Thursday, September 3, 2009

Boondock Saints 2

Does anybody still care about this?

All the 14 year old boys who loved the original are now 24 and should now know better. I hope they do because this looks terrible.

First Week of Classes (Year 2)

1.  Thanks to the wonderful new MA program both my classes are well over the cap.  As fun as it is to see how many grad students can fit into a room, people probably should not have to sit on window sills.

2.  TAing has inexplicably become TAing + some lecturing.  This will fulfill some requirements so I'm not too upset.

3.  Despite my complaining, I'm actually kind of excited about classes this semester.  Social psych seems like it's generally outside my scientific worldview so I'll probably end up either learning a lot of new things that'll inform my research or arguing constantly about experimental method and scientific philosophy.  Either way, I'll keep myself entertained.

4.  I have Friday off (for labor day?).  With that said, I'll probably pull another 12 hour day because grad school is so much fun.

5.  Apparently I'm still on track to graduate on time.  Also, it's slightly worrying that the department chair has no idea who the head of my area is.

6.  Due to the addition of a recliner and some cleaning, my office now looks like a real office.  I expect I'll stop using it in about a week in favor of the lab.

7.  You know you spend too much time studying psychology when you spend significant amounts of time thinking about why people park where they do in the parking lot.  I'm serious, it makes absolutely no sense to me why people always park on the ends of the lot and never in the middle.

8.  I forgot that so many undergrads went to Stony Brook.  The campus is suddenly full of them.  I'd like them to take less time while printing at the library.  Other than that, it's just strange to see so many people around after no one being on campus for months.

9.  Turns out I'm completely dependant on Google products like GMail and Google Scholar... I might have to diversify a bit.  When Google went down I actually had do some real literature searching.

10.  Discovery of the day: listening to movie soundtracks while reading articles makes whatever your reading seem suddenly more dramatic and important.  The consensus so far is that Ennio Morricone works best.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Just Trying Out Some New Stuff...

...Nevermind the mess. I'm making some minor improvements.

I'm also trying some new ways of embedding media, specifically music from GrooveShark.

Also, in case you can't tell, I've been listening to a fair amount of music lately. This is what happens when I'm at school for 12 hours a day.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

School Starts Tomorrow

1. I'm taking Social Psychology because I have to and Cognitive Neuroscience because it's being taught by my adviser.

2. Research and writing will hopefully pick up a bit in the next few weeks. At some point I'll spend days and days looking at brains.

3. I have a vague notion of trying to be less stressed this year. Also, I'm going to try to leave school at a reasonable hour occasionally.

4. I'm inexplicably TAing in the library. I have no idea where the room is. Tomorrow is going to be an adventure.

5. There is a progress meeting this Wednesday. I'm expecting that my class is going to be incredibly stressed out after it's over. Luckily, there is going to be pizza.

6. I signed up for an art class. Seems like it'll be fun even if the description of how we're going to turn off our right hemispheres is a little disconcerting.

What does these random sentences all mean?

I will probably post less often. Though, maybe I'll start writing about things more meaningful than Batman.

Ok, so probably not.

Inglourious Basterds

Caught this last night with some friends and ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I was going to.

One thing I should say before moving on, the previews for Inglourious Basterds are ridiculously misleading. This is far from an action movie and at times, it almost callously subverts the tropes of a war movie. Major characters die quickly and easily, the heroes are shown to be as vicious and bloodthirsty as their enemies, and the action scenes are quick, brutal, and completely indiscriminate. There are long stretches of the film, including the amazing 20 minute long opening scene, where the characters do nothing more than sit around and talk. Despite all this, this is probably my favorite movie of the summer.

Tarantino's skill at writing dialogue is on full display here. While most scenes feature little action, tension is built to almost unbearable levels through the dialogue. Often these scenes result in a quick staccato of violence, but the dialogue keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat wondering how the heroes will extricate themselves from the situation. Given that this is a Tarantino film, they often don't. As the film inches towards it's completely insane climax, a large number of major and minor characters die.

The acting in Inglourious Basterds was a real highlight for me. Aside from Brad Pitt, the "Basterds" are all cast from non-traditional sources. Eli Roth is a (terrible) horror film director, BJ Novak is a writer (and castmember) for The Office, and Samm Levine was on Freaks and Geeks. The international cast especially Christoph Waltz, who did an amazing job as Hans Landa, were also quite good. Even Mike Myers of all people makes a cameo, which isn't nearly as terrible as it sounds.

I've read a lot of criticism of this film, and I think most of it comes from the terrible way in which it was marketed. As I've said, this isn't a war movie. In reality it is closer to a combination Spaghetti Western and French New Wave. In fact, these influences are made explicit in the soundtrack and cinematography. The trailer makes the film look like Defiance or Valkyrie or any of the other incredibly clich├ęd and mediocre World War Two films that have come out recently. Inglourious Basterds is really the antithesis of these films.

In fact, I'd argue that Inglourious Basterds is not even really about the war. Explicitly it's about two separate plots to kill high ranking members of the Nazi party, but as I was watching it, especially in the closing scenes, I kept thinking about how Inglourious Basterds is really a film about films. About the power of cinema to change and shape our perceptions of actual events. A propaganda film plays a central role in the plot, and even the hero of the film is eventually affected by it's content. If anything we are asked to root against the Nazis not just for the atrocities we see them commit, but for corrupting the cinema and using it as a tool for hate. Of course, I'm probably reading way too much into a film featuring a scene where a character from Boston beats a Nazi to death with a baseball bat while screaming about Ted Williams.

My own pretentious over-analysis of the film aside, Inglourious Basterds is worth seeing. I highly recommend it if even just to hear Brad Pitt's amazing Italian-by way of Tennessee-accent.