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The Perfect Ending

05-Apr-09

Now that my stories are over (I’ll miss you, BSG), I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks listlessly flipping through the teevee channels looking for something worth watching.  Mostly, this means getting sucked into watchable movies of widely varying quality: Con Air, Robocop, Teen Wolf, The Rock, Gremlins… the list goes on.  Basically, if it’s on the big flashing screen and I’m sitting there, I’ll watch it.

 

At least, I’ll watch part of it.  The great thing about watching movies that I’ve already seen a dozen times before is that I feel no remorse about switching the channel at the nearest available commercial break.  Last weekend, I flipped to TNT just in time to see badass Sean Connery bust through that metal door and say “Gentlemen, welcome to The Rock™.”  And when the film gave way to the inevitable marathon of SlapChop and Snuggie commercials, I changed the channel before you could say “Time-Life Soft Rock Collection.”  That five minute clip was enough to make me feel like I’d watched the whole movie.  Who needs to stick around for the rest? 

 

I’ve started watching other movies this way as well.  The other night I spent 45 minutes watching some Bruce Willis thriller called Striking Distance, or whatever.  But it was getting late, and I was pretty sure that I knew where things were headed , so I turned it off and went to bed.  And who cares if I’m wrong?  The movie wasn’t that good anyway, so my made-up ending was probably as good as whatever actually happened.  The point is that I feel like I’ve watched all these movies, but in a fraction of the time.

 

This efficient method of movie viewership reached an extreme level on Thursday, when I tuned in just in time for the last 30 seconds of Trainspotting.  There’s something about that ending that I really love.  I sat there watching the credits, listening to that goofy circus song by Blur, and remembered all the great scenes I’d just missed.  I’d seen literally 30 seconds of the movie, but felt like I had watched it from start to finish.  

 

This got me thinking about other movies with great endings.  I haven’t put enough thought into this list to call it my “all-time favorites,” but these are the ones that first came to mind.  (Spoiler alert: I spoil the endings of all the following movies.)

 

1. City Lights (1931)  Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp spends the whole movie pretending to be a wealthy man in order to woo the poor blind shop girl whom he loves.  Having managed to pay for surgery to restore her sight, he returns to his life of penury, until a chance meeting brings them together again.  She touches his face and realizes that he’s the “wealthy” man who had helped her.  In one silent gesture, Chaplin expresses shame, embarrassment, and hope.  The film fades to black, and what happens next is anybody’s guess.  This movie is a reminder of how much emotion and meaning can be conveyed without a single sound.

 

2. The Italian Job (1969)  The raucous song.  Michael Caine.  The improbable physics of a bus balanced so precariously on the side of a cliff.  Zoom out, fade to black.  Brilliant!  For some reason I only recently got around to seeing this movie in its entirety, and what the hell took me so long?  

 

3. Barton Fink (1991)  I’ve probably seen this movie a dozen times, and every time it leaves me delightfully perplexed.  I’m convinced I know what’s in the box (hint: human head), but that doesn’t really explain much.  WTF?  Exactly.

 

4. Citizen Kane (1941)  An episode of The Real Ghostbusters ruined this ending for me roughly eight years before I even saw the movie, but that made the ending no less moving.  Bernard Herrmann’s dark score and the image of that sled going up in flames make for one poignant-ass denouement.  

 

5. Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)  I just re-watched this movie, since I’d only seen it a few times before.  The whole film is cute enough, but the ending turns the film’s Hollywood sweetness on its head.  Turns out, things don’t always work out in the movies after all.

A Common Mistake

27-Feb-09

I don’t often confuse Thurgood Marshall with Thurston Moore. But today, if only in my head, and if only for a split second, the Supreme Court rocked just a little bit more than usual.

Modern Network Analysis

20-Nov-08

One of my classes this quarter is Social Network Analysis.  After several hours of gathering/converting/importing/sorting/correcting/recoding/exporting/reconverting my data, I finally managed to convert it to something semi-usable.  As a test run, I opened my new file in Pajek, and this is the graph it spit out:

It seems the network I’m analyzing is a mod mod mod world.  (And it doesn’t even have anything to do with scooters!)

Hello again: A brief update.

02-Oct-08

So it’s been nearly a score of fortnights since my last post, which is basically forever in Internet years, so I thought maybe some kind of an update was in order for the two people who still saunter on by.

I’m going to make this quick.  If you don’t know already, I quit my job in New York and moved to Chicago to start grad school.  Sociology.  PhD.  OMFG.  

I’m doing my best to get readjusted to the academic life, and finding it a bit difficult to effectively manage my time. That is to say that I’m procrastinating quite a lot.  But once I get back into the swing of things, I hope to have a little time (and motivation) to update this site again.  Moving forward, my posts might be a bit shorter than they’ve been in the past, but it has always been nice to have a forum to share whatever has been on my mind with the world.  Also—and this is especially true when I was in college and writing papers on cultural capital and dialectics and whatever—it gave me a reason to remember how humans actually write to one another.  A few people actually read my silly little notes, too. 

Looking to the future, I’m still contemplating what I want this site to be. I’m well aware of the potential professional hazards of revealing too much about one’s self online, especially in the academic sphere, and I don’t need some stupid rant about how much I hate dislike love Matchbox 20 to someday come back and bite me in the ass.  You never know what kind of unearthly academic powers Rob Thomas will wield 10 years from now, after all.

Anyway, hi again.  See you soon.

While I Was Out

25-May-08

A few things I’ve learned watching daytime television this week while I was sick:

From commercials:

- Earning your bachelor’s degree online can take as little as three years.
- Get your degree in video game design or film production!
- Calling [insert online college name here] will put you on the path to SUCCESS!
- Call now!
- CALL NOW!!!
- CALL NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

From the TV show Cheaters:

- If you really want answers for why your partner is cheating on you, leave the camera crew at home.
- No one really minds being “the other man/woman.” They will say things like “she should have seen the writing on the wall,” and “he hasn’t loved her for months now.”
- When confronting your cheating boy or girlfriend, it is unlikely that the television host’s comments will contribute anything useful to the conversation. Leave him at home with the camera crew.
- Cops comes on right after Cheaters, so if you’re not careful, you could end up watching the first few minutes of Cops by accident. Beware.

Other Miscellanea: 

- Battlestar Galactica is awesome.