it's a box
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175 Pots

I glazed and fired about 175 pots last week - a record for me, and the finishing off of about 4 months of good work in the studio. Despite all my constant paranoia about it (or wait.. maybe because of my paranoia about it!) all 4 firings turned out good. That's nearly potter's Nirvana.

Why cranking so fast, and how in the hell am I almost ready for my December sale at the end of October, you ask? Well, we're still hunting down this house, and may actually freaking buy it sometime in November, if the planets align and frogs invent the calculus, and Zeus himself leans down from his throne on Mt. Olympus and ordains that it be so.

Ah.. that'd be so nice after all the waiting and wanting and gut-crushing inertia of the whole real estate process. Anyways, should it happen, I'll be up to my armpits in wallpaper and paint and installing large plumbing and heating fixtures (OK - watching guys install them), and so on. That would not leave much time for the usual pre-sale chaos in late November, not to mention planning to move and all that.

Let's hope.
~ scott @ 8:31 AM [link]
Let the DVD Wars Begin!

So now it's getting interesting. I saw last week that Blockbuster started their rental by mail plan, undercutting Netflix's pricing of course, so it was no surprise to receive this email today:
Dear Scott,

Over the last five years, we've grown the Netflix community to over 2.2 million satisfied members. We appreciate your business, and our goal has always been to provide you great service.

Since our price increase in June, some of our members have expressed concerns about the new pricing. We've listened to this feedback and are pleased to inform you that we're lowering the price of your Netflix 4-at-a-time program from $24.95 per month to $21.99 per month.

You don't need to do anything. Your membership will automatically move to the lower $21.99 price. The lower price will appear on your next bill on or after November 1, 2004. You will still get the same great service and convenience, but now you will pay less for it. So please sit back, relax and enjoy your movies!

-Your Friends at Netflix

Game on! Let's imagine that this is the start of the long slide towards free.
~ scott @ 8:26 AM [link]
Stewart Calls A Dick a Dick

Jon Stewart said last week that he "called somebody a dick on national tv", and apparently it's true! On CNN's Crossfire, no less:

"CARLSON: OK, up next, Jon Stewart goes one on one with his fans...

STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.

CARLSON: Now, you're getting into it. I like that.


Ha! Score one for fake journalism!
~ scott @ 11:43 AM [link]
Eternal Sunshine of the Fog of War

We watched two exceptionally good movies this past week, which is really inspiring. So often, despite my best efforts to select intelligently from Netflix, the stuff we watch is just relaxing filler... absorbed and then largely forgotten. But these last two were the kind that inspired thoughts, that made me keep hitting Pause so we could discuss and talk out tangents; smart, well-made films that teach you something and leave a mark:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Quirky concept, great writing, unusual cinematography and really interesting in-camera edits. Jim Carrey is good, the title rocks, and the theme is something along the lines of "memory creates meaning". This brought to mind meaningful relationships, nostalgia, expanded theories about how all that gushy stuff inside the skull really works, and so on. Sweet.

The Fog of War
Wow. Just, wow. Documentary by Errol Morris about Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense during Vietnam (among other things). I'd watched Morris' "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" after seeing it praised in the pages of Wired, and thought it was interesting, but not enough to warrant the hype. So I wasn't expecting that much with this one. Wrong!

Cindy has a serious interest in documentary video/film, and we agreed that this is a textbook example of how to do just about everything right. I think I'd have to watch it a half-dozen times to properly analyze and sort out all the techniques and styles, and why they're so effective.

My favorite sequence, and the one that I think was the most powerful, was the overlay of Japanese city names and their respective amount of destruction by Allied bombers on top of photos of the destroyed cities themselves, with the names changing to show how the numbers would correspond to American cities if the roles had been reversed. Unbelieveable statistics made believeable by style and editing. Maybe "favorite" is the wrong word for something so shocking, but in the film-making sense that's what it was. That part could stand on its own.

The "Eleven Lessons" were pretty intense, and seem to apply to a much broader context. They brought home how smart McNamara is, and helped completely change my opinion of him. Going in, I just had an uninformed sense of him being a villian without knowing much history; now I feel like I've learned what he's like by seeing him talk, and about his ideas and his role historically by the point of view of the film. (I guess I shouldn't feel too comfy with my "knowledge" based on one 2 hour movie, but it's a damn sight more comprehensive than what I know about most other topics -- at least until it fades against the mesh of everything else it's competing against in my limited memory.) The best contrast is that there's the common idea of him being the soulless architect of Vietnam, contradicted by him in person -- wise, engaging, often sweet -- and Morris' view, which supports the idea that he was against it from the start, and got caught up in serving LBJ's agenda after Kennedy's assassination. Interesting stuff.

Finally, it was inspiring in a weird way. I suppose for me it is encouraging to see someone still so passionate about ideas and consequences at 85 years old; I'm already pre-lamenting the idea of someday growing old beyond the point of caring about such things. How is it that one person thrives and another is used up by 70? Not just genetic, not just physical, not just mental exercise. Is there a recipe, and if so, will we find it in time to matter for someone born in 1971? (Yes, narcissistically, me.)

Lord, let me die at the wheel, face down in some clay. And please -- let it not be tomorrow, nor today.
~ scott @ 9:28 AM [link]
I Wish I Was Dead, Too

No, no -- it's not a cry for help*. I watched the pilot episode of Showtime's "Dead Like Me" the other day on DVD, courtesy of Netflix, and was really impressed at how good it was. The case caught my eye a while back at BallBuster Video, with it's great title, but I expected that it could go either way, viz. there's such a tendency to take anything remotely twilight-zonish or existential and dumb it down to an inedible paste. In this case, to my great satisfaction, not so.

So after one episode (and the DVD is kind of a gyp, since it's only an hour long. Where's my 5 episodes, like Sopranos?), I'm a fan. Can't wait to get the next one, despite reservations that it's one of those stories that thrives during the initial revelation stages, but then dulls after the pattern is set. I'm primarily interested in sci-fi/fantasy at the conceptual level, how the writers take an unusal spin or concept and make it cohere to itself, and then how they reveal it to the audience. That's the excitement, the not-knowing part. Hopefully, there's more coming that they saved in reserve.

Methinks this might be a good preview of the future of television, renting just the content I want to see and even paying a premium for the good stuff, but only after it's evolved from a pay-per-channel to a pay-per-show basis. Hell, with 50,000 channels, maybe the current model could work and I'd just subscribe to the Dead Like Me channel, without all the other junk on Showtime. TiVo and all notwithstanding, that seems to me to be the next big entertainment watershed. Not just the current boatload of mixed vegetables when I want it, but only the stuff I want with everything ever made on the menu.

* If a blogger composes a suicide note in the web-o-verse and nobody reads it...
~ scott @ 11:58 AM [link]
TWAS a Story of Weight and Fitness

I've said before that I think Glen McDonald is freakishly smart, and that he expresses it admirably at The War Against Silence. Sadly, he called a truce and the war is over, but not before wrapping up with some final gems.

In We Can Decline, he details his successful campaign to cut weight and get in shape, with the attention to detail and sharp insights that I've come to expect (I find that his autobiographical writings are even more insightful than the music reviews, but that could be because I've rarely even heard the bands he writes about.)

Anyhow, this one mirrored my own casual attempts to shed a few pounds recently, and confirmed many of my own suspicions - especially the notion that most of us are fat and getting fatter due to eating too much crap while sitting still a lot. Thus, the solution is not vogue diets or radical short-term transformations in lifestyle; it's generally better eating and incremental, long-term habit changes.

After years of post-college inactivity that left me out of shape, but still able to rely on a quick metabolism to stay on the thin side, I started feeling chunky just after age 30. The weight appeared, over the past few years, seemigly out of nowhere on my previously svelte frame. Upon hitting a high of #226, and realizing that this was forty-six pounds over my collegiate volleyball-playing size, I made a resolution on Jan.1 to get under #205 by year's end. It seemed like a resolution that would accomplish something, but wasn't so ambitious as to be unattainable. (I've got enough other ridiculously inflated goals already in the queue as it is; a small victory seemed better than yet another delayed defeat.)

My tactics thus far have been comprised of the following:
1. A sweaty hour of walleyball 2x per week (which is a lot harder than it sounds. Why can't it be called something macho like NinjaBall?)
2. Earnest attempts at a long walk once or twice a week
3. Averaging less than one Pepsi/soda per day. (This is the first time I've managed semi-controlover my caffiene+sugar addiction since Jr. High school, which also reminds me why it'd be a bad idea to start drinking, smoking, or shooting up.)
4. More salads, less Wendy's
5. Weighing myself exactly 2x per week (always right after walleyball when I've drained off as much H2O weight as possible. While it's a consistent measurement, doing it while naked and dehydrated is also pretty optimistic. This is highly beneficial to morale.)

And... and...? That's it. Not much change. A bit more exercise, a bit less crap into the system, a bit more good stuff in; a slight change in consciousness and a couple hours a week. And, so far so good: yesterday I hit the magic number for the first time, and nearly 3 months early. (Like almost everything in life except personal finance, I'm obsessively tracking the statistical progress). Granted, I've got to at least stay there through the first part of winter, holiday chow fests, etc., so I'd life to get even lower for a buffer. (The real test is on Dec. 31st, and I'm sticking to the original rules.) But I've gotta think, "Hey. That wasn't so hard. If I can lose more than a pound a month with changes that easy, why not keep going?" Maybe I will...*

* This one feels like I got caught up in too much detail, and the presumption that anyone else would give a flying fuck. Maybe it's a good thing that I don't get this personal more often... hey, it's a blog for an audience of one: me.

~ scott @ 11:52 AM [link]
Armaggeddon Time?

Last night I was polishing off Sunday's NY Times (a very recent habit started by Cindy picking one up at "the Kroger" each week; we're rural enough that you can't get home delivery!), and read a fascinating-yet-horrifying review of "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House," (which appears in it's entirety here, for whatever reason). Check this out:

"The majority of Christian Americans may not agree with [Bush's] apocalyptic worldview, but there’s a big market for it. A Newsweek poll shows that 17 percent of Americans expect the world to end in their lifetime."

What??? Holy-Fucking-Rollers, Batman! That's crazy talk!

OK, that fulfills my quota of explative-laden, gaspatory* responses. I could go on for pages about this one, but my summed response is an unwillingness to believe what I suspect is probably true. In fact, I wish we lived in a world where the pollsters wouldn't even think to ask the question. I guess it just goes to show that we generally have little idea of all the bottled-up wackiness that goes on inside the heads of our acquaintences. (Or how little I pay attention to other people. Oh yeah, I try to ignore idiots.)

Well, I'll go on a bit more. It's my site -- deal with it. (Hey, were's everybody going?**)

In addition to how amazing it is to me that so many Americans believe in religious stuff at all anymore, it's even more weird that: a. so many are into the whole Apocalypse thing; b. they're narcissistic enough to think that these are "the end days"; and c. they're willing to share this belief with a stranger on the phone. (I guess part of the 17% might be rational folks with little faith in our ability, collectively, to avoid blowing the world to shit in the next 50 years; and not necessarily religously wacky to boot. At least that's an opinion I can comprehend, even if my misplaced idealism tends to disagree.)

It all makes me think, and not for the first time, about how much better the world might be without religion at all. Sure, we'd find something else equally dopey and endlessly sustainable to kill each other over, but gee whiz.... it just makes me tired.

* Ed. Note: "gaspatory" is not a real word.
** As if I have an "everybody" to worry about. "Hey you, non-existant reader! Don't stop not reading this thing you've never seen yet!"
~ scott @ 11:33 AM [link]
The Mystical Glory of An Empty Inbox

Well, by virtue of some drudgery, misplaced enthusiasm and tricky (e.g. moving some stuff to a folder called "undone"), I've achieved a rare feat: the Empty Inbox. Yes, it's just one of my accounts, albeit the most painful one. Yes, it's guaranteed to be as fleeting as a dream about flying or perfect barns. Yes, I should stop gloating about it and go check for new mail. But for now, I bask in the perfection of nothingness.

OK, I'm bored.
~ scott @ 2:42 PM [link]
Not So Ninja

MPG video of a well-intentioned, yet not quite promo video quality, martial artist.

"God, are you OK?"
Abundant crashing sounds.
"No, you're not."

The best part is the small "Bring It On" huff he does before attempting the backflip.
~ scott @ 8:23 AM [link]