March 26, 2004


Devil's Playground documents the Amish rite of passage known as rumspringa whereby 16 year-old Amish kids are allowed to experience the 'real world.' You know, drink, drive ... roll over on crank dealers in order to avoid jailtime, etc.

In explaining the philosophy behind rumspringa, Faron Yoder (the main teen subject of the movie) explains that it's like a vaccination. It's meant to give teens a taste of what they won't have so that they don't end up missing it.

Faron ends up snorting a lot of vaccine.

The ostensible tension of rumspringa is that the kids have to make a choice at the end of it: continue to live in the real world or join up with Amish church. However, it's basically a false choice. The 'real world' the kids experience is a hyper-realized and completely closed teenage existence. They only hang out with other Amish teens. Most still live at home.

So while they're allowed to throw as many drunken Amish parties as they want (usually at their parents' farms), their understanding of what it means to be a teenager is completely involuted. As in everyday teenage life, things trend towards homogeneity - it turns out that kids are good at picking up what's considered cool despite an austere upbringing. Amish kids quickly go from being completely bewildered by Wal-Mart's CD section to healthy pop culture consumers thanks to the social cues of their peers (and, you know, MTV).

But because of the in-bred nature of their society (even before getting the same haircut, the kids look a lot alike if you know what I'm sayin') and the temporary nature of their furlough in the real world, any random behavioral mutation will quickly spread through the group. To wit, the aforementioned crank.

It's interesting that even when completely strung out on meth-amphetamines these kids never question their faith. Heaven and hell are completely real and definite places. It must be a really bad trip to be totally spun on meth and the only thought rattling through your head is that you're bound for a literal hell much worse than the one in which you're trapped.

As if all of this weren't enough reason to see the flick, it's also got a great soundtrack. Selected Ambient Works volumes 1 and 2.

March 25, 2004

Wifi Up High

Boeing announced its plan to offer in-flight internet connectivity:

The flat rate, which would give a user unlimited Internet access, will cost $29.95 for flights lasting longer than six hours. Each three- to six-hour leg will be charged at $19.95, while access on trips under three hours would cost $14.95.

That's no free hotspot at the local coffee shop, to be sure, but I was expected something far more pricey. I mean, doesn't it cost like $20 to make a 4 minute phone call in the air?

One weird detail ... the initial plan is for wireless and they hope to offer Ethernet later on. Seems a tremendous expense to go around laying wires to every seat for people who will only have laptops.

March 19, 2004


A while back, Gavin at linked to and excerpted a post in which Dr. John "Men are Mars ..." Gray was alleged to be a fraud. The claim is that he doesn't actually have a PhD.

His lawyers caught wind and sent a nastygram - not to the person who originally posted the story, or the authors of the original outing in Men's News Daily - but to Gavin. Which is pretty beat.

But also funny because in the letter, his lawyers attempt to establish his bona fides by pointing out that "Previously, Dr. Gray received his Master's degree from the Maharishi European Research University ... where he also obtained his Bachelor's degree."

I'm sure Maharishi U. is a totally legit university. They've even got an MBA program which combines higher consciousness and professional excellence. I really dig the illustration on this page ... dude meditating + flip chart with Feynman diagram showing something assuredly managementory.

Apparently, you can maximize profits through the proper application of transcendental meditation and quantum mechanics.

March 15, 2004

Live from the bathroom at SXSW

My cell phonaphobia may have finally caught up to me. I'm sitting outside the men's room on a conference call ... that's where they keep the pay phone. Of course, the wireless is really good so, there's that.

March 06, 2004

I've got my eye on you

Photo credit: Eugene Smith

March 04, 2004

Not silly

Silly Putty's come a long way, it would seem. Check out Crazy Aaron's Puttyworld for the varieties of 'Thinking' Putty now available.

I've ordered some color-shifting scarab putty ... you know, for personal use.

March 01, 2004


At lunch today, we were talking about Disney's classic foray into sci-fi, The Black Hole. Specifically, we were debating the super-creepy end to the movie wherein everybody ends up taking a tumble through ye olde singularity.

The results of this are mixed.

On one hand, the do-gooders of the Palomino end up in the Land of Tubular Bells - a shiny place, full of shiny goodness and, like, gossamer-winged adventure.

On the other hand, EvilBot Maximilian and scruffy scientist Hans Reinhardt end up ... somewhere else. They're shown drifting towards one another in the hazy fog of the black hole. As general relativity tells us, when a robot and a man are put in a black hole, they will embrace gently. And then they'll be fused together into some sort of cyborg, standing watch for eternity over slaves toiling in a smoky hot pit.

It's quite the metaphysical end to an otherwise subphysical movie. Steve pointed out that he'd turned to the Internet for help in understanding this symbolic stew and the IMDB forums provided the hook-up.

Obviously, the simplest answer is that the filmmakers decided they need some sort of "far out" ending like 2001. But lacking imagination or actual talent, they tossed up a weirdly literal, pseudo-spiritual meditation on Heaven and Hell.

Alternatively, they may have decided to make the most out of the fact that Maximillian was also the first name of the actor playing Dr. Reinhardt. "What if, like ... they were the same person! But you know, in Hell! Hey, man, puff, puff, give."