Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Monday, February 28, 2005

Failure of the Day: A Tale of Two Failures

We didn’t watch the miniseries that introduced the new version of Battlestar Galactica when it began airing on the SciFi Network a couple of months ago. I hated the original show. (I did scotch tape a teeny photo of Dirk Benedict to my 7th grade Trapper keeper, but I did that more as a show of solidarity with my fellow preteens than out of any real devotion.)

One of Chris’s co-workers recorded the miniseries for him, and Chris, that virtuoso of the Nancy, got me to watch it. It was surprisingly good, and thanks to our DVR and basic cable’s tendency to repeat programs infinitely, we were caught up with the new weekly series in no time. I have to say, it’s some of the finest TV science fiction I’ve ever seen.

Like in the old show, humanity has been rendered all but extinct by their wayward robot creations, the cylons, and now roams the universe in a pathetic convoy of spit-and-tissue spaceships with the slick and vicious cylons at their heels. But the new version is so much better imagined and executed than the old show that, other than the basic premise, the two have little in common.

What fascinates me the most about the new show is that the cylons, some of whom are now physiologically indistinguishable from humans, are monotheistic religious fundamentalists, whereas the human society is polytheistic but largely based on rationality and science.

But human science is a total failure; it’s what gave rise to the cylons. This failure is personified in the character of the arrogant fop Dr. Gaius Baltar, the genius celebrity scientist who couldn’t keep it in his pants for a super hot chick who was actually a cylon operative. He allowed her access to his planet’s defense system, which the cylons then exploited to destroy every living human on that and every other human-populated planet. Baltar escaped to the Galactica just in time but continues to be manipulated by the hot cylon via a chip implanted in his brain.

Religion is also clearly an abject failure. The humans’ 12 gods have utterly, utterly forsaken them; the first hour of the miniseries features the nuclear annihilation of hundreds of billions of human lives over multiple planets. The surviving humans still make gestures toward their pantheon, but it’s half-hearted at best. Who could blame them? Their gods are obviously as impotent as Hugh Hefner without his pills.

Meanwhile, the human-looking cylons are as smug as any red-state fundy, and just as happy to stick their fingers into your suffering in the hopes of poking or finding a hole into which they can pack their beliefs. Dr. Baltar’s HotBot spends a lot of time talking about her soul, even as she wafts her naked ass in Baltar’s face as a reward for calling out to god in a time of distress. Does the cylon god approve of that particular kind of recruitment technique? One of his children will make you cum if you will only believe in Him? But while we watch the cylons continually sell sex, lie, and commit mass murder, we never see them perform even a single act of religious faith or devotion. They simply run code that makes them say words like faith and god and soul as often as possible. It’s shallow programming. The cylons don’t practice a religion—they just talk about religion.

And so it’s no wonder that the show appeals to me so much—it’s all about dueling failure. There is no success but survival, and even then, you’re either a machine on an endless Leviticus loop or a homeless, helpless, and hopeless human with no living friends or relatives. And that, my friends, is my kind of Friday night.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Failure of the Day: Misc.

Jig = Up
Of course, the shows were sold out long before the fuckwads at the Guardian put her on the cover last week. Now my chances of scoring day-of-show tickets have shrunk to something like 1 in 500. I guess I was kidding myself that Joanna Newsom was kind of a private hobby anyway. QED: She’s on Jimmy Kimmel Thursday night. I’m the last person to begrudge her any success; she deserves it all. I just wanted the damn tickets.

End of the World
Hey, so how about that avian flu? (Is it more like The Birds or more like The Stand? Discuss.) And how long do you suppose before PETA comes out in favor of it? Think I’m kidding? Read Bill Maher’s comments about mad cow disease sometime.

Stages of Grieving (Hipster Edition)
1 Alcohol
2 Whoring
3 Paranoia
4 “Semi”-autobiographical fiction
5 Acceptance

Better Late than Never
Last on the bandwagon but a quick learner, Chris has a blog. He mastered the photo uploading software faster than I figured out the clearly labeled text formatting buttons. Don’t miss the link to J. Lo’s cooter or the short story snippet in the first entry.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Failure of the Day: Luxury

We were recently invited on a quickie trip to Las Vegas with Chris’s co-workers, but we declined due to the possibility of pending higher financial priorities. (Translation: we’re thinking about moving.) Nevertheless, we would like a wee getaway and are well deserving of one; our last out-of-town excursion was summer before last, to the San Diego ComicCon if you’ll recall.

We will most likely go to Half Moon Bay or Monterey for a weekend in March. Chris, he loves him some ocean. He can look at water, just water, for days and days. So being the world-class shopper that I am (have I mentioned that I once got us a room at a Marriott for $35 a night?) I am all over the Web looking at inns and B&Bs and hotels and such.

I’ve only stayed at a B&B once before—Chris took me to one in Santa Cruz for our second date. (That would be a fairly presumptuous move for a second date if I hadn’t hurled myself at him 15 minutes into our first date.) It was lovely, although I think Chris is still traumatized by how he proudly showed me that our room had a private Jacuzzi, and I had to break it to him that hot tubs are strictly forbidden to me on account of the whole central nervous system thing. But I’m just not sure I got the whole B&B experience, frankly, so unaccustomed to even the teensiest bit of niceness was I at that time. I more or less viewed the whole thing through slit-eyed suspicion…Who are those old people and why do they keep handing me biscuits?

Not quite seven years later of course, I am as middle class as the day is long. So now I know that one thing about the nicer lodgings, especially those of the B&B variety, is their use of feathers. Goose down comforters and feather beds are, apparently, the height of luxury. Except that I am allergic to goose down. Not to the extent that I am allergic to cats—I don’t seem to be in any immediate danger of suffocating to very death when I am near goose down, but I sneeze an awful lot and that’s not super conducive to, say, sleeping.

This means that when booking luxury accommodations, I must ask that they please hold the luxury. I like to think that I have to forego most so-called luxurious things because I am constitutionally predisposed to being a Righteous Class Warrior. I like thinking that even though it is deeply and profoundly untrue. It just sounds better than saying that I am a demanding shrew with a large number of needs that are spectacular in their specificity.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Failure of the Day: Son of Music Poll Thingy

Ask and ye shall receive.

1. Total amount of music files on your computer:

1.09 GB per iTunes. That’s not very much compared to Jeff’s whopping 19 GB but considering that I was barely even cognizant that there was such a thing as MP3s until I got the beautiful green iPod mini for my birthday, I’m making pretty good progress.

2. The last CD you bought was:

Bows and Arrows by The Walkmen. Eh. Kinda mediocre I thought. Bastard sons of Rod Stewart and the Strokes.

3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?
Brilliant Mistake by Elvis Costello. Where: At work trying to drown out the loud, open-mouthed gum chewing of my nemesis co-worker—code name: Hell Mouth.

4. Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.

The first three are wedding gimmes. I listen to them only occasionally because I still start crying when I hear them.

  1. She by Elvis Costello. I walked down the aisle to this. I love open-eyed love songs that are romantic without being naive. She/ may turn each day into/ a heaven or a hell. Yup.
  2. Can’t Hardly Wait by The Replacements. The song started playing the moment we were pronounced husband and wife. I needed the first song I heard as a married woman to be by the Mats but I didn’t much care which one it was. This was Chris’s choice, and an especially good one because it was a secret message to our guests that we were having a lovely wedding but hoped they would leave soon so we could get on with the lovely marriage.
  3. Be Mine by REM. Our first dance song. Another fairsies squarsies love song. And if you made me your religion./I'll give all the room you need.
  4. Peach Plum Pear by Joanna Newsom. At the risk of making my answers even more mirrored to Jeff’s than they already are, this song was extraordinarily powerful to me from the first time I heard it. Because of how fearlessly and intentionally she sings with that…that…that…voice of hers, I understood on a deeper level than ever before that you can only create with what you’ve got and you can’t try to mold it to please some outside standard. It just knocks me out.
  5. Rebellion (Lies) by the Arcade Fire. There’s this one piano key that gets beat on over and over again throughout the whole song in a way that is almost obscenely sexual to me, and quite specifically female. It’s almost maddening to listen to.
  6. Extra special honorable mention: Until it Sleeps by Metallica. I will go to my grave believing that this song is solely responsible for my remission. All the neurologists can kiss my ass, I’m going to Dr. Motherfucking Hetfield

5. Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?

Chris (duh) and Eli because I think he’ll have some interesting choices and I’m curious as to what they are.

Failure of the Day: New! Glasses! Sort of!

After a search lasting nearly 2 years and with at least one false start (last years lime green cat-eyes were pretty, but made me look like a cylon), I have finally found a new pair of glasses!

They are incredible; I’ve never seen anything remotely like them (and I’ve seen a lot of glasses). They are also just breathtakingly expensive; roughly twice as much as every other pair I dismissed for being too expensive. I’ve got them on lay-away for god sakes. But I saw them and I tried them on and they were … undeniable. Sometimes when we’re watching Smalllville, Chris just goes to pieces over the sappiest sap in Sapville, I hold out my hand and say “This is the show.” And then I stick my finger deep into the palm of my hand and say “And this is you.” It was like that with these frames. I live in the deep soft palm of its hand.

After much discussion and no small amount of salesmanship, I put down a deposit. We left the shop and set out to wander West Portal—rapidly becoming one of my favorite parts of town—and the stages of anxiety set in. At first I was very nervous about the expense, so certain I am that any large expenditure of money must always be followed by layoff or other financial disaster. Then I became absolutely convinced that I didn’t really like the glasses as much as I thought I did and that I would soon be full of rue.

Chris—well versed on how to handle my crises of faith—deftly dispatched these worries with a few hundred soothing words as we wandered from quaint toy store to quaint candy store.

When we got home, I grew ever more worried that the saleslady in the store was in fact a con artist who would certainly abscond with my deposit and my beautiful glasses, and when next I returned to West Portal Optics I would find an innocent bakery at that spot and an old man insisting there had always been a bakery at that address since his beloved and late father had opened it in 1911. It was suggested that I perhaps am overly imaginative in an unnecessarily David Mamet kind of way.

This morning, in preparation of this blog entry, I searched the ENTIRE internet for a photo of the glasses I could link to, hampered only by the fact that I didn’t know the style name or number or the name of the company that manufactures them. Inexplicably, I came up empty. I couldn’t find them anywhere. I then began to worry that there are no glasses at all, and that I had made the whole thing up. It is a very short leap from Mamet to PK Dick, it turns out.

SciFi/existential rifts in the space/time continuum notwithstanding, I will hopefully have my new glasses by summer.