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- opinions formed while-u-wait! -

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.concepts
Metrosexuality

As should be obvious, Metrosexuality has nothing to do with sexuality. It's a vanity-based lifestyle choice wherein men fetishize clothing, cosmetic products, or other things traditionally the realm of women. Metrosexuals are usually men with too much disposable income who subscribe to the set of lies I'll call the Cosmetic Fallacies (just a few examples: that you are a troll without beauty products; that super-expensive beauty products differ significantly from their cheap counterparts; that people might not detect the defects of your personality if you smear enough crap on your head [see also the facial scrub review]), so they're willing to invest hundreds to thousands of dollars and countless mirror-hours on ridiculous nonsense.
     At least in certain major metro areas, metrosexuality is a socially acceptable way for a straight man to express his feminine side, and I certainly don't want to discourage that kind of expression in general. But the behaviors that comprise metrosexuality in specific are such a shallow, vain, and icky way of doing it that they ultimately amount to a caustic misogyny. And like most pre-fabricated, off-the-shelf forms of personality, I'm embarrassed by it on anybody over the age of eighteen.
.: .2.0. . : . . . :
3/30/2006 • link2 comments

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.products
St. Ives Apricot Facial Scrub

WARNING! It is my experience that some ingredient of this product, when combined with some ingredient found in some shampoo(s) or conditioner(s) at my house, creates a poisonous gas. On two (but only two) separate occasions, as I was rinsing the scrub from my face in the shower, I felt a burning sensation in my nose and lungs, forcing me to fling open the window and hop out of the shower to open the bathroom door, creating a lifesaving crossbreeze. There is no mistaking what occurred: it happened as soon as the scrub hit the puddle of standing water at my feet; it only happened on days I washed and conditioned my hair (which is rare enough); it smelled like nothing so much as Hot Death, though the nearest analogue is home hair bleach. Unfortunately, I don't remember which hair product was the other half of the death gas equation (as none of the hair products in the bathroom is mine), and I'm loath to attempt to recreate the magical reaction.
Putting aside momentarily the possibility of death by poison gas, let's talk about this stuff in terms of its effectiveness as a beauty aid. Once I started using this exfoliating scrub, my skin started looking fresher, cleaner, and much less covered with dead skin. The gritty particles suspended in goop -- which I guess are supposed to be ground-up apricot stones -- are abrasive enough to satisfy your average American male.
     See, when it comes to skin-care, hair-care, or other beauty products, most men find it hard to pretend that we don't know the entire industry is a sham, isolating, amplifying, and preying on women's insecurities, then charging them a mint for the favor. If we're forced to participate in this evil system by buying such a "product," it had better be cheap, effective, and short on beauty-industry bullshit (for exceptions, see "Metrosexuality" coming soon).
     Your average American woman will happily plunk down $60 for a miniscule pot of "invisible microabrasive spheres in pore-frightening gel," and even really intelligent women are programmed at a very early age to disengage their critical faculties in the beauty aisle -- it's the same process that makes possible the sale of makeup and razors. Certain gay women are the most likely to be able to resist this idiocy, but are by no means immune (hence "lipstick lesbian").
     But men need something real, something with tangible effects. Something like St. Ives Apricot Facial Scrub. It feels like you're washing your face with wet cement, and that's exactly how we like it. There is no doubt that you have been scrubbed -- the contusions tell you it's working!
rating as facial scrub:: . .. : . .8.7. :
rating as non-producer of poison gas:: . .3.1. : . . . :
3/30/2006 • link6 comments

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.games
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
Video Game (PlayStation 2)
I played some early incarnation of Prince of Persia on my old Mac IIcx in college, and it was a decent diversion at the time. (my other favorite time-wasters at the time were Maelstrom (Asteroids on steroids, a truly great game), The Incredible Machine (an ingenious freeform problem-solving game in which you built Rube Goldberg devices to achieve set goals), Apeiron (a Centipede update that showed how much the enjoyment of Centipede depended on that rolly-ball); interest in Tetris was waning, and Crystal Quest was already old hat. God, it's a miracle I got any work done at all.)
     This game is the second "new generation" PoP title. The coolest innovation of the first (aside from all the stuff that came automatically with a contemporary PS2 game, like hi-res graphics and 3-d gameplay) was the ability to rewind the game ten seconds if you screwed up in some dangerous but fixable way. It was fucking genius, because 90% of the time in these video games, your character dies as a result of a stupid mistake. When you jumped into a pit of deadly metal spikes, you just held down a button until you moved back to the ledge you were on before you leapt blindly to your death. So satisfying not to have to start a section over from the last save point every time.
     Otherwise, the game involved complex (though not always difficult) puzzles involving a lot of jumping around and pulling switches and moving boxes and crap like that, interspersed with some sword-fighting. I thought the game was great. No task was too hard that I couldn't do it within at most 3 tries, except for bosses, who were appropriately tough. I would have given that game a 9.0, I think.
     This game is just as good, I think, and it improves on some things that I didn't even know bothered me about the first. But it's a sequel, so it doesn't seem quite as special.
.: . . . . : . .8.9. :
3/30/2006 • link2 comments

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. television
Battlestar Galactica
If you've ever seen Stargate SG-1 or Stargate: Atlantis, you would think that the Sci-Fi channel's original shows are crap: badly acted, cheaply shot, written to strict and unimaginative formula.
     You'd be right. The shows are popular with Science Fiction Geek (SFGs) who don't use normal standards to judge stuff. The most important things to a SFG are (in no particular order): Internal consistency, the illusion of scientific rigor, exclusionary content that plays to SFG ego (e.g. unexplained military acronyms); cool-looking computer shit; a hero cool enough to identify with; western-style action sequences. In exchange for these elements, SFGs are totally willing to sacrifice quality in characterization, plot, emotion, etc.
     But as you may have heard, the "reimagined" Battlestar Galactica is really fucking good.
     Generally, what what's good about BG is its narrative complexity and depth, i.e. it actually considers what would happen if the remainder of the human race numbered 50,000, was floating through space in a random and accidental "fleet" of civilian spaceships and one Battlestar (a space version of an aircraft carrier), and was constantly on the run from a species of robots determined to kill every last human. (Of course the robots are indistinguishable from humans, a sci-fi trope essential since Philip K. Dick revolutionized the genre.) The show considers the political, legal, and economical ramifications of such a scenario (Who is in charge of the fleet? Should abortion still be legal when the survival of the species is in doubt? What is the basis for an economy in this context; does money still have value? Is the death penalty a valid punishment for any crime?) It deals with these subjects like the complicated adult issues they are, and the answers are never simple, and often unpleasant.
     Just as importantly, the characters and the relationships between them are treated with the same depth and attention to detail. Everybody is suffering from the effects of post-apocalyptic trauma and loss, and they are all running for their lives. Various characters have richly complicated histories with each other, but they never descend to the level of soap opera. People are realistically flawed, nobody is perfect and nobody is wholly evil either; even the genocidal Cylons are treated sympathetically -- you just need to hear their side of the story!
     As if that weren't enough, add the best Sci-Fi effects and space-fight sequences ever made for television. They are thrilling, clever, original, and horrifying. A lot of good guys die, many ignobly. The physics feel righter than ever; I'll often see something and think "yeah, that's how that should look," not even knowing how other shows' depictions of space flight have bothered me over the years. The space scenes have almost no sound, just the muted pulsing of Galactica's big guns.
     I could go on. But suffice it to say that if you hate science fiction, this suffers from none of the things you hate about science fiction. And if you like one-hour dramas, this is still one of the best-written shows on television. This isn't impossible, HBO's Deadwood proved that contemporary genre shows could be as serious as anything else on the screen. To understand Galactica's accomplishment, imagine Deadwood with a really well-executed, thrilling, horse-mounted gunfight every ohter episode, in addition to all its current charms. Yee-hah!
.: . . . . : . .8.5. :
3/30/2006 • link1 comments

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.products
Gillette Fusion "shaving system"

In January 2004, Gillette put a battery in the handle of its Mach 3 razor blade and released it as the M3 Power. It sounded like a stupid idea to me, and I'm not the only one who thought so. I found this prediction on the site of an "advisory services firm specializing in ... new product... creation." This company clearly consists of a solitary asshole who makes stupid-looking charts and then guesses which new products will be successful. He took one look at the concept of the M3 Power, and thought: "this is the same fucking razor they've been selling for years, except now it vibrates and costs 70% more. This product is doomed."
     Of course, he was totally wrong. It became the best-selling razor within a year.
     Constant and unnecessary tinkering has been a hallmark of consumer industries since the first time somebody put the words "New & Improved" on a box and sales jumped by 20%. But even in this context, the "innovations" developed every two years by Gillette seem like practical jokes calculated to piss us off by insulting our intelligence on a massive scale. But instead of saying "fuck you" and vowing to grow beards, we buy the new razor.
     Why do we do this? My theory: Razors are so boring, and the task they perform such an unpleasant necessity, that any change that delivers a consumer thrill -- no matter how retarded and/or potentially disfiguring -- is rapturously embraced by the American male. The thrill is everything. If you can think of a way to make toilet paper thrilling, you could retire within the year.
     I know this is true. Because despite everything I've ever said on this subject, I bought the 6-bladed Fusion after watching the ads for it during the Superbowl. I'm an asshole. And the shave, of course, is not noticeably different from any shave I've gotten in the last ten years. It's a good shave, but it's not ten dollars good.
.: . .3.1. : . . . :
3/29/2006 • link0 comments

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.books
Cloud Atlas
by David Mitchell
I am love love loving this book. Sometimes a novel with a gimmick works (Time's Arrow) and sometimes it doesn't (Hopscotch). Initially, the too-too clever structure (which it's better if I don't reveal) seemed gimmicky and pleased with itself. But each successive section is so amazingly beautiful that the narrative oddities not only enhance they story, but make it possible.
.: . . . . : . . .9.2:
3/29/2006 • link5 comments






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