The Machinist (**½)

Posted on December 7th, 2004 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

In The Machinist, Christian Bale plays an emaciated machine shop worker who never sleeps and apparently also never eats. Bale is scary-thin here, and it’s not camera trickery. Throughout the movie he becomes thinner and more haggard, and near the end there are flashbacks to previous points in his character’s life when he had a more normal weight. These were filmed sometime before or after Bale’s dramatic weight loss, and the contrast on screen between the thin and normal Bale is almost incomprehensible.

Unfortunately, that dramatic weight change by the lead actor was the most interesting part of this film for me. The picture doesn’t suck, or anything, but it’s really just a trumped-up, big-budget Twilight Zone episode which would have fit nicely in a 60 minute running time. Unfortunately the picture is stretched out longer (and thinner, pun intended) than is necessary, which left me antsy for the damn thing to finish.

The story follows Bale’s character through his life as he doesn’t sleep and finds that stranger and stranger things keep happening to him. Are they hallucinations? Is he dreaming? Is he the victim of conspiracy? What is real and what isn’t? Who is real and who isn’t? The movie flirts with making all of these questions very interesting, but unfortunately settles for making them mildly engaging.

The plot is interesting, however, so I won’t spoil it by talking about it in any more detail. Bale does a good acting job in his role, as does the rest of the cast. The film has a suitably washed-out, foreboding look to it, and the ending was pretty strong when compared to the rest of the film. However, as a package, the whole thing is just slightly above average.

BalanceBall Chair by Gaiam (Highly Recommended!)

Posted on December 1st, 2004 in Health and Fitness by mynagirl

So, if you know what an exercise ball is (think like what you’d use in Pilates), you can start to picture this chair. It’s best viewed, here, on the manufacturer’s site:

http://www.gaiam.com/retail/product.asp?product%5Fid=95-1004

A coworker suggested this to me last year after I mentioned my back injury from a few years ago (bad disc, never healed) and my constant un-preference for 8 – 12 hours of computer work in a normal office chair. I hemmed and hawed for the past year about maybe buying one of these funky contraptions, and in the past month or two really seriously considered it after regular office chairs just began causing me too much pain during the day. I even managed to snag a spare “exec” office chair at my office to try and abate the back pain, but it was no better after a day of constant work at the computer and then more hours of sitting at home in a similar office chair: my back would ache and I was pretty miserable by the end of the evening.

I did all the research about buying one for a while, trying to figure out if it was going to be tall enough for me. I’m pretty tall (5’11”) but I like my chairs to sit high, and the description of the chair says it’s good for someone 5′ to 6′. That’s a pretty big range, in my book. I did call the manufacturer and they said that the height of the ball is 25″ off the ground when the chair is assembled. I measured that against the height of my regular office chair and, allowing for the squishiness of the ball when a grown human sat on it, figured I could live with that.

My dad, sweetie that he is, got me one for Christmas because I’d talked about it so much. When it arrived, we realized I needn’t have worried about the height — it comes with 3″ extender feet that can be screwed into the casters to give the chair extra height (I’ll point out that this was mentioned nowhere on the website, however). The chair came within just a few days after my dad ordered it from Gaiam, and it took Engineerboy about 10 minutes to set it up. The ball has to be inflated partway and then let sit for a few hours and then inflated the rest of the way.

So now to the important part!! So far the chair is great. Aside from not putting too much pressure on your rear end, part of the major concept of the chair (as I understand it) is that you “actively sit” all the time. First of all, it sort of makes you sit up straight… it’s not impossible to slouch in this thing, but it’s much a more natural posture on the ball to sit up straight. So you’re working your abs and back muscles naturally while you

America and Terrorism

Posted on December 1st, 2004 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

I absolutely disagree with any offensive actions that purposely target innocent civilians. In America, the loss of an innocent life is perhaps the most tragic occurence imaginable. When a child is abducted, when an enraged husband murders his wife and children, when a drunk driver kills a family, or when a serial killer is on the prowl, we are all filled with great sadness for the victims, pity for their loved ones, anger at the perpetrators, and consumed by the need for swift justice.

One of the reasons that Americans cherish life so much is that life in America is a wonderful thing, for most of the people, most of the time. In general we have good health, long life spans, living wages, personal and religious freedom, humane working conditions, rich culture, freedom to travel, benign government, low crime rates, and are generally free from peril. In America, life is good. In fact, life may be the single most important possession for an American. Staying alive means more happiness, wisdom, joy, love, and fun. And about the only thing that all Americans can agree is worth dying for is preserving our freedom and the American way of life.

So when we experience the callous murder of innocents by terrorists, we can only see them as evil madmen, because only a crazy, evil person would purposely destroy innocent life. Not only destroy innocent life, but then hope to gain something from its destruction. Only a maniac would expect to be rewarded for doing the most unthinkable thing imaginable. Right?

The Worth of a Life

Well, maybe. But stop for a moment and consider that the most recent statistics show that the average life expectancy in Afghanistan is 40. And it’s not much different in the rest of the Middle East. And the lucky(?) 50% who live to be 40 endure 40 hard, cruel years of struggle, strife, poverty, disease, and then an untimely death. For people in this position it is reasonable to assume that their most precious possession is their knowledge that Allah will take them to paradise when they die, if they live and die by the teachings of Islam. And one of the most sure ways to achieve paradise is to die serving Allah while defending Islam and fighting infidels.

Now, that viewpoint may not make sense to the Judeo-Christian masses in the US, who tend to look down their noses at the callous, cowardly, and misguided actions of “terrorists”. However, before we (Americans) go casting stones, let’s take a look back at our own history…at the birth of this very (great) nation…and ponder the view the civilized world had of our forefathers, shall we?

History of the World, Part I

At the time of the Revolutionary War, England strode the Earth as the one and only superpower. Their intentions, while imperialistic, were mostly benign, and they seemed to struggle through the march of history with the intention