Archive for December, 2009

Life – Bohemian Mediocrity

December 29, 2009

In his brilliant book “Microserfs”, Douglas Coupland describes, at one point, the Unitape, a loop of bland jazz that plays at Microsoft’s corporate events. He speculates that the motive behind it is to comfort the upper management that they aren’t exactly like their parents…which, of course, is not true at all.

I feel the same way about most self-styled “bohemian” restaurants. Part of this is the fact that anybody who calls themselves “quirky” or “bohemian” is an incredibly boring and predictable human being, so it follows they make boring and predictable restaurants, the hippie version of TGI Friday’s.

And it really is that chain-restaurant philosophy. I know any place that calls itself a “different kind of X” is going to have craft beer on tap, something involving goat cheese, carmelized onions and sun-dried tomatoes on the menu, and most likely desserts from a “local bakery”.

There are some restaurants in my area that’ll take you by surprise, such as the best pizza in Somerville and quite possibly Boston, City Slicker. This is a place that has crust that’s both deep and crunchy, that has a profound variety of toppings, and that’s clearly run by a dedicated gourmet. This isn’t a place that calls itself gourmet, they really do things differently.

Or Christopher’s, right at Porter Square. I stepped into there recently expecting a fairly standard bar and was taken by surprise with what I found. It’s a restaurant that has a socially conscious mission that it doesn’t cram down your throat. You want a goat-cheese pizza and a fine glass of wine, you got it. But if you want a burger and a beer, you can sit down and have that, too. It’s one of the few places I’ve been to where you can genuinely take a huge group of people and not have to worry about somebody not eating.

That’s really what makes a restaurant unique; a willingness to actually reflect the tastes and style of the owner. To hell with “bohemianism”; I want a restaurant that’s comfortable just being itself.

Gaming – A Brief Summary of My First Experience as a PS3 Owner

December 29, 2009

12/23 – Receive PS3 as a Christmas gift from my loving girlfriend.

12/28 5:31pm – Arrive at Best Buy. Am immediately accosted by no fewer than two associates looking to recommend me games. I’m polite, but hopefully communicate “You have less grasp of my taste in games than Jack Thompson”.

12/28 5:49pm – $55 for a controller? $80 for an HDMI cable? Do I get my blowjob with purchase or is that redeemable for when the sluttier associate comes in? I’m out of here.

12/28 6:03pm – Go to GameStop; they have “Stranglehold” used, which has “Hard-Boiled” on the game disc. Even a total lack of quality in the game will make up for owning “Hard-Boiled” for ten bucks.

12/28 6:09pm – Am reminded why I never go to GameStop: some annoying ten-year-old bastard is desperately searching for a used copy of something in the PS3 games and won’t budge, even for a polite request to stop for a moment so I can pick up the game I see right there. Would consider kicking him but his mother is right there.

12/28 6:12pm – Little bastard fails in his quest. He is disappointed. I take a dark pleasure until I realize that at the age of ten, I was probably twice as annoying. Introspection sucks. I get in the unusually long line.

12/28 6:13pm – Notice that the counter is not well staffed, there are five people in line, and some eighteen-year-old has apparently requested his receipt be printed in Sanskrit. Realization of precisely why I hate GameStop washes over me.

12/28 6:15pm – Am amused by a conversation behind me, which reminds me of my father complaining every time we went to a game store, between a son and his father. Then I realize the kid’s buying “Left 4 Dead 2”. My annoyance at America’s parents is confirmed.

12/28 6:20pm – Finally buy “Stranglehold” and a somewhat more reasonably priced $25 controller. The GameStop associate is in good humor despite what’s clearly an overwhelming desire to murder his customers. I realize I’m the only person in the line who has known exactly what he wanted and how he was going to pay for it.

12/28 6:30pm – Back at Best Buy: have realized I need games that a second human being can play.

12/28 6:40pm – After ten minutes of fruitless staring and realizing they lack most games that could reasonably be defined as fun, buy “Need For Speed: Carbon” and “Tekken 6”. Am pleased to discover the latter is $40, not $60.

12/28 7:00pm – 10:00pm – Food, Alaina, Mythbusters.

12/28 10:00pm – Insert all necessary plugs into PS3. Boot it up.

12/28 10:05pm – PS3 configured! Let’s play Tekken!

12/28 10:06pm – 10:30pm – Between software updates, trophy updates, and pleasuring elves, there is a distinct lack of Tekken.

12/28 10:30 – 10:40pm Play about five minutes of “Final Fight” on acid in between skipping cut scenes, including a recap of the last five Tekken games. Apparently the Tekken team think they’re artists now that “Dead Or Alive” has set a new lowest common denominator.

12/28 11:00pm – Quit Tekken after realizing the “Campaign” mode unlocks jack-shit and the important part, all 40 playable characters, are unlocked in “Offline” mode.

12/28 11:05pm – Plug in “Stranglehold”. Passable graphics, OK transfer, it’ll be fun mindless violence.

12/28 11:30pm – Plug in “Need for Speed: Carbon”.

12/28 11:45pm – Apparently all my life I have wanted to speed through urban areas in a Mazda hatchback, and didn’t know it.

12/28 11:55pm – Before shutting down the PS3, I try the new controller. It glows an obscene neon blue. Oh well. At least I’ve got a second controller.

12/28 11:59pm – System shut down. Tomorrow I buy a few more games and then rest for a while.

Gadgets – Reports of Physical Media’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

December 28, 2009

I love computer nerds, if for no other reason than their confusion over why all data isn’t treated the same is utterly adorable. Like saying that DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are going to die out: you’re so cute! I just wanna pinch your cheeks!

Needless to say, I’m profoundly skeptical that the DVD is going to go the way of the CD. And anybody who thinks otherwise should stop and look not at the rise of technology, but where that technology is going.

The first and most obvious problem is not everybody has high-speed Internet, and that’s unlikely to change for a while. It kind of astounds me that people I know can (rightfully) dismiss AT&T’s network with one hand and then bitch about how people haven’t seen the light and store all their media on an HDD. Let’s see here: the most popular solution for downloading movies is on a shitty network. Hmmmm.

The second problem is with penetration. Most people don’t own an iPhone. Most people own a computer, but most of them don’t have a Netflix account. Some people even don’t like watching TV on their computers! Imagine that!

The third problem is purely one of consumer choice. People learned, quickly, that you can’t loan a movie that exists solely as data to a friend unless you stole it. Most people just don’t have the wherewithal to steal movies in the first place, and it’s really not something you should be doing anyway. You can’t drag your Apple TV to a friend’s movie night. You can’t email a friend a Netflix stream. For the vast majority of human beings, that’s a massive negative.

I’m not saying movies won’t be digitally distributed or that two out of three of these problems can’t be solved. Quite the opposite: Netflix has proven there’s a workable digital distribution model, and it’s not like there aren’t plenty of set-top boxes. But there’s an important disclaimer there, which we’ll get to.

In fact I’m fairly sure the future of television is subscriptions and you choose the level of advertising. If you’re willing to sit through fifteen minutes of ads per hour, you can get a season for five bucks. Or you can pay $40 up front and get the whole season ad-free. In the future, what separates high and low class won’t be our clothes or where we live or what we own: it’ll be how many ads we watch.

But it’s that third problem, the one of consumer choice, that will keep digital distribution a second-class solution when it comes to video content. Nerds can refer to music, but music is a vastly different case.

The entire reason downloading music exploded is that everything was in place to cater to the consumer except some sort of pay structure. You had an easy-to-use software setup. You had a ridiculously huge selection of content. And, most importantly, you had an easy-to-use method to create physical media. MP3s took off because everything was in place to give the consumer exactly what they wanted out of music: an a la carte experience that was easily used and easily burned. The only thing Apple did was come along and make using the software even easier.

Seriously, post in the comments how many mix CDs you’ve gotten from friends from about 1999 onwards; we can probably get that number up to four figures in ten comments or less. Half of my CD collection consists entirely of music CDs that were probably burned from illegitimate MP3s.

Movies are a different matter. A high-quality movie file is in the gigabytes, whereas a high-quality music file is in the megabytes. To give you an idea of how problematic this is, I own about 300 to 400 movies. Let’s say they’re all on standard 8 GB DVDs.

That’s between 2 and 3 terabytes of information. That’s on the obscene high-end of storage right now. I’m going to have that much storage to edit movies. Now let’s say those were all Blu-Ray quality files. Now we’re talking, oh, about 20 to 50 terabytes.

So, I can have a bookcase full of discs, or I can spend an hour a day managing a fucking server farm. Which option sounds more cost-effective and time-efficient to you?

So where does Netflix factor into this? Glad you asked. Netflix shows the one place digital distribution will conquer the movies: rentals. Netflix’s streams are nowhere near DVD quality, even at their highest resolution, but they’re good enough for the average consumer. If it’s not a movie they have to own, then they won’t want Blu-Ray quality. But if it’s one they want to watch again and again, they want the best quality possible.

This isn’t to say that we’ll still sell discs out of stores twenty years from now. Eventually, Hollywood will embrace burn-on-demand completely and you’ll get the movies you want out of a kiosk.

But there will still be a disc on the shelf. The only place that puppy’s going is home.

Life – Happy Frickin’ Holidays: A Playlist

December 24, 2009

If there’s one thing we all hate about the holidays, it’s the music. So here are five songs when “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Dominic The Donkey” make you want to murder children.

Jonathan Coulton: Chiron Beta Prime

Bob Rivers: Chipmunks Roasting On an Open Fire

Everclear: I Will Be Hating You For Christmas

Weird Al: Christmas at Ground Zero

And, of course, “Santa Is Gunning You Down”

Politics – Socrates and Vegan Butthurt

December 22, 2009

“The gods have done me a great disfavor.  They have called me the smartest man in Athens.”  – Socrates (allegedly)

If there’s one piece of philosophy every human being should read and understand, it’s The Apologia, the first Socratic dialogue.

For those who never studied Plato, a quick sketch: the Apologia is Socrates “defending” himself in a trial in front of all of Athens.  The essential thrust of the Apologia is that the only thing we can be sure of is our ignorance; Socrates is the smartest man in Athens not because of his profound knowledge but because he knows he doesn’t know anything.  There is almost nothing that we know for certain, and much of our problems come when we claim otherwise.

I love the Apologia and try, in my own clumsy and not entirely successful way, to abide by its core message.  I don’t know everything, my opinions are not always right (although my friends and anybody who runs into me on the Internet could be forgiven for thinking I believe otherwise; like I said, clumsy and not entirely successful), and above all, I need to keep my mind open.

But oh Lord, it is hard sometimes.  So very, very hard.

Take veganism.  Personally, veganism isn’t for me.   Part of this is simply experience; I tried it for a week and quite frankly it was extremely unpleasant.  My mood was terrible, I was breaking wind constantly, and I felt absolutely miserable for a straight week.  I’m pretty sure the emotional problems would have just gotten worse.  Said experiment was enough to put me off tofu for good; I have zero interest in it as a foodstuff now.  I’ll eat it to be polite if I’m at a gathering, and I’ve had some good tofu dishes since, but I can’t eat it as a main course.

That said, just because it isn’t for me doesn’t mean it isn’t for other people.  I firmly believe, to be honest, that everybody’s got a diet that’s best for themI know plenty of well-adjusted vegans who I get along with.  I’m not the best at accomodating their needs sometimes, but at least I’m making an effort.  And likewise, they respect my choices.

This brings us to the vegans who make vegans look bad.  Yes, here we come to the political angle.  Or, more specifically, one political angle.  The “help, help, I’m being oppressed” routine, that in fact I just dealt with elsewhere on the Internet.

There’s little more sickening to me as a human being than the behavior of some aspects of the far left when it comes to minority chic.  I have a problem with political correctness in general because I feel that it’s a system largely constructed by white middle-and-upper-middle-class liberals to reassure themselves that they’re OK and they’re not racist.  In particular, I think considerations of class have been largely left out of the equation…but that’s another post.

It’s worth noting that the entire far left isn’t like this, but it is one of the far left’s main weaknesses; a godawful eagerness to fetishize minorities instead of treating them as people, or an attempt to claim some sort of minority status.  But nowhere, to me, is this more outrageous than vegans trying to pull this shit.

If we’re going in the strict sense of the word, sure, vegans are a minority.  But we’re not talking about numbers.  We’re talking about how society treats people.  And that’s where it doesn’t scale.

Whether black or gay or Latino or what have you, maltreatment in the hands of a society is almost inevitably about biology.  That’s the key injustice.  No, it’s not a good thing to force a person to undo a personal choice, or to block a personal choice from happening.  In fact, it’s scary and horrible.  But it’s considerably worse to say to a person, “Sure, we’ll treat you great if you’ll just change your biology.  Oh, you can’t?  TOO BAD!”

Almost inevitably, the self-righteous vegans lose track of this.  Part of making choices is living with the fact that not everybody approves of them, but to be quite honest, unless somebody’s actively trying to violate your human rights by force-feeding you beef, that should be a fairly simple thing to deal with.  But inevitably, they claim to oppressed because people are mean to them.

Where does Socrates come in?  Again, that knowledge that you have no knowledge.  I was born in Washington D.C. and lived there until I was ten, and spent summers in the South until I was eighteen or so, so my experience dealing with race growing up is substantially different from a lot of white people’s.  I was introduced to concepts like biracialism and Black Power fairly early on in my development.  My parents weren’t particularly political, but it was there in the environment.  Many of my schoolmates were black.  The power structure of the city I lived in was entirely black, reflecting the majority of people who lived there.  My mom and dad both had black coworkers and supervisors who I met regularly.

None of this is to claim profound racial sensitivity, however.  Quite the opposite.  If you ask me point-blank if I have a great understanding of the black experience in America, the answer is “no.”  Full stop.  I have a secondhand understanding.  I’ve read histories, I’ve been to important historical locations, I’ve thought hard about race in America, and have some pretty distinct opinions.

But that doesn’t mean I know what it’s like to be black in America, and barring some bizarre “Watermelon Man” scenario, I never will.  And I respect that.  I know that, on a very important fundamental level, I am ignorant of what it’s like to be black in America, and I always will be.

The thing is: I admit that.  The vegan who says “all prejudice is the same” and calling him a fucking asshole is the same as the suffering black people go through?  That guy needs to reread his Socrates.

I admit, I’ve offered my share of abuse to vegans, or at least the self-serious side of veganism.  But you know what?  It’s not prejudice or oppression.  I’m not advocating vegans be hanged, or deported, or be treated as second-class citizens.  I’m not saying vegans shouldn’t be allowed to get married or have kids.  I’m saying some of them, not all by a long shot, are self-righteous and far too self-satisfied white people who read “Invisible Man” once and think they know everything about racial oppression.

To be honest, whenever I see somebody on the far left do this, kind of a modern “but my best friends are black people!”, I feel a slow, painful naseua arising, a realization that even the people supposedly trying to help the oppressed think they get it and really, really don’t.  But, again, that’s another post.

Politics – The One Good Thing to Come Out of Guantanamo Bay

December 21, 2009

If there’s one good thing to come out of Guantanamo, which is a blight on American history, it’s this: never has the plight of stateless persons been in more of a spotlight.

Statelessness is a complicated, and quite frankly terrifying, problem.  Obama deserves a lot of credit for holding trials on US soil and moving some of the Guantanamo detainees to US soil for processing.  He’s even sent some detainees back to their home country.  It’s considerably more transparent than the Bush administration and is a move that announces accountability and invites scrutiny, something the far left has glossed over and deserves a bitching out for, especially since lately the refrain is to whine that Obama is just like Bush.

Unfortunately, Obama can’t do that with all the prisoners, and here we run into the problem of statelessness.

We have some prisoners that, for some reason, their country won’t take them back.  So what do we do with them?  We can’t dump people we’ve decided are dangerous on a foreign country without their consent: that’s a violation of that country’s sovereign rights.  We can’t naturalize them, for obvious reasons.  Sure, we can try them, get that done, but what do we do after that?  The story always ends the same: people in confinement for the simple reason that we have nowhere to put them.

This has been a problem, and an increasing one, for decades.  Thankfully, it’s extremely rare that a stateless person is arrested by a foreign government.  More often, they’re simply marooned.  The most famous example is of an Iranian man, Mehran Kassimi, who lived at Charles De Gaulle airport: he was stuck there for eighteen years, which is apparently the fodder of cute comedies starring Tom Hanks.

Still, it is a problem and it’s only going to increase.  One hopes that Obama will use this lingering stain to go to the UN and have some real progress made on this issue.  We need architecture in place to care for stateless persons.  No human being, no matter what they may have done, deserves to rot forgotten.

Movies – The Best Movies of the Decade Part 6 – “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

December 21, 2009

It says something that the two best love stories of the last ten years are also science fiction movies.  What, precisely, I can’t say.  Perhaps it reflects that increasingly we find each other online.  Perhaps science fiction is just the best method right now for communicating profound emotion as actual drama has become cliche and stale.  Or maybe it’s just coincidence.

Either way, it’s hard to think of a movie that’s more honest about what relationships are actually like as opposed to some idealized dream.  Joel’s a neurotic mess; Clementine’s a flake; their “married” friends argue constantly.  When Joel points out Clementine would be a crappy mother, it cuts close to the bone not just because it’s a horrible thing to say, but because Joel is actually right.  It’s fashionable to whine about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but this movie pretty relentlessly subverts that by being a pretty accurate rendition of the type, warts and all.  Also it’s worth considering we don’t see much of the real Clementine; almost all of the movie happens inside Joel’s mind and memories, and this is a movie about how memory is flawed, among other things.

I’d argue if the movie has a weakness, it’s that we’re never quite clear what Clementine gets out of her relationship with Joel, aside from the fact that it’s implied her dating history before, and certainly after, consists of complete bastards.

But what resonates most about “Eternal Sunshine” is the message; namely that without emotional pain and struggle, we’re incomplete as people.  Joel’s serene acceptance of the fact that he and Clementine will argue and possibly break up again, delivered with a simple “OK”, is a touching, quiet moment that’s all too rare.

It also marks the high point in a lot of careers.  So far, Charlie Kaufman has yet to put out a movie that rivals this, although he remains a solid screenwriter.  “Sunshine” isn’t just a romantic movie, it’s also a brutal kicking to most romantic comedy tropes.  Joel’s rival isn’t just kind of a douche, he’s pretty close to a total monster, a welcome change of pace for this kind of character.  In general, the script is just a welcome change of pace, both in romances and from Charlie Kaufman.

“Eternal Sunshine” is, for me, one of the great movie romances, because it’s both about something larger and about something simple at the same time.  A rare moment when “Indiewood” gets it right.

Next – “Bronson”

Movies – The Ten Best of the Decade Part 5 – “Finding Nemo”

December 18, 2009

All top ten lists are subjective: it’s a matter of taste, and more to the point, movies are about catharsis.  Each movie taps into a person’s individual experience, or lack thereof.   And each of us has different ways of being reached; sometimes, you’ll stumble across a movie and although other people may like it, even love it, because of your personal experience, it hits like a freight train.

That’s the power of the movies people don’t often talk about, that moment when it feels like the filmmaker is speaking to you and only you.  It’s always worth remembering movies are communal experiences; that’s why we go to see them in the theater, to have an experience with other people.  Some movies touch on subjects so broad a huge swath of people have that one-to-one freight train experience.

But to be honest, human beings are so different, and films are so hard to make, that it’s rare, and more often just a few.  The moments that sweep you off your feet, leave you staring at the screen or walking out into a humid night, after entering in the golden hour, your hands shaking, your mind buzzing, those are hard to find and they get harder to find as you see more movies.  I’ve seen countless movies over the years and “Finding Nemo” is one of those rare movies.  I’m certainly not unique in loving it: it is, to date, Pixar’s most successful feature.  But my reasons for loving it are my own.

Due to various circumstances, my father was a single parent who raised me largely by himself until I was a teenager, and as a result, I grew up in the movies.  My dad and I have fairly different tastes in some respects: he loves Hollywood, my tastes trend increasingly towards the foreign and obscure.  But as hard as our lives could be, there was always time to go to the movies.  Whether it was taking me to see “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” on a cold, rainy day I had off from school, or the absolutely electrifying moment when comic books and movies met for me at the AMC in Arlington where they were screening “Batman”, some of my best memories involve sitting next to my dad in the dark, watching the story play out.

And there’s a second layer for me personally, in that one of my father’s favorite comics, and one of the first filmmakers I remember my father introducing me to, is Albert Brooks, who voices the hero, Marlin.

So it’s a movie, something I have an emotional attachment to, about a single father, something I have an emotional attachment to, voiced by a comic I have fond childhood memories of.

And then it opens with his wife and almost all of his children murdered despite his best efforts, a scene which ends with this heart-broken man deciding to dedicate his entire life to his one remaining child.

I was a wreck.  Of course I was a wreck.  Even writing this, six years later and never having seen the movie since, I’m nearly in tears.  How couldn’t I be?  Andrew Stanton didn’t set out to strike right on one of the most sensitive nerves I had, of course, but that’s what he did.

And that’s why “Finding Nemo” is on this list.  I haven’t seen it since, although I loved it.  Honestly I’m not sure I could bear to.  But that’s the lesson, really.  That moment, that striking moment of catharsis that people will take away and hold for the rest of their lives, can come from any film if the director and writers take care in their craft.

Next – “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”

Gadgets – AT&T Is Playing a Very Expensive Game of Chicken

December 17, 2009

For those who don’t know, AT&T’s network really kind of blows.  This isn’t a surprise.  AT&T is the last vestige of a vast monopoly that never really, in the end, figured out it wasn’t a monopoly anymore.  Sure, Sprint, the company that broke their control, is rocketing down the tubes, but that doesn’t make the fact that AT&T is flailing any easier.  Especially when the company kicking their ass used to be part of the same damn monopoly.

AT&T has decided to be aggressive in…punishing the customer and blaming Apple for all its problems.  So far, AT&T has claimed the iPhone is badly engineered to suck up all their bandwidth, and that it’s just 3% of smartphone users sucking up40% of their bandwidth.  Basically, this means they’re going to eliminate the data plans and start charging by the megabyte.

This also means that, in fairly short order, you’ll be able to get an iPhone from any carrier.

That last is not brilliant market prognostication on my part.  It’s simply inevitable.  There’s only so far Apple can grow on one network and even if AT&T weren’t acting like dicks, the breakup was coming.  This is just a measure of how messy it’ll be.

But, once again, AT&T’s monopoly mindset is going to hurt them.  They’re assuming their competitors are too invested in Android to dare offend the mighty Google, and that Apple won’t dump them for a better suitor.  Therefore, they can blame Apple and don’t have to build out their network.

To which I say…are you fucking kidding me?  Does the word “BlackBerry” mean anything whatsoever to you, AT&T analysts?  RIM has got to be shitting bricks at the idea that Apple might break its contract with AT&T and go to all carriers.

But the company with the most to lose if Apple goes unlocked is…AT&T itself.  The iPhone has driven enormous growth, but there’s a reason this Apple fanboy doesn’t own one: AT&T’s network is awful.  If all of a sudden I can get an iPhone on my preferred network, hell yeah I’ll do it.

AT&T was on the verge of turning into Sprint before the iPhone came along and got them a record number of subscribers, just to get the fancy new toy.  AT&T knows this, but it clearly thinks it can keep those customers if the iPhone goes non-exclusive.  Oh yeah?  Wanna bet?

And it’s not like any of the carriers will turn Apple down, either.  Android is already dissolving into a big fat mess, and Google doesn’t offer them a hard product, just a name and some software.  Apple offers a product they can sell.

I predict in two years AT&T will no longer be the exclusive provider of the iPhone, and they’ll start going the way of Sprint.  Now if we can just destroy Verizon, and get rid of the last of the Baby Bells, truly the evil spirit will have been vanquished.

Movies – An Open Letter to Manohla Dargis

December 15, 2009

Dear Manohla Dargis,

First of all, let it be said that I respect you as a film critic.  I find your reviews generally insightful, entertaining, and most importantly fair-minded.  And I also respect that you’re frustrated with the lack of female directors.  So I thought I’d make a few points about your, >AHEM<, perspective on this issue, and point out that it’s not so much a lack of female directors, it’s a lack of female directors who don’t suck.

1) First, let’s address your issue of selective perception re: male directors getting more chances.  Are you kidding me?  Seriously?  Because Kathryn Bigelow took six years to make another movie after “K-19” bombed, that’s somehow endemic of Hollywood sexism?

I’m not going to pretend it might not be a factor, but you’re kind of missing the fact that one bomb is all it takes for a LOT of directors, regardless of gender, to vanish for six years or more, or even for good.   Hell, it doesn’t even take a bomb.  Richard Kelly made “Donnie Darko”, and it tanked.  He was gone for…six years.  He followed that up with “Southland Tales”, and that tanked, but he somehow landed the money for “The Box” and produced “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell”, both of which tanked.

Or how about Alex Proyas?  He made “Dark City”, which had one of the most respected mainstream film critics, Roger Ebert, turn up on its commentary.  He vanished for four years, put out a movie nobody saw (“Garage Days”), used that to get “I, Robot”, and then turned up four years later with “Knowing.”

And now let’s turn that around and look at two female directors you trashed: Nancy Myers and Nora Ephron.  Ephron torpedoes your example because she’s been continuously working for more than two decades, even after she puts out a turkey like “Bewitched”.  “Bewitched” actually lost a fortune, and four years later, she’s got the plum assignment of a bestseller with one of the most respected actresses in the entire world in the lead and a rising star playing the other lead.  Meyers, meanwhile, has been cranking out the pain every three years like clockwork since 1998.

It’s not that I disagree wtih the idea, necessarily.  It’s that I think you’re making a far too easy assumption when you shouldn’t, and that obscures the problem rather than clarifies it.  Ephron and Meyers are hacks, period.  But Hollywood loves hacks.  If you want more female directors, almost inevitably, those directors are going to be hacks. 

2) Re: making movies for the great unwashed because that’s what they think they want.

They don’t think it, they know it.  I hate to break this to you, ma’am, but the masses really really love shitty movies.  One of the highest grossing movies this year was “Transformers 2”, for Christ’s sake.  It made nearly a billion dollars worldwide.  That’s more than most Third World countries.  It’s probably more than most Third World countries put together.

But I think a better example is a movie you took down several notches when it came out, “The Ugly Truth”.  You called out the writers, the producers, and the head of the studio that produced and released it, Columbia, for making a sexist piece of garbage, especially since they were all educated women who should know better.  Plus Katherine Heigl, who was whining about crappy scripts earlier in the year. 

One problem: worldwide?  It made $200 million.  That turd made an enormous profit and secured Heigl as a romantic comedy lead.  This despite being universally hated.  I mean, Jesus, Peter Travers piled on, and he loves everything.  Adding to the sting is probably the fact that it was mostly women who turned up for this.

3) Re: The Damsel In Distress, and Paul Degarabedian’s comments on same.

I agree it was uncouth for him to say that…but look at it from his perspective, again, the box office.  “New Moon”, not exactly a feminist tract, just had the third-highest grossing weekend of all time, and that wasn’t guys turning out for that pile of shit.  Again, you may not turn out for the Damsel in Distress, I may not, nobody we know may (or at least admit to going).  But SOMEBODY is.  A lot of somebodies are.  And Hollywood only cares about money.

4) Not being gentle with female-directed movies just because you share chromosomes.

Good for you.  No, seriously, no sarcasm.  Good for you.  I get as tired of that shit as anybody else.

Look, I don’t blame you for being angry.  I hate living in a world where I have to hope “Bright Star” will turn up at my local arthouse while “It’s Complicated” is about to inflict itself on the American public (and I’ve got to ask, does Meryl Streep have gambling debts, or is just really sick of the Oscar game?).  I hate it that “The Hurt Locker” gets a smaller release than a clumsy melodrama like “Brothers”.

But the problem is clearly a lot more deep-seated than just Hollywood sexism, and some of it lies with the audience, pure and simple.  Hollywood turns out shit because the audience demands shit.  Shit sells.  Sure, every now and then a quality film comes along, like Pixar’s work or “The Dark Knight” or “Where the Wild Things Are”.  Part of the problem is that Hollywood’s audience is by and large teenagers.  I actually go to the movies quite a bit, in fact last week I went twice, double what your average American goes to in a year.  But the last Hollywood movie I went to go see was “Ninja Assassin”, so that’s the last time I mattered on their balance sheets.

And let’s not forget, the indie world is culpable.  In fact, the indie world is worse.  In Hollywood, if you have a vagina, either you’re turning out romantic comedies or you don’t exist.  In the indie world, if you don’t turn out movies that are explicitly about women and aren’t dramedies…good fucking luck.  You’ll need it.  Especially if there’s nothing explicitly feminist in your movie, then you’re really shafted.

Again, I’m not saying Hollywood isn’t sexist.  I am saying you’re misrepresenting exactly what the problem is.  To be completely honest, I think more female directors won’t help with turning out misogynist swill.  There has to be a broader cultural shift, first.  Hollywood is both a dictator and a mirror: it gives us what it thinks the majority of us want.

How do we engage that cultural shift?  I have no idea.  But I’m dead certain that’s where we start.