Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Unknown Citizen
by W.H. Auden
(To JS/07/M/378 This Marble Monument Is Erected by the State)
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in the hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace; when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation,
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Watched "Across the Universe" the other night.

This film has nothing to do with The Beatles, aside from slaughtering their music and attempting to use the lyrical content of select songs to drive the "plot" of an otherwise empty movie. It wouldn't be that bad if the covers were halfway decent, but they aren't. Consider them to be more like "interpretations" by a generation of artists who grew up listening to something other than The Beatles.

The visuals were great, but that's not how you rate a movie. If it were, I could say something entirely useless like, "It ranks right up there with Star Wars Episode I!" The dialog is disjointed, the characters are shallow, but the plot is existant albeit extremely thin. If this were an attempt to emulate The Beatles' music videos like "Help!", it was a miserable failure. They would have done themselves a favor by completely stripping out any attempts at plot.

The pinnacle of retardation came during the scene when Max and friends are attempting to lure Prudence out of her room. They may as well have tossed in a slide whistle, followed up with circus music. I felt dirty, like when a worshiper leader at a church says "Oh Lord, dear God in Heaven! God, Lord, Jesus, God, please, God, OPEN THE EYES, God, OF OUR HEARTS, Lord God Jesus!" and launches into a bruising rendition of - GASP - "Open the Eyes of My Heart."* As if it weren't obvious enough that Prudence has locked herself in her room, her friends must crowd around her door and beg her to come out... "Prudence! Why won't you come out?! Prudence, come out! Dear Prudence, she's gone and locked herself in her room!" I wonder what they're going to sing next?!

Of course, this movie has done and will continue to do well. To paraphrase one reviewer, this film basically attempts to condense The Beatles and the American 60s down to film size for the cell-phone-ring-tone generation - and they are eating it up. Now I must forever endure spotting this movie on lists of personal favorites written by quasi-sophisticates**, or hearing people say things like, "I love The Beatles! Have you seen Across the Universe?!"

Yes, I have. It really wasn't that great.

* If it is not painfully obvious to the reader, I am Christian. If this example makes no sense to you, consider a radio DJ making a terrible segue into a new song by reciting some obvious permutation of the lyrics.

** Please note that it is not the inclusion of this movie on a list that makes someone a quasi-sophisticate. Rather, it is the writing of the list. Nobody cares what your favorite movies are, unless they're trying to have sex with you. Comparing favorite movies is as useless a measure of compatibility as comparing favorite brand names, therefore creating such a list is useless.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

My sister-in-law has been using my bike to get to and from work at Taco Johns.

Today the bike was stolen while she was working. She looked out one moment and a drunkard was sitting next to it trying to smoke a cigarette. She looked out a little while later and the bike was gone.

In a panic, she called Jewell. Jewell took off on her bike to check the path running behind Taco Johns, while I took off in the Audi to check along Gateway Drive. On my way, I called the Grand Forks Police Department to report a stolen bicycle and to give a description of it. While I was on the phone, I passed the guy who had taken it! He was sitting in the parking lot of a store on Gateway Drive, trying to fix the derailer!

I quickly turned in by the parking lot, informing the woman at the police department where I was. I gave a description of the man (mid to late 40s, black baseball hat, gray jacket). She asked me to remain in the car until officers arrived, and within seconds three squad cars arrived to deal with him.

An officer walked over to my car and briefly chatted with me, confirming I was the caller and owner of the bike. He asked me what I wanted them to do with the guy. I told them I didn't want to ask for anything they didn't want to do, so he suggested I just request they arrest him, "process" him, and release him. Sounded fine to me! But why were they asking me what they should do?

The officer proceeded to pull out a form labeled "Grand Forks Police Department: Citizen's Arrest". Now I got it! I could have chosen to let the guy go, I guess... But far be it from me to tell an officer how to do his job!

The officer needed my personal information, as well as a signature confirming I had "apprehended" the man in question. I was then asked to go with another officer to complete a statement in his car. Exhilarating! I wrote out the sequence of events (phone call, headed out in car, spotted man with bicycle, etc.), then signed and dated it.

That was it! I sent a guy "downtown" today. I can't say it felt totally awesome, but it sure was exciting. The guy looked out at me from the back of a squad car with big, stupid, intoxicated puppy dog eyes. I stared him down butt-good with my furrowed brow of disapproval. It was great.

Some additional details came out before the officers took off:
  1. They'd picked the same guy up yesterday for stealing another bicycle
  2. He was drunk, and had a bag containing more booze
  3. He told the officers I had asked him to fix my bike (ha!)
  4. One of the officers had confronted him only 15 minutes prior - sans bicycle!
It seems that a good reason to steal a bike would be to get somewhere faster, so if the bike breaks it doesn't seem intelligent to sit down to attempt to fix it. It seems more reasonable to trash it and keep moving.

Dusty summed it up best: "What a dumbass!"