As You Were

Devin Coughlin's blog.
Styles: Serious Spare

December 29, 2004

100 Miles SW of the Asscrack of CO

I spent yesterday afternoon at my aunt and uncle's house in Beulah (about 100 miles SW of that asscrack of Colorado, Colorado Springs) watching various family members shoot things with my uncle's newly acquired handgun and the rifle my great-grandmother got to terrorize striking Irish miners in Pennsylvania in 1916. There was also much hauling of cordwood (from one meaningless pile to another) on an over-powered ATV and several rounds of Texas Hold'em (which I am killer at, go figure).

My Dad's family tries too hard, sometimes, to convince the world that they are just like everyone else — this only makes them seem more out of place.

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December 25, 2004

Ocean's Tanzanian Life Aquatic

Today I went to see Ocean's 12 and then The Life Aquatic with my Mom and her crazy grad-student friends. Ocean's 12 was fun, although really it only had one good reveal. The Life Aquatic was a bit stilted; the characterization was great, but the plot didn't quite seem to match the rest of the movie.

We had Christmas dinner at the house of one of my Mom's professors. His wife is Tanzanian, and she made really good chicken, beef, and lamb dishes, as well as African bread (and served Kenyan beer — she says the beer in Tanzania is so bad everyone drinks the Kenyan stuff instead). It was kind of cool listening to them sling Swahili back and forth. Christmas dinner at a table of anthropologists was interesting, but more than a little bit weird (someone says: we just got back from Pine Ridge where we stayed in tents, it was intense — get it, haha?). Two people mentioned that growing up they didn't understand why Santa only came when they weren't living on the reservation — one's parents told him that by the time Santa got to Pine Ridge he didn't have much left in his bag. And there were arguments about the meaning of immaculate, the meaning of festive, and about what Plato and Nietzsche would have thought of smores (not big on Pine Ridge, apparently).

Anyway, it was a good Christmas, although it's depressing without family around.

Tomorrow I'm heading down to see my dad's side of the family — all sorts of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. are descending on Littleton (of all places). It will be stressful and perhaps awful, but also good.

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December 22, 2004

Peg-legged Picabo

Picabo in a cast

So my dog Picabo tore some ligaments away from the bone in her right foot over Thanksgiving when she was staying with my Dad (a consequence of my last minute decision to spend Thanksgiving with in Lexington). She apparently slipped when he took her walking after an ice storm.

After many x-rays, two regular vets, two types of painkillers, and a visit to a specialist, she now has a cast and if all goes well she won't need surgery. The hope is that scar tissue will build up between the ligament in and the bone.

She seems a lot happier with the leg immobilized — she's much more lively than she's been the last couple of weeks.

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December 21, 2004

In From the Cold

Tonight I watched my first Hardball since the election. I'd tried several times before but couldn't stomach more than about five minutes. Of course tonight it wasn't real Hardball; Chris Matthews was on vacation, so we had half an hour of Campbell Brown interviewing Lynne Cheney about children's books and how we only teach the bad parts of our history (slavery, the Civil War, the Depression, McCarthyism, etc.) in high school. I kept waiting, in vain, for Brown to bring up Sisters. No such luck.

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December 20, 2004

You weren't born, you were decanted!

I was born 24 years ago.

Holographic Wrapping Paper

I told my mom I didn't want to do anything for my birthday, that I wasn't really ready to turn 24, and couldn't we wait until next year?

On Wednesday my dad called to say he was throwing a party on Saturday, but I really think he just wanted a chance to show off his new house to my mom.

All evening it was dueling new houses, dueling school plans, dueling summer "research", dueling lives. Yesterday he called and managed to inquire about whether one of my mom's friends was a special friend.

I did, however, manage to leave with a book about the geology of Boulder County and 40 pounds of stamps my grandfather collected for me in the eighties. My dad found them cleaning out his parents' house before they sold it. Another denizen of the Bakelite Jungle.

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December 19, 2004

null-less types

null-less types (not to be confused with Microsoft's nifty non-nullable "types") should not be allowed in dynamically-typed languages. Nor should tri-valued logic, for that matter.

PHP == result chart

And don't even get me started on reference vs. value typing in interpreted languages. This isn't 1994, people!

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December 17, 2004

Post-Stress Induced Mania

Wednesday, in a flurry of post-stress–induced mania, I finished all my Christmas shopping (lucky that Borders and Illegal Pete's are only a block apart, otherwise I would have lost my nerve).

Border's extensive collection of DVD Box sets is, unfortunately, quite close to the children's books, did you know they now have a specific section for children's Architecture books, which is where I finally found David Macauley's Cathedral, and I thought I might pick up a copy of Spirited Away for Emmett while I was there, to make up for the Dora the Explorer DVD I got him last year, although all things considered Dora is not such a bad show, and he really does like it, and then I had the second season of Gilmore Girls in one hand and the first season of The OC in the other.

How these things happen, I don't really know.

It was under suspiciously similar circumstances that I walked out of the Palo Alto Borders with the first season of Buffy under my arm on a truly awful afternoon in June of 2002. That was five Buffy sets ago (I have not yet, much to Ben's annoyance, acquired Buffy season 7 yet).

Wednesday night was spent with a bottle of wine and the first two DVDs of The OC. Last night would probably have been spent similarly, but for the siren's call of late night sushi happy hour at Hapa (fermented plum rolls).

The OC is a lot better than I expected it to be. I decided to watch the show solely because of its much publicized foray into the archetype of the previously shown as straight character who is now gay (paging all 21st century Joseph Campbells), so I wasn't exactly expecting it to be great. So far, at least, the characters are sympathetic and moderately engaging. All the interesting characters, though, are male, which I wouldn't have expected. The female actors have not been given much to play with yet. We'll see how it goes. The TiVo is now under strict instructions to record the second season.

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Thanksgiving 2004

Like last year, this year I went to Kentucky to see my sister, Katie, her husband Will, and my nephew Emmett for Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving in Lexington is a pretty big deal. They don't get too much snow, and I don't think there is a very distinct difference between winter and late fall, so the official beginning of Winter is Thanksgiving. This means Thanksgiving is ruled by overly-decorated Christmas trees and blinken-lights, not to mention those eery motor-controlled–wire-frame reindeer and inflatable Santas, and the the occasional tacky nativity scene.

Some Photos:

Emmett Emmett
My nephew Emmett

My sister Katie

Will and Emmett
Will and Emmett

My Mother
My Mother

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December 14, 2004

Retail Markup

Via Boing Boing, a story about how Long's Drugs prints the the wholesale price, encoded, on their retail price tags..

When I worked at Ludwig's, we had an even simpler system. The wholesale price was printed on the sticker beneath the retail price and was encoded with the following ingenious scheme:

  1. Remove the dollar sign and the decimal point.

I kid you not. But no one ever figured it out. The pharmacist even had a racket going with a local podiatrist. The podiatrist would send his patients to the pharmacy to buy "special" athletic tape (wholesale price: $0.30, retail price: $3.00). We always took it out of the box and only sold it as eaches, so customers couldn't figure out the brand. People came in every day to buy the stuff. I never found out what the podiatrist got for his end of the deal.

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December 9, 2004

Not (Quite) So Lonely, After All

Warning, O.C spoilers for thems that watches it. I don't, but that might change after this.

It looks like maybe Anna, from One Tree Hill, won't be so lonely after all.

On a somewhat-related note, Lost and Delirious, starring Mischa Barton (from The O.C.), Piper Perabo, and Jessica Paré (from Jack and Bobby), with smaller bits by Emily VanCamp (from Everwood) and Caroline Dhavernas (from the woefully cancelled Wonderfalls), is really quite good. Much better than you would expect from the publicity posters.

Note: Lost and Delirious should not be confused with Dazed and Confused, that I did is the only reason I stumbled upon this wonderful movie.

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December 8, 2004

New Tiger Seed

Think Secret says there is a new Tiger seed.

Well, crap. I just got the now outdated October seed in the mail on Saturday. I think, perhaps, it's time to invest in a DVD burner so I don't have to rely on the brutally slow combination of Apple's Developer Mailings and the USPS.

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December 5, 2004


Last night I saw Mike Nichols' movie Closer, based on the play by Patrick Marber, with Ben, Collin, Nate, Morgan, and her friend Lionel.

I've been a huge fan Nichol's recent big-screen adaptations of plays.

Watching Emma Thompson slowly die alone of cancer in Nichols' amazing rendition of Wit (Thompson helped write the screenplay) for HBO was like driving by a fatal accident on the highway. It was so unbearable, so awful that I was relieved when it was finally over, and yet I couldn't force myself to turn off the TV, nor even mute it as Thompson vomited onscreen for what seemed like an eternity.

Angels in America, Nichols' other recent adaptation, was widely applauded and, I think, wisely so. I'd read both Millenium Approaches and Perestroika and found them somewhat inscrutable — the dream sequences and hallucinations were hard for me to understand and all too often dialogue from different conversations was shuffled together like a poem for two voices. The movie, however, imbued reality to the surreal scenes and serialized some of the more serpentine dialogue. Still, Angels was so hard for me to watch that the second half spent six months on my TiVo waiting for me to finish it. It wasn't the death and dying that made it so difficult, although there was a lot of that. Instead it was the the abandonment that got to me. I found it excruciating to watch characters consider leaving their weaker boyfriends/wives, then actually leave them, then agonize over having left them, and then return to beg for forgiveness.

So after the negative buzz, it was with some trepidation that I agreed to go see Closer; some movies are more bearable with remote in hand. I expected it to be pretty hard to watch.

It wasn't.

It was cold and hard and certainly not a happy movie, but as there was no real chance to get emotionally invested in the characters, I didn't really care too much when they fucked things up. Closer is about four people who ruin their relationships for no good reason, other than that they are human. But the narrative skips the good parts of the relationships, so when they go bad we have no reason to think they might have been worth saving. In the entire movie I don't think we ever see Julia Roberts' character, Anna, happy enough that the actress can use her signature ear-to-ear smile.

Maybe, though, this was the point, that love is so ephemeral (or so meaningless) that we flit from relationship to relationship like we're looking for a place to stand in a crowded room. But Nichols shows us Clive Owens as angry and as mean as we are ever allowed to see any movie character, and later we see a pathetic Jude Law grovel so low that the director and writer must want us to believe his character has lost something of value. Again and again I found myself thinking "No, don't do it, it'll all work out, just don't be such a stubborn ass" to Law's character, Dan, but the reveal at the end (don't worry, it is well telegraphed) seems to suggest he was doomed from the very beginning.

You can tell that it is based on a play — the dialogue is central and the scenery is mostly static (it is stark, but sometimes beautiful). Film does offer some advantages over the stage. At the beginning of the Closer, Julia Robert's apartment/studio (it looks like perhaps it was an early 20th century surgery) is stunningly washed out, while Roberts is radiant. Later, though, the apartment is lit with warm color, and Julia Roberts, without makeup, is blanched, hollow-eyed. It is the worst I have ever seen her.

The movie spans about four years, but Nichols gives the viewer no overt indication that time has passed — we are left to infer it from the words and actions of the characters. Perhaps there were act breaks in the play to signify passage of time. At one point, confusingly, time moves backwards. I wonder why they chose to do that. We can only tell that it is earlier because of Julia Roberts' clothing.

Collin said he appreciated the lack of fades and other gimmicks to move through time, but throughout most of the movie the back part of my brain was occupied with trying to keep track of how much time had passed. So many important plot points occur offscreen that after every jump I really had to work to figure out what was going on. I wonder if we might have been better served by cheap visual clues. (Time passed similarly in Wit, but there was more audience hand-holding. Emma Thompson regularly broke the fourth wall to explain what was going on).

Ultimately, it hard to know what to make of Closer. The movie wants us to see it as a fatalistic commentary on the fickle nature of love and the impossibility of true happiness, and on those terms it really is quite good. As viewers, though, we're more concerned with the stories of the individual characters than with the film's intended message. Closer's incomplete portrayal of their relationships enhanced its overall message, but in doing so it dehumanized the characters to the point that we just couldn't care.

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Leftover Movie Reviews

Over the last couple of months I've started writing down thoughts about some of the movies I'd seen, but never finished them. I never will, so here they are unedited, incomplete, and completely incoherent.

The Incredibles

Every super hero story needs some homoerotic subtext and in The Incredibles this was sorely lacking. In most other respects, however, it was a wonderful movie.

The Day After Tomorrow

I saw The Day After Tomorrow last night with ben. Hmmm. Not the world's worst movie — but not very good either.

I kept on looking around my feet for my jacket throughout the whole thing — it made me irrationally cold.

I have to say though, as a plot device, having Jake Gyllenhaal being chased down a hallway by the "the cold" just seconds after he had been chased around a boat by rabid wolves probably wasn't the best idea.

Whaddaya wanna bet at least one draft of the movie had him being chased by wolves and "the cold" down a hallway — but the cold caught up to the wolves and they get frozen mid-step.

I'm just saying, is all, that in a hokey movie it doesn't work to have a the hero escape in a real chase scene, rabid wolves and all, directly followed by a scene were the hero is nearly caught by the weather. It just makes the weather look even more stupid, by comparison.

The Motorcycle Diaries

The other day I saw The Motorcycle Diaries with Collin, Ben, and Morgan.

I didn't like the movie very much, although I can't quite place my finger on the reason why.

A couple of stylistic things bothered me. In the beginning the shooting style was very choppy. The camera stayed close up to the characters' faces, and it intercut so much that I felt like I didn't get a good look at the characters for quite some time. And then there was the electric guitar in the soundtrack, which felt quite out of place.

As to the content, well, I've always like Gael Garcia Bernal (and who among us does not like Gael Garcia Bernal?), but I wonder if he was right for this role. He seems too pretty to pay Che.


The entire thing, frankly, seem a little banal. One would expect (at least in the movie world) that it would be extraordinary experiences that drove Che to his radicalism, rather than a road trip. The movie seemed to want to tell us that the injustice Che sees on the trip inspired his , but the what we see is so tepid, so normal, that it is hard to imagine they would cause someone to volunteer their time on weekends let alone attempt to foment continent-wide revolution. On the other hand, maybe that is the point: that seemingly trivial experiences can drive people to extremes. Witness most of the 9/11 hijackers, Timothy McVeigh, the SLA, etc. These people were not driven to terrorism by because their families were killed, or because their homes were destroyed, or because they lived in grinding poverty. They were middle-class, well-educated, generally boring people.

Which is why this movie, I think, was ultimately so boring. It could have showcased the natural beauty of South America or its interesting people (boy, were the leper colony scenes wonderfully textured, though) but instead the filmmakers chose a lukewarm exploration of the injustice of poverty and social inequality interspersed with

Part of the problem, I think, is that the movie couldn't figure out whether it was history, hagiography, or highbrow entertainment. A true history would probably have been quite tedious, but might have been saved by rampant scenery-chewing, oversaturated color, and perhaps a little bit of nudity. Hagiography might also have been less than interesting (although it would have been fascinating to see a party-line view of the Comandante Che) and probably wouldn't gone over well with the mainstream critics. That leaves entertainment. It was a pretty long movie, but I didn't check my watch until very near the end — so it must have been doing something right. Still, though, I left unsatisfied. As road trip/buddy movie it worked pretty well. It is, however, more than a little ironic, I think, that by the end of a movie about the awakening of Che's social consciousness we've gotten a much better view of Che's friend and travel companion, Alberto Granado, than of the future revolutionary himself.

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December 3, 2004

Car Trouble

I've been rough on my car the last couple of days. Yesterday morning I accidentally left the trunk door slightly open after driving the trash out to the road. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but the latch sensor decided to work again (coincidence, I think not!) and so my lights were left for about 9 hours. I noticed when it got dark. Oops. The car wouldn't start, and it was cold. I had a portable battery charger once, but I gave it to my sister.

This morning I get the car to start, but it had been so windy that a snow drifts block the exit from the driveway. Foolishly, I put the car in four-wheel drive and step on the gas. Stuck. Fuck. I rock back and forth trying to get out, but instead I slide sideways into the drainage ditch. Luckily, two of the wheels are still on the driveway and I am able to stick the car in four-wheel drive low and brute force my way out.

Only then I can't get out of four-wheel drive. It just won't let me. So I slowly drive a bit up the mountain. People pile up behind me and give me nasty glares. I pull over a couple of times until finally it decides to let me disengage. This is not an uncommon problem, so in general I try to avoid four-wheel drive low.

So far so good. I'm running a bit late, but it happens.

Now I'm racing down the mountain, trying to make up for lost time, reprogramming my preset radio stations with one hand and steering with the other. I fly around a curve just a bit too fast and my water bottle jumps off the passenger seat and slides underneath my pedals. Great. I try to brake and fish around for the bottle when I realize the damn thing knocked over a can of Fanta I'd left open in the car the night before when I was blow-drying the goddamn battery. The spill seems to be contained in the console, though, so I decide to drive until the next pullout.

I watch the sea of Fanta swash around violently in the console. That's a nice little accelerometer, I think. And then I notice that the sea-level seems to be going down. It's leaking. I make it to the pullout, but it's really too late — most of the soda has leaked out the bottom of the console into the nether regions of my car. I spend the next couple of minutes doing damage control, absorbing what I can with a roll of toilet paper in the back, mopping out the cup holders, swearing at my own stupidity.

I get back on my way and finish the drive down to Boulder. I manage to find a parking place, but it's so icy I need to get back into four-wheel drive to actually park. As I pack up, I notice the smell of orange soda has gotten stronger stronger, much stronger. I cautiously stick my hand below the seat. The carpet is wet, very, wet, with Fanta naranja. I swab at it a bit with more toilet paper, but, really, it's hopeless. I decide to roll down the window and let it dry/freeze and forget about it (because if you ignore things, they tend to go away, right?).

From outside the car, I am overpowered by a pungent fishy odor — it smells like nuoc nam and burning rubber. I steal a glance over at the console. The parking brake is on.

When they revolution comes, they won't let people like me drive.

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December 1, 2004

Primetime Latina Lesbian

So it appears I was wrong about Tim being the first previously shown as straight but now gay character on One Tree Hill (his apparent familiarity with designer handbags notwithstanding).

It now seems that Anna (played by Danielle Alonso) will probably come out as a primetime lesbian. According to those who pay very close attention to these things she'll be pretty lonely out there in TV land. But we'll have to wait until OTH comes back from hiatus until we know for sure.

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Last Weather Related Post

When I was ten or eleven my friend Rhea got carbon monoxide poisoning.

The furnace in her house broke and started producing carbon monoxide instead of carbon dioxide.

Her mother woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of her daughters vomiting. Her husband was unconscious. After getting Rhea and her little sister outside, she dragged her husband, who was now turning blue, out of the house.

They were rushed to a hyperbaric chamber and were fine (apparently when you get really bad CO poisoning you turn red, not blue).

Ever since then I have slept with a window open.

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Obligatory Flatirons Shot

Because it has to be done.

Snowy Flatirons

Every now and then I have to take a big step back and remind myself that I am so lucky to live here.

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