Friday, May 30, 2008

The Torments of a Somewhat-Blind Man; Also, Adventures in Formatting. And Spelling. And Punctuation. And...

My glasses passed away on Wednesday. I was cleaning them, and — twang. I super-glued them with super-glue that turned out not to be such super glue after all: it fell apart. They are now held together with electrical tape, but sit at a slight angle so that it is uncomfortable to look through them for long periods of time. And they cause people to burst into sudden fits of laughter when I am seen wearing them. To make a long story short, I took a long lunch today and visited an optometrist.

My last visit to the optometrist involved a glaucoma test that required me to remain still while a javelin-like device approached and made physical contact with my cornea, but thankfully today's glaucoma test was of the much less Olympian air-puff variety. The eye exam commenced with me being handed a spatula and asked to cover my left eye and read the writing on the wall; unsure of which blurry white block I was supposed to be reading, I simply replied that I couldn't read any of it. The optometrist informed me that I was looking in the wrong place and made an adjustment, but still nothing. We repeated the process several times with growing consternation on his part until finally he said, "I'm sorry, you're supposed to be wearing your glasses for this test." We continued on through an explanation of why he considered it good business to ask personal questions of his patients and advice on budget-conscious menu selections at Maggiano's Little Italy. As we began determining my new prescription he asked, "Can you read that?" and, once again, I had to reply, "No." "No?" he asked, surprised. "No," I replied, "I'm sorry, but your head is in the way." It all worked out well in the end, and I should have my new glasses in 7-10 days.

As if all of this wasn't excitement enough, the optometrist's office also introduced me today to a document so spectacular that I cannot help but wonder at its origins. It is the optometrist's Notice of Privacy Practices, and each and every fascinating line of it so fills me with wonderment that I actually kept and read it. Oh, you doubting Thomases, must you see to believe? Very well, here it is, "de-identified" (click for a larger view):

What, you ask, are the particular spectacularities this document has to offer? I give you a brief selection:
  • On the third line begins a sentence that reads in full: "THIS NOTICE DESCRIBES HOW MEDICAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOU MAYBE [sic] USED AND DISCLOSED AND HOW YOU CAN GET ACCESS TO THIS INFORMATION." I dare you to find all of it. I double-dare you not to laugh.
  • The entire document is so completely centered that it actually serves to emphasize the only element on the page that isn't: the web address.
  • I point this out separately because I had no idea it was even possible: the second set of bullet points is both centered and justified (each point at different widths), and at least two paragraphs are centered, justified and first-line-indented.
  • The apparent disdain on the part of the author for the period, and a compensating affection for the comma, even at the end of paragraphs.
  • Even excluding the words following the rejected periods, the apparent randomness of capitalization almost makes me want to pull out all of the capitalized letters to see if they spell out a secret message. Included (mid-sentence) are a number of instances of the words "You", "Your" and "We", at least one instance each of the words "To", "And/or" and "For", and the following phrase used as a complete sentence: "For Public health Purposes."
  • Some typos that may actually introduce legal problems, for instance in the following sentence: "We respect your legal obligation to keep health information that identifies you private." Speaking from five years of experience in the medical insurance field, I am not sure that HIPAA would agree with the substitution of the word "your" for "our".
  • The misspelling in one instance of "Notice of Privacy Practices" as "Notice or Privacy, Practice".
  • A pretty jim-dandy use of the word "fur".

On a side note, please let me know which you prefer: one of my new designs, or this (not designed by me). Make sure you have your speakers on when you pull it up. As the site says, view it in Internet Explorer for full effect.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Not everyone at Walden Media thinks you're stupid.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian works too.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Walden Media think you're stupid; the Wachowskis are just inconsistent.

I'll start with the good news: the Wachowskis are inconsistent. I am of course referring to Larry and Andy Wachowski, the writer/director/producers of The Matrix, a thoroughly entertaining movie and groundbreaking at the time (nine years ago?!). However, they are also the writer/director/producers of its unfortunate (for us) sequels and, to the great indifference of nearly everyone, the writer/producers of V for Vendetta. The inconsistency is this: I just saw their latest movie, and I was thoroughly entertained. Is it ridiculous? Yes. A little cheesy? Sure. Gaudy? Yeah. Really, really over-the-top? Oh yes. But it works in a way that no other movie has so far this year. Don't know what movie I'm talking about?

Speed Racer.

I'll wait while you recover. Done? Sure, it's a movie based on a cartoon, and it looks like an LSD-trip, but it has a genuine, beating heart that had me smiling involuntarily within the first three minutes. Here's the clip that first made me wonder if this movie could actually be good:

Incidentally, it also uses contextually relevant flashbacks to an extent that is ironic only because the movie co-stars Matthew Fox.

Now for the bad news: Walden Media really do think you're stupid. Last year they released a movie called "The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising", based on the book "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper. I first read the book seventeen years ago, and it is, along with the other books in the series (it's actually the second in the series), one of the few books I read as a kid that I still enjoy now. It is set in England sometime in the 60's or 70's, and is about Will Stanton, a British boy who on his eleventh birthday discovers that he is the last of the Old Ones, and will play a key role in the final battle against the Dark. Judging by the movie that was actually produced, however, Walden Media thinks you're too stupid to get that story. Here's a partial list of improvements made:
  • Will Stanton is an American living in England. (Americans won't pay to see fantasy movies about British kids.)
  • It's set in the modern day, and includes an extended scene in a mall. (To make American kids feel more at home.)
  • There's a ~16-year-old love interest for Will.
  • Will is 14. (Presumably so that they can make his attraction for his love interest sexual without it being too icky.)
  • A deep, dark family secret.
  • A long-lost twin. (No, I'm not kidding.)
  • Lots of action sequences.
  • And on...
  • And on...
I'm going to stop before it sounds like I'm ranting. I'm not against book-to-movie adaptations; I'm not even against book-to-movie adaptations that make significant foundational changes to the storyline (remember the Bourne trilogy?). I'm simply against changes that try to cater to an imaginary audience that is dumber than the audience that actually exists, and against changes that result in a movie that is just plain bad.

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