strength. But I can’t.
Here’s the sorry truth: I ended up swimming 20 lengths during the 30 minutes with a short break between each length.
Yeah, it was that difficult.
Swimming is nothing like running or strength training. I worked muscles I didn’t even know I had.
When I got home last night Marathon Girl asked how my swim was.
I told her.
She did a good job keeping a straight face and telling me I did a good job for not having done any serious swimming in 15 plus years.
Today my shoulders are very sore (in a good way) and I had to take it easy on my weight exercises that involved those muscles.
Even though it was a very tiring and humbling experience, I’ve decided to swim once a week in place of a scheduled cardio or strength training workout.
At the very least, I hope to be able to keep up to Marathon Girl if we ever go swimming together.
That’s how long it’s been since I stood in front of the mirror aghast at the marshmallow shape my body was taking.
That’s how long it’s been since I tied a worn pair of running shoes to my feet, drove down to the local high school and discovered I couldn’t even make it once around the track once without gasping for breath.
That’s how long it’s been since I decided to change my life, cut out soda and junk food from my diet, and get myself in shape.
The results of eight years of hard work?
I can run with Marathon Girl for an hour (pushing a double wide stroller while I’m at it), bench my weight (a big accomplishment since my body came with almost no muscle mass), do over 100 sit-ups without breaking a sweat, run 7:30 miles without getting tired, and am extremely happy with the way my body looks. (As is Marathon Girl.)
But the best part? Running into people (no, not literally) that I haven’t seen in roughly eight years who don’t recognize me because of the changes to my body.