People of zee wurl, Relax!

erleichda!

Greener pastures
look down
smoore
Well, I realized today that I had totally forgotten about this LJ. I've not only outgrown only having one blog, I've also moved on to blogging at my own domain.

jitterbeangirl.com - the continuation of this blog
lens.jitterbeangirl.com - my photoblog
food.jitterbeangirl.com - my food blog

Hope to see you over there....

The dice are in another's hand
angry
smoore
Today has been a fairly devastating day.

Y'know the type, one of those days where you begin to seriously think about some pretty big choices you've made in your life and you begin to ponder how it will affect the choices you will make down the road -- and you realize that it may even affect your ability to make a choice.

The choices that just a few in lofty places make trickle down to me. They affect whether I will be able to stay in the career field that I chose, want to stay in, and around which all of my goals revolve.

They affect other things that many others likely take for granted -- like whether I will be able to ever be physically co-located with the man that I have chosen as a mate and want to marry.

A large part of my frustration, anger, and sadness stems from the fact that I am a very goal-oriented person. I always have been. I set a goal, make a plan, and either achieve it or I don't -- and that success has always depended on my actions and the decisions that I make. There hasn't been much left to chance.

Now, however, I am no longer controlling the variables, and neither is anyone else that I know -- someone that I have no relationship holds all the keys, and my plans live or die by what they decide. In a way this is like applying for college, competing for my scholarships, at least in the way that some nameless, faceless person was deciding my fate -- but it's so different in the way that their decisions were based upon my merit and the merit of those I was competing against. Now, I am facing off with a document that sets "policies," "procedures," and "regulations." There is no grey area. There is no meritocracy. You either fit in Box A or Box B.

And if "you fit into box A" means "you will revert to another career field" or "you will be separated from the one you love for another three years," well, then, it sure sucks to be you.

And by "you," I mean "me."

A slippery slope of nucleotides
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Today's scary wake-up call is brought to you by Escapades of Reason.

There is so much in both Jared's post and the article that it was based on that just screamed "slippery slope" in my mind -- it was like there was a 50-foot neon billboard with those words flashing in hot pink far before the Slate article ever mentioned the phrase. As Jared's subject line suggests, A Brave New World-like scenario is a worst-case scenario that could result from our genetic meddling and tampering, though I hesitate to call it the worst case scenario, as humans have repeatedly shown themselves capable of newer and more horrible ways to treat each other that prove how naive I can truly be.

But I digress.

I think that the thing that bothers me most about this slippery-slope fallacy of modern eugenics is from the scientific point-of-view. We have taken evolution (being the random genetic mutations that give rise to new traits, be they successful or unsuccessful for the being) into our own hands and have essentially taken out the random element. New gene expressions may not get the chance to get a field test and may be snuffed out because they are misunderstood. Genetics is an enormously complex process. Something that may explicitly express itself in an undesirable way may have a dramatic effect in a more subtle fashion, but it may be "deselected" by a white coat because it is misunderstood.

What if someone told you that they had found a gene in an embryo of yours that would cause its all of its weight to be carried directly above the pelvis, causing a host of back and spine problems and (should the baby be female and reproduce) complications during pregnancy and childbirth? Sounds pretty bad, something you wouldn't want your child to have to live with, right? Well my friends, those are side effects from the genes that cause us to walk upright, which is something that otherwise gives us tremendous advantages as a species.

Or what if you were told that your baby would have a gene expression that would cause it to be born early so that it was completely helpless and dependent on you for far longer than is otherwise heard of? That is, of course, if it actually survived the birthing process, which would be made much more hazardous by this new gene expression. The trait I'm referring to here is large brain size, which gives us such formidable intelligence that we have become the masters of our domain and somehow ended up on the top of the food chain, despite being really rather unimpressive mammals, physically speaking.

My point here is that humans have made stupid decisions that we think are actually informed, scientific decisions when in fact they are anything but (CFCs come to mind. Ozone layer what?). What if a 'bad' gene that we think we are totally informed about really has a protective or good property that we don't immediately see? I don't think we humans are doing ourselves any favors by taking the natural selection part of the evolutionary process upon ourselves. Besides, who ever heard of genetic diversity in a population being a bad thing?

Purely scientific issues aside, I see this as causing a whole gamut of social issues (which probably won't sound all that new to those that are familiar with A Brave New World or Gattaca).

Some couples have opted to choose the sex of their baby so that it will "balance" the family. Balance???? What the crap is that? These are probably the same sort of people who think that a household is "balanced" if the man is supporting the family by doing a job that requires: a) a lot of grunting, and b) a drill, and the woman is relegated to the always-in-style barefoot-and-pregnant, dammit-woman-get-back-in-the-kitchen role. Maybe I'm a bit flippant, but I came from a "balanced" family -- one mother, one father, one daughter, one son -- and I still grew up hating Cabbage Patch dolls, I eschewed Barbies in favor of G. I. Joes and Ninja Turtles, used my dollhouse for architectural projects instead of doll-play, and grew up to get a mathematics degree and join the military. Yeah, a lot of good that "balance" did for my so-called feminine gender roles.

But I digress. Again.

In more seriousness, I see this going in two directions that are oddly enough not mutually exclusive.

What's to stop a couple that already has a child or two with given physical characteristics -- say, for fun, blond hair and blue eyes -- from using the 'balance' argument to select the same characteristics for their next child? After all, it would be hard to be a red-headed stepchild in this case, especially if you were really a red-headed biological child. I see this as only being a step or two away -- albeit a more scientifically advanced step or two -- from what the Nazis were trying to accomplish in their experimental eugenics programs.

I also see this as putting new stresses on marriage -- stresses that really shouldn't be there in the first place. Ok, it was all well and good when you couldn't decide what couch to get and what shade to paint your dining room, that was just a house. But now you're trying to design a kid. You may be able to compromise on superficial physical characteristics (you abhor the way your spouse's ears are pointy like an elf's but he or she adores it and wants to pass it on to the children), but when you start talking about who the child will really be, there's no compromising on that one like there was on the rug-and-tile combination you chose for your entryway. I don't see a situation like "Ok, this kid can be really good at science, but I want our next kid to be a jock!" working out. We all have ways that we'd like our hypothetical spawn to turn out (yes, even me) and we all have qualities that we hold as especially important that we may be willing to leave to chance but we wouldn't be willing to sacrifice if we had the option to exercise control over the situation.

I say that the genetic crapshoot of regular old babymakin' sex has been working great for millions of years -- why mess with a good thing? Yes, it would be wonderful to spare new parents the heartbreak of finding out that their newborn has a fatal congenital disease, but at the same time (and I'm so aware that this is spoken just like someone who isn't a parent) I'm not sure that we should have ever started down that slippery slope.

How considerate!
hands
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Ticket to Seoul - $1334.77

0.36 fl oz of Refresh Contacts rewetting drops - $6.99

Actually getting to use said eyedrops on a 24-hour trip to Korea, thereby preventing anguish-provoked enucleation and thus being able to see that face you've been waiting four months to put your eyes on - PRICELESS.

Thank you, TSA, for pulling your heads out of your asses and relaxing a knee-jerk reaction a smidge or two.

While we're on this cheesy Mastercard knock-off thing, you know what else would also be PRICELESS? Getting to meet -- and get my picture taken with -- the Chonger lookalike! It would make my trip to Korea officially the Best Vacation Ever. Squared.

If you get letters like this from me consider it a wake-up call
angry
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Dear Drivers On Dark Roads on Dark Alaska Nights:

Yes, it is dark outside. Yes, it is hard to see. Yes, I want to drive with my brights on because there are big scary MOOSAGES just waiting to run out in front of my car. But HEY! Dim your brights when there is an oncoming car! You're not doing me any favors when I'm all like "Oh hey here comes another car. I'll turn off my brights! I can't see as well now but that's ok, that other driver needs to see tooOWWWW! I CAN'T SEE!! It's even worse than it was two seconds ago!!! If any moose jump out I AM SO GOING TO DIE."

Sincerely,
That Other Driver Who Is More Likely To Veer Into Your Lane If She Can't See The Road Because Of Your Jerkishness And Who Is Even More Likely To Hit You If She Hits A Moose First


Dear Ballsy Turnagain Arm Drivers:

You're on what is probably the most beautiful road in all of the United States, but hey, why not speed up that SUV of yours that weighs the same as the beluga whales who are swimming just below us to warp speed when there are 70 mile per hour gusts ripping through the arm? I am sure that it would be a terrible loss if your precious SUV flew off the road onto the mud flats below, taking you with it, and it would be an even more terrible loss if you ended up just like everyone else who gets stuck in the mud flats, and by "like everyone else" I mean "D-E-D dead," FOR EXAMPLE: 1) the lady who got stuck while the tide was coming in and the rescue workers couldn't get her out in time so they gave her an oxygen tank and when the tide went back out she was DEAD ANYWAY because she forgot to look out for hypothermia! 2) the guy who got stuck in the mud flats and the rescue workers couldn't get him out by conventional means so they got a helicopter to pull him out but that mud was SO STUBBORN that he got ripped in half!

AWESOME, HUH??? Aren't you SO EXCITED to be driving THAT FAST on that road? I wish I was invincible too!

Sincerely,
Apparently The Only Driver On Turnagain Arm Without Either An Adolescent's Bulletproofness Or A Death Wish


Dear Mr. I Love To Tailgate When It's Raining ESPECIALLY BECAUSE Visibility Is Nil:

I guess that says it all, doesn't it?

Sincerely,
Not Willing To Die Because You Are A Moron

Alaska, you know I love you, but sometimes you're just weird
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smoore
Hopefully by now it is painfully apparent that I am in love with living in Alaska. From my sidebar-bio in which I proudly proclaim myself an 'ecstatic Alaskan' to lens which is rapidly filling with Alaska shots to a few of the many new opportunities that living here has offered me that I have written about here, the evidence none-too-quietly shows that I am the pea and Alaska the pod.

Sure, there are certain quirks about living here, like no longer being able to navigate by the sun (in winter it rises in the south, skims across the horizon, and sets four hours later in, well, the south, and in the summer it rises in the north, makes a wide arc around the sky and twenty hours later sets in, well, the north) or sixty-degree high temperatures in July and August (a great selling point when your relatives in Texas are cooking in the midst of a streak of thirty consecutive days of 100+-degree temperatures), but by and large these are easy to forgive. However, the latest quirk has just about broken my brain.

Ok. It's August Late August, mind you, but two weeks ago it was mid-August, and two weeks ago is when this, this aberration, this abomination decided to do something like divide by zero and all other such unnatural things. I have not the words to accurately express the sight that so discombobulated me, so I'll let a photo do the talking:


SNOW in AUGUST
This snow showed up in mid-August. That's weird (click for an expanded field of view).


That's right -- snow. In August on what was previously a naked rock mountain mere days ago. Ok, sure, it's not called snow per se -- it's given the poetic honorific termination dust. This must be short for "Harbinger-of-Summer's-Termination dust" because really, it serves to remind you that the summer is on its way out. It's being let go, downsized, it's obsolete, no longer the hot new thing in town. It causes a sense of frenetic panic to set in because you know that summer's days are numbered and you worry that you've haven't fully enjoyed the beautiful, I mean truly breathtaking, Alaska summer days, and you remember and regret every single day that you didn't take full advantage of what you were given by this awesome state.

I think that Catholic parents who have formidable guilt-tripping skills must have learned them from this particular type of precipitation.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must go sleep so that I can wake up early enough to go for one of the season's lasts runs on what I hope will be a beautiful, classic Alaska summer day.

Wild encounters with Alaska wildlife
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As of two days ago I've been in Alaska for nine months. I'd always heard that Anchorage is such a new city that a lot of wildlife still lives in the city, so here I thought I would talk about some of my (very!) close encounters with Anchorage's moose population. You may remember my first "holy crap moose are all up in these neighborhoods" moment, but it goes waaay beyond that. I take great pleasure in presenting to you

Stacey's Death-Defying Encounters With Wildlife Thus Far,

A Play


Act One

The Scene: a crisp winter's day in April. Sienna and I are frolicking about in Far North Bicentennial Park as is our wont before the bears start waking up.

The Action: We're making our way along a narrow trail when all of a sudden I see my tiny puppy put her front paws on a rock and utterly silently point the way that most retrievers know how to do:


A lab puppy (not Sienna) at point
This is what Sienna did


This kind of surprises me but it sure doesn't surprise me more than what I saw when I walked another two steps -- a moose chowing down on whatever moose on their starvation diets chow down on in the winter. Oh shit. The last thing I want to do is startle a starving moose who has finally found a food supply. In about 2.3 total microseconds I scoop up my pup and do a total 180o turn and head straight out of moose-land. I was impressed by my two-month old dog because she alerted me to the situation without barking or chasing the moose (ie pissing it off). Sweet, I thought. I've got a useful dog! Ha. Famous last words. Read on....

Act Two

The Scene: Again, Far North Bicentennial Park in April.

The Action: Sienna and I are passing a beautiful open meadow (a thawed version of which was depicted on my blog's Spring 2006 masthead) that I have often seen moose grazing in from afar. We're walking down the trail when all of a sudden of the corner of my eye I see something large and brown emerge from the treeline about fifty or sixty yards away. This moose was on a mission and meant business -- he (she? it was before their antlers started growing back in) made a direct beeline for Sienna and I. I look ahead to Sienna who has no clue about the 800 pounds of Riverdancing death headed straight for us, so I quicken my pace, scoop up the oblivious puppy and walk (not run!) as fast as I can down the trail. Even with as quickly as I'm moving I see the moose cross the trail not ten feet behind us and (luckily) decide to let us go on our way.

Act Three

The Scene: May. Enjoying one of our last walks in Far North Bicentennial before the bears start stirring.

The Action: Sienna and I are walking down a narrow trail in a heavily wooded part of the park. As usual I have my moose radar on -- since Act One I've been wary about coming upon moose unawares. All of a sudden I hear a huge CRASH! to my immediate right and in addition to my entire life flashing before my eyes I am thinking ohshithere'sabearandhe'sgonnaeatme OH GOD I AM GOING TO DIE. My heart has accelerated from 60 to 18,000 bpm in the span of about one nanosecond and all of a sudden I realize that it's a fucking grouse. I've never been one to want to walk around in the woods in camo holding a gun and killing things to take home to eat, but let me tell you, any bird that waits huddled up in the ground until someone is right there to take off and fly into a tree is a bird that deserves to die. Can I get an amen from the hunters in the audience?


Fucking grouse!
This bird shall FEEL MY WRATH


Meanwhile, Sienna is oblivious (starting to see a pattern here?). Aside from that first point, she's shown no aptitude whatsoever for being a bird dog! Jeez, she's supposed to flush those things out for me!

Intermission

I suggest you take a gander at definite evidence of my occasional stupidity: too-close-for-comfort moose shots

Act Four

The Scene: University Lake dog park. June.

The Action: Sienna and I around out for a jog. I'm especially alert tonight -- the last couple of days I have seen a mama moose and a ridiculously gangly baby on the trail. I'm getting close to the place where I typically see them on the trail and start trying to scan ahead to see around the curves when all of a sudden I hear a snort and a snap to my immediate right. I snap my head over and I am looking eye to eye at mama moose from the wet-your-pants-scary distance of eight inches. I am eternally grateful for three things at that precise moment: 1) that baby is at her shoulder and not on the other side of the trail, else I would have looked like hamburger helper by the time mama was done with me, 2) that I am already running, and 3) that my dog is, again, oblivious.

Act Five

The Scene: South Anchorage Sports Park, a most excellent locale for throwing tennis balls. August.

The Action: While Sienna is going nuts doing her fetch thing, we are approached by a man and his Great Dane. We chat pleasantly for a few minutes before he continues on his way. One minute later, what do I see? A mama moose and two disappointingly un-gangly babies (*sniff* they grow up so fast!) have paraded onto the soccer field and are headed for the woods where my fellow dog owner is walking. "MOOSE!" I yell at him. He turns around and shouts back "WHERE?" I'm so flustered by the appearance of what is by all accounts a dangerous mama since she has two babies with her and has undoubtedly just crossed one of Anchorage's most busy roads at six PM to get to the park that all I can do is lamely point and again yell "MOOSE!" Even though this tells him precious little, it's not like it's hard to find three big moose barreling your way, so he turns tail and comes back my way. Guess he and his dog won't be getting his romp in the woods that night.

I'll give you a gold star if you can predict what Sienna was like during all of this, even though I was putting her leash on her as fast as I could. If you guessed "She was oblivious," congratulations -- YOU WIN! See me in person to collect your prize.

Epilogue
I wouldn't be blaming you if at this point you were thinking "Holy shit -- dem's moose are ballsy!" The scary thing is that they're only going to get worse -- rut is coming up which means the males are going to start getting crazily territorial whilst competing for mates.

Maybe Sienna and I will be staying indoors this fall.

Fin.</em>

Dooming my dog to a sexless life
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smoore
On Friday I'm taking a step that cannot be undone:

Sienna is getting spayed.

This is something that I'm having a lot of emotional turbulence over. See, it's like this. I'm totally smitten by my dog (if that wasn't already painfully obvious). This smittenness dictates directly into my brain, saying that she is Special Among Labs, a Prize Specimen, a True Asset To The Breed. Since she is the Wonder Hound, it is natural that I should want to perpetuate that Wonder Hound-ness by breeding her and making the cuuuuuutest puppies ever (except for, of course, Sienna herself). It's pretty difficult to resist very young Lab puppies (exhibit A / exhibit B), so there is definitely a part of my brain that is all over the idea of making more.

However, it should be noted that emotional turmoil is different than logical or intellectual turmoil. I've known since before I ever got a dog that it would be spayed or neutered because the survival of the breed, much less the species, is not hingeing on Sienna's successful propagation. But hey, I'm an INTJ. Ration/logic/intellect will win out every time. Unless chocolate is involved. Or maybe puppies.

Shit. Maybe this isn't going to be as cut-and-dry as I thought it was.

And so the battle waged until one day I very unexpectedly literally talked myself out of breeding Sienna once and for all.

We were frolicking at the dog park as we often do when a woman with a handsome black Lab approaches me. How old is your puppy? Four months. Are you going to breed her? No, I really don't have the time needed to devote to having a litter of puppies. Oh, I'll take care of them! You can get about $800 a pup!

Hearing that definitely turned me off -- good god, that woman wasn't interested in the life that was being created and making sure that it found a good and loving home -- she was just interested in the money! (Never mind that you can't get that much for Lab pups that are the spawn of two random Labs -- you need totally pedigreed-out-the-yin-yang show dogs to get that much.) I made a mental note that this woman was Bad News and moved on.

A couple of weeks later I ran into her again. She started up another conversation, exact same questions, me giving the exact same answers. When she said her "$800 a pup" line again I told her bluntly that I simply wasn't interested in getting that sort of money for a puppy when there were already so many dogs that needed good homes. This seemed to shut her up and though I've seen her several more times at the park since then she hasn't approached me again (which is good, because I'm totally on to her -- I have several friends at the park who also have young female Labs. They have all been approached by this woman. She's a crazy wannabe puppy mill who clearly doesn't mind using other people's female dogs even when she knows that they are too young to have healthy pregnancies -- you gotta wait two years).

What surprised me is how that so-many-unloved-dogs reasoning that I gave her just popped out of my mouth. The thought hadn't been getting conscious airtime in my head but I knew that it was true and it was how I really felt. More than that, I knew that keeping Sienna from breeding is the right thing to do, even though the result would be super cute. There are so many other dogs that can bring just as much joy, love, and companionship to a person. Does this mean that I regret my choice to adopt a seven week old purebred Lab? Not at all. I wanted to do the puppy thing once and now I have and my subsequent dogs will be rescues.

So when Sienna turned six months old this month I called and made the appointment for her. So, sorry little doggie -- you'll never know the joy of sex. And there will never be little Siennalets scampering about on uncoordinated legs and then collapsing exhausted in puppy piles. But the world will be better for it.

Crazy Pills
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I heard a joke at work today (which was kind of surprising given the political demographic and the overwhelming preference for Fox News vice CNN there) that had me in stitches for a good five minutes. Jeremy was lucky enough to get a voice mail that consisted entirely of the joke, but those of you less fortunate will have to read it here:

On a trip to England President Bush took the opportunity to have afternoon tea with the Queen. As they were enjoying their crumpets he asked, "I'm very impressed with the quality of people in your government. How did you do it?"

She answers, "Oh it's very simple, really. We identify them as being exceptional at a very young age. For instance, when Tony Blair was only eleven years old I asked him 'If your mother gives birth to a child and it's not your sister and it's not your brother, who is it?' He promptly answered 'It's me!'"

The President sees the wisdom in this and congratulates the Queen on her cleverness. A few days later after arriving back in the states, Dick Chaney walks into the Oval Office and Bush says "Hey Dick, I got a question for you, maybe you can answer it. If your mother gives birth to a child and if it's not your sister and it's not your brother, who is it?" Dick looks thoughtful for a moment and replies "Y'know, that's a really good question there George. I'll talk to my folks and get back to you on that."

So Dick leaves the White House and heads to the State Department where he just happens to run into Colin Powell. Dick immediately asks "Say Colin, the President asked me a question that's got me stumped and I was hoping you could help me find an answer for him." Colin assents and so Dick continues "If your mother gives birth to a child and it's not your sister and it's not your brother, who is it?"

Immediately Colin answers "It's me!" Dick immediately sees the wisdom in that answer and says "Yeah, I think that's the answer he's looking for. Thanks so much, this will make him very happy." He heads back to the White House and bursts into the Oval Office and exclaims, "George, I got you an answer: It's Colin Powell!"

And Bush says, "No, you IDIOT! It's Tony Blair!"

Speaking of politics...

I've been getting really pissed off again as of late. The trusty Shiny Objects, the bills that really don't affect how the whole country is run but do a great job of distracting people from what really does matter like war and poor foreign policy, are being pulled out again just in time for mid-term elections!. Why force the House to vote on a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage when the Senate has already soundly defeated it unless you're just trying to get people who may have dispersed in the last year and a half to rally around the proverbial flagpole? Can't the neoconservative base notice that these issues are only being brought up in an election year, and that Bush has openly called these bills a way to run-up to the elections this year?

This makes me sick. We saw the huge impact that this blow-up (of things that should be considered irrelevant when there's a war on) had in 2004, which means that the rest of us have got to get out to the the polls in even stronger numbers. I really think that there are more of us moderate- or left-leaning voters than neo-cons, but apparently we have yet to find our own Shiny Object to rally the votes around. Apparently a situation in which thousands and thousands of people are dying isn't good enough, but letting two people who love each other (and just happen to have the same anatomy) have their union legally recognized is.

Seriously -- am I taking CRAZY PILLS?

Brick.
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This weekend, at the suggestion of some of my co-workers, I went to see Brickat the Bear Tooth. While I felt really disturbed during some parts of the movie and I walked away from it with very mixed feelings, I found afterward that the more I thought about the movie the more I liked it.

It's an innovative movie if for no other reason than it takes a genre of movie long-forgotten or even never-known by theater-goers and casts it in a totally new setting that also makes you realize that the people that made this movie knew to not take themselves too seriously.

This elusive genre that I speak of is film noir (or, for you literary types, the hard-boiled detective story when in print). All the classic elements are there: the strong, crafty, unemotional detective main character who keeps his cards close and unreadable to others, revealing a minimum about himself. You aren't even sure whether he would be classified as "good" or "bad" -- you just know that he's your protagonist. You have your helpless female victim. You have the classic femme fatale, so dark and sultry, playing on the idea of the succubus that uses her sexuality shamelessly to get what she wants, and you know you shouldn't trust her even though (or perhaps precisely because) she's got her seduce-o-ray on full blast. You've got your bad guys who are so unmistakably bad that even though you don't know how to classify your detective, you still know that these guys have got to be worse. And of course you have your cop figure, always at odds with the detective, cramping his style, almost messing things up in the process but trying always to do the right thing. The cop is so good that it casts the moral questions of our main character even further into doubt.

Classic hard-boiled detective story, Sam Spade and all, right?

Well, it would be, if the characters weren't largely high school students. That's part of what makes this so interesting though -- and of course is what lends the edges of humor so unexpectedly into the dialogue. I can't say too much here without giving out some spoilers and the really great quotes would look really cheesy out of context of the back-and-forth banter that our protagonist excels at.

It's not really my style to be writing about movies anyway. I felt that this one was smart enough to be labeled as great but is probably underappreciated because not everyone took an English class where the teacher had a total fetish for hard-boiled detective stories and film noir. They're dead genres as far as I can tell. The closest we've had recently is Memento which had the necessary element of the double-cross, but the twist is that the main character has been double-crossing himself all along. But I digress. The point is that I enjoyed this movie, and if you're the type who enjoys homage (with a twist!) to long-forgotten genres you probably will too.

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