Liveblogging the Entire LOTR Trilogy III: The Return of the King.
June 24, 2010, 5:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Refresh your browser for periodic updates.  SPOILER ALERT!

6:42PM: Back again, this time with the last installment in our epic melodrama. Only 5-6 hours left!  Do you remember how psyched you were for these to come out?  I remember.  I was almost “dressed-up-like-Aragorn” excited.  Had it been like two degrees more socially acceptable, I probably would’ve done it.  Or I would have gone as Liv Tyler.

Continued after the jump…

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Liveblogging the Entire LOTR Trilogy II: The Two Towers.
June 24, 2010, 1:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Refresh your browser for periodic updates.  SPOILER ALERT!

2:19PM: And now we start again with the Two Towers and I’ve spilled water everywhere.  We are making good time here, people.  We can do this!  We are the US Men’s National Soccer Team of LOTR liveblogging!

Continued after the jump…

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Liveblogging the Entire LOTR Trilogy I: The Fellowship of the Ring.
June 24, 2010, 9:29 am
Filed under: Rants, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Refresh your browser for periodic updates.  SPOILER ALERT!

10:22AM: It has begun.  This is the nerdiest/awesomest thing I have ever done.  I will liveblog the LOTR trilogy in its entirety.  I own the extended editions of each movie, so that means like 12 hours of swords, orcs, hobbit-on-hobbit love, and Liv Tyler.  Will I survive?  I would like to tell you that I am doing this without the aid of substances.  I would like to tell you that.  But it would be a lie.  I will do whatever it takes to enhance my endurance and, correspondingly, enhance your blog-reading pleasure.  Now, it has been brought to my attention that recently executed murderer Ronnie Gardner watched the entire trilogy before his death.  Don’t worry, I don’t plan to get shot by firing squad when this is all over.  Though maybe I will want that.

Continued after the jump…

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Ancient Document Dump: On the Passing of Steve Irwin.

Editor’s Note: Considering that I am completely lacking in inspiration, I thought I’d post another oldie from back in the day.  This one I wrote the night that I learned of Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter’s untimely and tragic death.  Please understand that this is satire, and that I was actually deeply affected by Crocodile Hunter’s death — enough to dress like him for Halloween that year.

CNN trotted out its red “breaking news” banner.  The New York Times reported in stark black and white under the “News from AP” heading.  Steve Irwin had died, struck down by the cruel unthinking malice of a stingray barb through the chest.  The preliminary reports note the irony: Steve was filming a documentary to demonstrate his bravery around stingrays.  They do not note that the barb, slicing through his heart, is pregnant with metaphor, wielded as it was by one of nature’s murderous miscreants.

I spent a summer, several years ago, employed in a Discovery Channel Store at the Briarwood Mall.  I would spend each shift sitting on the counter behind the registers, chatting with an aspiring Marxist Prog-rocker (“my band’s major influence is Rush — now compare the time signatures on these songs by Tool and King Crimson”) and a failed Central Michigan University quarterback (“I’m waiting to hit it big in hearing aid sales, but you can’t do that until you are old.”)  As the boredom slowly smoothed over the folds in my cortex, Steve’s voice would rise above the din.  It spiraled out of the seven television sets spread throughout the store.  His giant face hovered above me on the tremendous flat-screen, beckoning me to begin the two-minutes hate against man’s greatest enemy, the crocodile.  I know Steve well.  He taught me to seek power and mastery over all of Noah’s dumb beasts.  He taught that this was God’s divine will.

See Steve struggle with the crocodile who unthinkingly stumbled into some Australian suburb.  Certainly, he could have just shot the fucker with a tranquilizer dart, later dumping its flaccid body into some gully in the interior.  However, Steve, like an Ahab in uncomfortably tight shorts, had a greater ambition.  He wrestled the crocodile to demonstrate his power.  He subdued it with his own hands and then set it free in the wilderness, as if to say, “here thou art home, malignant archfiend, but soon we shall overrun you with bulldozers and houses and then you and I shall again engage in combat.  And the next time we meet, demon, I shall eat your heart.”

So it is fitting that, as the Mighty Thor dies from the poison of the great serpent Jörmungandr at Ragnarok, Steve died locked in mortal combat with nature, his greatest nemesis.  And like Ragnarok, Steve’s run-in with a flat blob with a sharp tail that sits on the floor of the sea represents his on-going struggle to destroy nature for our future.  Bindi Sue will some day see a glorious future where steel stretches high into the coal-black sky and robots feast upon the flesh of kittens.  This future will be his legacy.  Let us all kill an animal today to avenge our fallen hero.

– September, 2006

Taqueria Review: La Taqueria.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in our series of reviews of local Mission taquerias.  This taqueria review will feature content written by “Rob” our “Guest Taqueria Analyst.”

dearest burrito, you are the only thing that understands me.

Erik: Methodology – Five relatively physically healthy men, not-quite young, served as subjects in the following study of taqueria tastitude™.  The burrito and the taqueria were objectively measured using a variety of variables.  These variables were conveniently recorded in a googledoc and are summarized at the end of this review.

Rob: AnalysisLa Taqueria, or “La Taq” as it is known to local denizens, is one of the more well-known taquerias in the City. Located conveniently near the Mission & 24th St. BART stop, La Taq provides a spartan menu of burritos and tacos, with meats ranging from stewed chicken to lengua (no seafood).  Our visit to La Taq presented an interesting conundrum: the taqueria’s tacos are arguably more renowned than their burritos, therefore largely responsible for La Taq’s popularity and reputation, but for the purposes of this blog we would be focusing on the burrito only.

Rob = Burrito Gangsta

Erik: What Rob means is “Any idiot can make a good taco.”  One time, I made a taco with a hotdog, a piece of wheat bread, and ketchup.  It ain’t rocket science.  The burrito, on the other hand, is a science.  It has a glorious history.  If a San Francisco taqueria tells you it is notable for its tacos, it is simply trying to deflect criticism for suckage.

Rob: Upon entering, I was immediately struck by the colorful mural spanning the length of two adjoining walls, as well as the cheeriness of the staff. Because of the concentrated nature of the menu offerings and having had the carnitas during my previous visit, I quickly decided on a chicken burrito with cheese and avocado. The menu does not offer a “super” burrito; only one size burrito, with your choice of meat and then any sides that you wish to add. The service was prompt and courteous, without an overwhelming sense of friendliness but at a very comfortable level for an SF taqueria.

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two men enter, one man leaves.

Dearest devoted readers, I know I have neglected this.  Days have passed without much inspiration.  However, two notable events occurred last week that compelled me to update: a friend informed me that a member of the Michigan State House submitted a bill to repeal sentencing guidelines for the crime of dueling and  I passed the California bar exam.  These events happened on the same day, and reminded me of my most inspired intellectual moment in law school — the day I decided that “trial by battle” was still a viable alternative to the civil court system in American law.  Allow me to explain:

People of the early Middle Ages needed some way of solving conflicts that did not involve the blood feud.  The blood feud was a disaster; entire families would spend several generations murdering each other over a stolen goat. European societies developed a series of “trials” through which a person could prove his or her legal case.  Some of these seem quite bizarre to the modern non-viking.  In Iceland, for example, a piece of turf (soil with grass or whatever on top) was propped up and the person  had to walk underneath without the turf falling on him (like the limbo, but with grass).  Other places just had the person walk on hot coals.  The idea was that God would favor the truthful party, and if you survived unscathed through this trial by ordeal you were clearly in the right.

Following the Norman Conquest of England, “Trial by Battle” became a common type of dispute resolution.  It was not used so much for criminal cases, instead you solved civil disputes by fighting each other.  You stole my goat, so now we will fight!  The problem with trial by battle as a legal procedure was that you could easily die or lose a leg.  As a result, legal fictions arose where parties could pretend to do trial by battle while still maintaining their bodily integrity.  For example, you could choose a “champion” to fight in your place.  That way your servant would die instead of you.

The reluctance of the English to put their lives on the line for a stolen cow was a primary motivating force in creating some of our most cherished legal institutions.  Trial by jury with evidence by witnesses was introduced by Henry II as an alternative to trial by battle.  The use of “champions” as surrogates to solve disputes morphed into the use of attorneys in front of the jury.  Since English people could now solve disputes without dying, instead submitting their case to the judgment of their neighbors, the use of trial by battle diminished until it disappeared altogether in the 1500s.

But it was never abolished.  One day in 1817, a young man named Ashford brought an obscure civil action called an “appeal of murder” against a man named Thornton he alleged had raped and murdered his sister.  Thornton had been acquitted of the crime, but British law still allowed a civil appeal of the criminal sentence if the family felt the verdict did not fit with the evidence.

At the appeal hearing, Thornton appeared wearing two leather gauntlets.  He threw one at the feet of Ashford and stated unequivocally that he was not guilty and was willing to defend himself.  The crowd was shocked.  The Justices were at first confused: ” wait?  what?  what was this man doing? OH MY GOD HE IS ASSERTING TRIAL BY BATTLE!”  Ashford’s attorneys objected, but the Justice’s hands were tied.  Trial by Battle was still good law in England.  Ashford withdrew his appeal to avoid being murdered by a bigger, stronger man.  Thornton was never convicted of the death of Ashford’s sister.  The trial by battle never occurred.  The next year, Parliament abolished both appeals of murder and trial by battle.

BO-RING!  What does this have to do with America?  The United States incorporated English Common Law as it stood in 1789  with a series of reception statutes adopted by each state as it entered the Union.  The federal government applies English common law by implication in the Constitution and explicitly through the Northwest Ordinance.  But the English didn’t get around to abolishing trial by battle as an alternative to civil jury trials until 1817, after the founding of the United States Constitution.  That means trial by battle, along with the rest of English Common Law, was incorporated into United States in 1789, just like the Rule in Shelley’s Case and fee simple determinable.  For all anyone knows, if you have a problem with your landlord and don’t feel like suing her, bring some leather gauntlets and assert your right to trial by battle!  Swords at dawn!  Have a problem with that ticket given to you by the local DMV?  Force them to appoint a champion to meet you on a deserted island!

Suggested playlist for this entry: “One Rode to Asa Bay” by Bathory; “Twilight of the Thunder God” by Amon Amarth.

An exegesis of sexual subtext in “Predator.”
March 25, 2010, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Rants | Tags:

An excerpt from Sir J. Thurgood Snorpington-Pittwickett’s classic “Sexual Tyrannosaurus: ‘Predator’ and the masculine struggle with homosexual self-identity,” first published in the 1988 Journal of Psychosexuality and Cinematical Hermeneutics 6, p. 122-254.*

“Using post-freudian dialectical analysis, it becomes clear that the 1987 action film ‘Predator’ is an allegory for the gay male struggle to accept a differing sexual identity than is appropriate in a dominant hetero-normative cultural system. As we see the character Dutch, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger struggle to understand and accept the existence of the Predator, we are actually witnessing the struggle for dominance in the psyche of a gay man who has not yet understood or accepted his own identity.  The jungle of Dutch’s mind is the setting for the fight between his Super-Ego, manifested in the team of hyper-masculine marines, and the Id of the Predator, who represents a pure homosexual archetype.

Dutch is the leader of his team, but just as society determines what conduct is normatively appropriate and thereby holds a strong control over our actions, Dutch’s team correspondingly operates to influence his choices. For example, Jesse “The Body” Ventura expresses disapproval with homosexuality when, on the chopper, he excoriates his teammates as “Slack-jawed faggots.” This works to maintain the hegemony of dominant heterosexual ideology within Dutch’s mind.  In spite of this, the film introduces the internal conflict raging inside of Dutch early on.  When he first meets his old friend, Dillon, played by Carl Weathers, we see hints of his inner turmoil.  Dillon is the model of a masculine authority figure, dressed in a too-broad tie and incredibly tight work shirt.  When he claps hands with Dutch, we see Dutch’s eyes light up at the touch of another man.  The film adoringly focuses on the masculine form, as we see the two gigantic biceps, veins bulging, arm-wrestle for dominance.  This mimics Dutch’s own internal struggle.  Will he embrace his own way, or will he accept society’s dominant conception of appropriate sexual identity?

Figure 1. The camera intimates the subtextual conflict.

By contrast, the Predator, dressed in obvious S&M gear, is a representative for the pure gay self.  The Predator is a literal “alien.”  It is cloaked in rejecting terms of the Other.  It “hunts” man, and the hint of seduction is a terrifying notion to the heterosexual men in the Marine unit.  The Predator is a perfect mimic, recording and repeating the vocalizations of the Marines.  The fact that a homosexual, like the Predator, can seamlessly blend in with what the Marine’s believe is their own private space, is threatening to their hetero-normative hegemony.  The Predator “skins” Dutch’s heterosexual companions, thereby depriving them of their power and revealing, literally, the irrelevance of their self-identity to Dutch’s experience. The Predator slowly kills off Dutch’s team members, who become weaker and weaker, as Dutch comes to express his own homosexuality more vigorously†. The Predator is invisible to Dutch’s companions and even to Dutch himself, just as Dutch’s homosexual feelings are suppressed by his Superego – neither he, nor his friends, are completely aware of his homosexuality.  Once the Predator, as a representative of Dutch’s long-simmering sexual desires, has completely eliminated all hetero-normative influence from Dutch’s mind, does Dutch begin to understand himself.  Dutch’s transformation takes a pivotal step when he is free from society’s stultifying influence.  He is free to indulge in his long-denied desires, EX: wearing makeup (albeit made of mud).

Figure 2. Bondage gear and outsized physical dimensions represent the gay ideal in the personification of The Predator.

However, it is only when he physically fights the Predator, that Dutch can accept his identity.  Although he admires the strength, and well-built frame, of the Predator, he cannot look at it in the face.  The Predator still wears a mask, a symbolic reflection of Dutch’s own mask of heterosexuality covering a homosexual identity.  In a scene reminiscent of a striptease, the Predator removes his mask, showing his true face.  Dutch cannot look away, but still refuses to fully acknowledge the significance of what he is seeing.  He calls the Predator “ugly,” because it is difficult, after years of indoctrination into the dominant ideology, for him to embrace the beauty of his own individual self-worth as a gay man.  However, Dutch’s self-realization cannot be undone.  The Predator can die, by suicide, because Dutch’s Ego has internalized the homosexual feelings the Superego had long neglected.  The unconscious correcting force of the Predator is no longer needed.   The Predator’s knowing laugh communicates to Dutch that he can now attain happiness as his own self-actualized person.  This revelation is symbolized by the orgiastic giant nuclear explosion in the “jungle” of Dutch’s mind.  Reminiscent of an orgasm, the explosion obliterates the allegorical trees disrupting Dutch’s view of himself.  As he flies away in the helicopter, his solemn face affirms that he now understands and accepts his homosexuality.

†Some scholars, see S. Boolsbury-Lickworth (1987) If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It: Romantic Tragedy in Predator, Harvard Press, have pointed to the indigenous woman Anna’s presence in the film to discount this psychosexual interpretation of ‘Predator.’ According to my close analysis, it is clear that Anna represents an attempt by Dutch’s Superego to manifest a hetero-normative relational dynamic. However, Dutch rejects this, since women in his regard are weak, helpless, and unworthy. It is demonstrative that Dutch never consummates this relationship or even expresses anything but remote disdain.”

*Idea originally conceived by a friend, and inspired by this piece by J.G. Ballard, and also by this.