Rose Garden! The Home Edition.

Here at Chez Happycrow, we HATE mowing grass.  Even with a scythe, which is a valuable source of must-needed exercise for a guy who used to walk everywhere and do martial arts four or five days a week, and now drives a cubicle and a car.

Not counting, of course, much-needed breaks for cat yoga.

Not counting, of course, much-needed breaks for cat yoga.

So we’re doing legacy roses, grape arbors, crape myrtles, and bamboo.

  • Legacy roses are awesome. And, mostly unkillable.
  • Bamboo is awesome. And, mostly unkillable.
  • Grapes are awesome. And once established, mostly unkillable.
  • Crape Myrtles are awesome. And once established, mostly unkillable.

Sense a theme? This is “jungle rules” gardening.  Put in four invasive, aggressive, hard-to-kill plants that you like. Let them duke it out.  Here’s just the roses and some of the young bamboo culms. I’ll follow up later in the summer with the crapes once they’re blooming out.

rose10 rose11 rose1 rose2 rose9 rose7 rose8 rose5 rose4 rose3

Down the road, the legacy roses here will get their old canes trimmed out, and pegged up high on the bamboo, which will act as living scaffolding in order to create arbors you can walk in and under.  Right now, our roses stop traffic on our little street… if it comes off as hoped, in three or four years we’re hoping that they’ll bring traffic to our street.

Friday Night Geekery: Early Thoughts on the World War Z movie


Here’s the first trailer.

Now, for the four people I know who aren’t Nerd-Americans like myself, World War Z is a goddamn good book.  Go buy it, even if you’re not really all that into zombies.  Like all fabulous works of fiction, it’s not actually about what’s advertised on the surface.  In this case, World War Z is about socio-politics and really UGLY hard decisions.  It also has a heaping dose of what I like to call The Iron Laws of Survival.

  1. If you screw up, you’re dead.
  2. If any of your buddies screw up, you and they are dead.
  3. Failure to formulate a correct course of action, and to execute it effectively is, in Scene Two, effectively defined as “screwing up.”
  4. Failure to screw up does not guarantee failure to be rapidly and unpleasantly dead.

and, since this is a very adult book, rule #5:

Your willingness to be rapidly and unpleasantly dead is the only thing which may allow others to survive.

The writing is, among other things, smart.  And the more astute the reader is, the more Brooks’ writing pays off — the book is full of subtle allusions and asides to reference prices that are being paid “out of sight” of the main plot and action.

So the question is:  how do you take a really good, really sophisticated, really subtle book about the Zombie Holocaust, and put it on the screen in a way that will grab the interest of not merely the fans, but also people who have no interest in the book whatsoever?  This is a huge consideration: like most geeky topics, this is a movie that has barely avoided the “ash-heap of no funding” on at least two occasions.  Like the Lord of the Rings movies, concessions are to have to be made to keep it accessible to a public which frequently will not care one whit about  the most important themes of the original work.

Compromises have to be made.

Fans are currently very upset with what they’re seeing in the first trailer, and in the directorspeak of “Brad Pitt saves the world.”  The direction and imagery is Roland-Emmerich-style “disaster movie ends the world” stuff.  It provides a sense of what’s going to happen, but conveys absolutely none of the sophistication of the book on which it’s placed.

That said, there are some grounds for optimism:

  1. The trailer is very clearly showing the beginning of The Crisis.  So we don’t actually know how much of the rest of the movie will play out, and there’s still plenty of ground for optimism that Pitt’s character will somehow be involved with the “Redeker Plan.” (I won’t spoiler this, but those who have read the book know what I’m discussing).  The script released in 2008 had some serious deviations, which were unfortunate (particularly as I have great respect for its writer), but there’s been significant rewriting and reshooting.  Right now, there’s no reason to assume that the inevitable deviations will be all that far afield.
  2. The visuals are stunning, and the opening of the action is disturbing.  Having decided to follow the UN employee from the beginning of the action (which most zombie movies avoid, in favor of a cheaper and considerably-easier “second day starts the action” approach), they do it well.  Many viewers don’t like the fact that these are “zoombies” (zombies which can run), or the way they tend to swarm.  One of the swarm depictions, however, where the zombies are “ramping” up the large concrete wall, IS very much “per the text,” and is a sign that the writers and directors paid attention.  That’s important, because this isn’t something where people can simply camp out on rooftops and be safe (this is an important detail in several parts of the book, which astute readers can use to gauge the trustworthiness of some of the book’s narrators — some of the storytellers either don’t get or aren’t sharing the full picture).  I have no personal qualms with “zoombies,” as they’re a lot scarier to deal with than walking zombies are — necessary for the general audience.
  3. The plot provides you with a protagonist who is anonymous in the book:  the UN employee who gathers the data.  Along the way, they do something that’s very smart:  provide a reason for people who might just want to watch Brad Pitt to care about the action.  Zombie Holocaust Narrative is something that’s “fantasy adventure” if you’re a single male who has combat training and appropriate survival skills.  It is unmitigated horror for a married man or woman working through the question “how do I keep my children alive?”  In the real world, when disaster strikes, our first thought is to get with our family, make sure they’re all right, and keep them that way.  A true Zombie Holocaust would be that story, written out over and over, across billions of us as we try (and mostly fail) to do just that.  It is smart writing to recognize the fundamental problem Pitt’s character endures in having to constantly place himself in danger for the benefit of the Greater Good. (And the original, clearly drawing from Studs Terkel, pulls no punches about the need to sacrifice for the Great Good when faced with something that is bigger than any one person).
  4. It has “angry electric bass noise.”  A lot of people HATE this, but I am a firm believer that there are times when over-the-top soundtracking is the only thing which will meld with a scene — music is critically important for a movie’s success (try to imagine the Schwarzenneger conan without Basil Poledouris’ bombast– it wouldn’t work).  The angry, klaxonish sound works here.
  5. The actors are good.  Now, granted, this is a trailer — but it’s a very effective one, partially b/c the child actor goes a completely believable job of being shocked, horrified, and completely, utterly baffled.  Now, this may, as some trailers re, be the best two minutes and thirty seconds of the movie — but it’s a promising start.

All in all, it may simply turn out to be a big-budget zombie movie, rather than the “this is deep enough to force serious critical attention” movie that a close following of World War Z would involve.  But so far, outside of unnecessary but totally justifiable nerdrage (I’m still pissed at Peter Jackson for screwing up the March of the Ents!), it’s too early yet to count this one out.

Hungarians Crush Global Warming Theory?

The Speculist has an entry up, describing how Miklós Zágoni may have just put a stake through the heart of the Global Warming movement, going from super-advocate for the Kyoto Protocol, to extreme “doubter,” with a new theory that seems to better predict both the Earth and Mars’ temperatures.

Turns out, all the equations being used contain one of my favorite things, a “dangerous assumption.”  I won’t steal their thunder:  go check it out, it’s a REAL forehead-slapper…

The Nerd-Father is Dead.

All hail the Great Nerd-Father, providing dirt-cheap pastimes, easy afternoon hobbies, and 4th-graders with ridiculously well-developed vocabularies.

How many who would scorn you, owe you so deeply.

Sick again and Hopeful News

Well, not two weeks after shrugging off one of the two bugs going around, now I’ve picked up the other one, the one that goes after your lungs.  So I’m going to intentionally make myself scarce on the ground, b/c I *don’t* want to spread this mofo, the way all my plague rats (aliter nomine, “students”) are.

In other news, I have multiple job apps in for a full-time position (and believe it or not, with an institution that actually provides tenure!): keep your fingers crossed, this would be a MAJOR increase in Happycrow’s QOL not to be commuting back and forth across 3 counties every week.

Am seriously considering not teaching Maymester, in order to finish the book my brother keeps pestering me about.  Brother, keep pestering me.

German Airplane Flick

I know a guy, what doesn’t much care for the Cav…. how about, the Cav, complete with chick-flick prettyboys?

Actually, looks like it’d be a pretty good movie. All those sharp features are actually realistic: the wind itself tended to resculpt your face after a while…

Lots of new worlds for us?

Looks like even the mainstream journos are picking up on the fact that there’s vast wealth and habitat out in the Oort cloud… let’s go!

And now for something completely different…

Remember when larger-than-life, oh-holy-cow pop stars had talent?

Enter the “Commandant of Flamboyancy” himself.  Check out those hands.  Sure, it belongs to an era when we had much less multi-tasking and MUCH longer attention spans… but this dude can PLAY.

Hugging, Stripping, Harassing, and Strangulation

Who knew the universe could be so tawdry?

Save the best for last.

I have just graded my first class’ worth of final term papers.  Most of them, as is typical in community college, didn’t bother to follow instructions, and so the grades were… sub-optimal.

But I had the pleasure of grading one paper that is literally as good as I could have produced, with two graduate degrees… written by a college freshman.

So I have a new strategy for grading papers.  Divvy them up, and save the best students for last.  That way my liver only suffers a LITTLE damage…

Note to Chicks on chick-flicks

this is the best synopsis of why I don’t watch chick flicks, ever, unless they’ve come with at least two recommendations from guys (who have been carefully vetted not to be chick-flick victims.  Sorry Dad, I love you, but you are WAY too prone to think Fried Green Tomatoes was actually watchable without symptoms of nausea).

Note that this is in a post where the author actually recommends a chick-flick:

I mean movies like Premonition, in which (spoiler coming, but you don’t want to see it anyway) the wife foresees that her husband is going to die, which he is going to do because he is going to cheat on her, but he doesn’t because he loves her too much after all, but he is killed anyway, fate being what it is, but fortunately he has just bought a fat new life insurance policy so the wife gets to buy a big new house.  The end.  I wonder who thought that one up.

Gee, I wonder?

This just in: The Old Ones ate Shrimp

Well, not quite.  But, still…

Freaks put their money where their mouths are

I respect these people.  They’re batshit crazy adherents of a bizarre new world religion, but you know how people who are worried about overpopulation never seem to solve the problem by offing themselves or sterilizing…oh, wait.

(Now, be careful.  There’s a heaping dose of “issues” with the gal being interviewed, as is usual with these people.  Put on your filters before you click.)

Aptera taking deposits!!

Dude, a couple years ago, we were wondering whether these guys were hallucinating, with their promise of a 300mpg car.

They seem to be for real.  You don’t take deposit money unless you’re serious — not with this kind of awareness going on.  The lawyers would eviscerate you otherwise.

Let’s hope.  Because I work across several county lines, a vehicle that only got 200mpg would start paying back huge dividends as a commuter car: especially one designed to handle a carseat.


“Do you have any kids?”

It’s finally happened.  I was warned that it would, and it finally did.  You know that feeling you get when you realize you’re getting checked out?  By a group?  Yeah.  Four students, talking amongst themselves during group-work, but very clearly not focused on the relation of Gage’s famous Sojourner Truth transcription to Emerson’s definition of non-conformity.

Students aren’t supposed to check out their teachers.  At least, not that blatantly.  As a group.  Students are supposed to put up with their instructors, talk to them as appropriate, and then run like hell to get away from the classroom and back to real life.  Anything else is unusual behavior.  No, seriously, think about it.  Why do students interact with teachers?  Pretty much because they have to — the number of students in any given class who actually want to be there is always a tiny minority of the people who are there because the school or state said that they needed to be in order to graduate. 

It’s weird, and it’s bad-weird, because, as any other flirt on the planet will tell you, the initial realization that you’re getting checked-out, assuming you’re not simply being “creepily leered at,” is a pleasant one.  It’s the whipsaw following realization that “whoa, WAYYYY out of bounds here!” that gets real disturbing, real fast.  Especially in this day and age, where guys don’t dare so much as smile at somebody funny, let alone make physical contact with any student, in any way, period.  Every allegation is not only taken seriously, but men are essentially considered guilty-unless-proven-innocent if accused of anything even vaguely smacking of harassment, and there are plenty of students who will attempt to game their teachers by threatening various complaints.  Gals don’t have that problem, though they do have others.

I think I need to regrow my beard.  This never happened when I had the beard.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

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