13 March 2002

Good morning! I still feel like I'm catching up on sleep, but I started the catching up last night, and I feel much better for it. Ended up missing the writers' group meeting, which was too bad, but I had stuff to do, including sleep. We also watched "L.A. Confidential" yesterday -- a pretty good movie. There were moments that were jarringly, laughably bad, but not so many of those. One of the little details I liked was that Kim Basinger looked appropriately drawn and stressed in the first part of the movie, to the point where I just didn't think she was a particularly attractive woman. I guess I'm too used to movies where they indicate that someone is under a lot of stress by mussing their hair a little bit. Much better.

One of the things I didn't like is use of the Why I Became A Cop stories. Guy Pearce's character's story became a plot point, but I still think it was overused prior to that. One comment and the important conversation would have been enough. We recognize the type. It's not like Cop Father Was Killed In The Line Of Duty is an unusual motivation for a cop movie character.

Russell Crowe's character's story was still worse: we know the story of the police officer who Could Not Save A Woman He Loved. Doesn't really matter what he couldn't save her from, or whether she was his mother, sister, girlfriend, wife, grandmother, best friend, cousin, whatever. We all know the story. It was probably old when it was told of knights instead of police officers. It's certainly old now. That doesn't make it a bad story -- it just makes it one for which you don't have to have long, overt explanations. Crowe was playing the role already. We recognize it. We didn't need to hear about his parents. Not everything has to be spelled out in all caps, and this movie did a decent job of not doing that in many cases.

I guess part of the problem is that I don't believe it's very common for a person to be able to articulate one reason why they do their job, why they chose that particular line of work. When they do, they're usually fooling themselves. "I became a cardiologist because I so admired the doctor who saved my father's life when I was ten years old. He inspired me, and I wanted to pass that on to another generation." That's probably true, but it's also probably true that some combination of money, some level of God complex, an interest in biology, family preferences, and many, many other factors played into it. And if you write the character or play the character as if passing on the inspiration is his/her only motive, he/she will be less interesting, less complicated. But fictional characters (in movies and books) who run on about their motivation are likely to behave as if that is Their Motivation, Dammit.

Still a pretty good movie, though. I liked Guy Pearce, despite his comic-book-hero facial planes. As Timprov said, it was Guy Pearce playing Val Kilmer playing his role, and Russell Crowe playing Gabriel Byrne playing his. But I like Val Kilmer, so it worked out okay. I also prefer Gabriel Byrne to Russell Crowe, so if Crowe wants to play Byrne indirectly in more of his roles, great, more power to him.

Anyway. I read Diana Wynne Jones' Cart and Cwidder yesterday -- good stuff. I'm definitely going to get the rest of the series when I have a chance, from the library or used if I can find it. It also made me want to reread Westmark for more of the same style of YA. Back to The Icon and the Axe today -- it's rather large and dense, and I don't intend to take it on the plane, especially because something in me rebels at taking half-finished books on a trip.

Looks like just another work morning. Lunch with Avi, probably, and we'll see if he's up for Fijian takeout or Thai. I'm really into the Fijian takeout idea, but I've never had it, so I can't recommend it, exactly. There are other options, too, of course; those are just the ones that come immediately to mind. And I do have an appointment with Dr. Bill in the afternoon -- yay, Dr. Bill!

One of the tiresome things about travel is that I feel like I should pack a week in advance just so that I don't forget and wear the clothes I want to take. I know, I know, I could just do laundry tomorrow. And I probably will. I just don't want to have to. I'm not yet in travel hyperdrive, but...well...getting there.

Oh, a couple of articles to read on the "well, finally" front. On Salon, there's an article about how books about life in the gutter are just not daring any more. How nobody's bourgeois complacency will be shocked by this genre. So true. I was talking with Another Mark about this in a different form, how poets who rebel against Hallmark are just not all that rebellious. And I think it's pretty lame to be rebellious by showing "the seamy underside of life." I'm not even sure that was still rebellious when my parents were my age. I'm pretty sure it wasn't.

Anyway, the other one is a NYT article about how girls are aggressive towards each other. Well, duh. My school was small enough that I got the full exposure to this stuff. But the girls I went to school with were early bloomers. They did most of the stuff described in the article in early to middle grade school. My grade school not only had cliques, the cliques had names. In some ways, it sounds like that made things easier: almost nobody trusted anybody from grade school going into junior high, so the big betrayals weren't there.

I'm glad studies and programs like this have started, because it combats a bit of the reverse Victorianism that seems to have come up in the last 20-30 years: "Women are more nurturing and emotional than men, and that's good! Men are more competitive, and that's bad." It's not that simple, not on any of the assertions there. And what we've been doing -- I've said this before, and I'll say it again -- what we've been doing in the last 40-50 years is letting girls in on traditional boys' tools and weapons, without doing the reverse. It was telling to me that in the linked article above, they asked some young girls whether they thought boys did the same thing, and the response was that boys weren't smart enough. I don't think it's a matter of smarts. I think it's a matter of social training. But I think the girls were right: most boys their age don't have the social smarts necessary to make each other that socially miserable. I don't approve of the misery -- but I still think that we're letting boys down in that arena, and expecting too little of them and of girls. It should not be okay not to be aware of other people's feelings. Neither should it be okay to use that awareness to make other people gratuitously miserable.

Well. Anyway. I'm going to get to work, get going on the "to do" list. Miles to go before I sleep. And sleep before I have miles to go.

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