Helen

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About Helen

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  • Birthday 05/07/1977

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  • Location San Diego, CA
  1. Cars (2006)

    I am in agreement with you, Stephen. The visuals were absolutely stunning, but the story was lacking in comparison to Toy Story, The Incredibles or Monsters, Inc.. The film was enjoyable, very cute, but not up to Pixar's standards. The children I saw the film with adored it and entertained us by racing each other around the playground, complete with engine noises, afterwards. I have to admit I am a fan of Larry the Cable Guy (I'm from the South, sue me) and loved his lovable redneck tow truck character. I was also quite tickled by the (small) cameos from Tom and Ray Magliozzi from NPR's Car Talk as the owners of Lightning's sponsor company.
  2. ex-O'ist, a mounting body of scientific evidence seems to indicate that homosexuality is biological in basis. Over the years I've had a number of homosexual friends and aquaintences. I have yet to meet a homosexual who claimed to have 'chosen' homosexuality as a "lifestyle choice". In fact, the ones I've discussed the issue with seem to have felt there was something different, not quite like the rest, about them from childhood, even if they didn't figure it out until later in life. From what I have read and observed, homosexuality doesn't seem to be a 'choice' for most individuals. Therefore, I don't think it can be moral or immoral -- it just is.
  3. Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie in Atlas Shrugged movie?

    I am in agreement with Stephen -- the personal philosophy of the actor is really immaterial as long as he or she can convincingly play the part. The huge popularity of both actors means the film will be successful at the very least. Pitt and Jolie are both good (and very beautiful) actors. Jolie doesn't quite have the look I envisioned for Dagny (too overtly sensual), but they could have done much, much worse. Brad Pitt is a current favorite of mine (second only to Johnny Depp). I've been really impressed with his work. He may be a pretty boy, but he can definately act. It's a shame Harrison Ford is much too old now to play Hank Rearden.
  4. Pride & Prejudice (2005)

    I thoroughly enjoyed this film, though I was a fan of the book already. I haven't seen any of the earlier film verisions of Pride and Prejudice, but I thought this one was extremely well done. Liriodendron Tulipifera, technically speaking, Pride and Prejudice (as well as Emma and Jane Austen's other works) aren't Victorian. They take place during the Regency era
  5. YOUR 2005 Best Picture

    Of the films from 2005, Serenity for personal enjoyment and Brokeback Mountain on artistic merit. Don't let the 'gay cowboy movie' label stop you from seeing Brokeback Mountain. It's an excellent film about the importance of pursuing values to living a happy life... and what happens when you don't. The themes in Serenity were just as profound, but I think it suffered from being a continuation of a television series and doesn't stand as well on its own as a film. Honorable mentions... Pride and Prejudice and Elizabethtown.
  6. Veronica Mars (2004)

    Veronica Mars is one of the few shows on television I follow religiously. I have the entire second season thus far saved on my DVR so I can go back and check for clues I may have missed. The series has been likened to Nancy Drew meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer (strangely accurate, though better than it sounds). For me, the real draws are Veronica herself (the character gives a whole new meaning to the term 'plucky heroine'), the thoroughly engrossing ongoing mysteries, and the top notch witty dialogue which almost rivals that of the show's most famous fan, Joss Whedon.
  7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    Thank you! And you are most certainly welcome to use my conclusions in your paper. How cool getting to read Harry Potter for a class
  8. Serenity (2005)

    I would describe the Alliance as vaguely fascist, but not quite on the level of NAZI Germany. They don't seem to be racist or practice genocide, for instance, though there are some vague references in the series that they were guilty of some atrocities during the war and they seem to at least allow slavery to go on as well as looting by high ranking officials during the war (thinking of the guy in Trash). I think reviewers trying to pin the Alliance on conservatives in the US are really, really reading into things. Relgion seems to be what defines our current crop of conservatives, and the Alliance doesn't seem to care one way or another about that being the giant melting pot of cultures it is. The one religious character we do see (Book) is a Christian and a good man. Mal himself was a Christian prior to the war. The Reavers are not stand ins for Muslim terrorists. For one thing, they were citizens of the very government that made them what they were. For another, they have no motivation beyond senseless destruction. The message is really much more simple -- the government has no right to interfere in the lives of its citizens. People can't be controlled and they should not be controlled. Like the Alliance made the Reavers animals, they made Mal, an honorable man, a criminal. Both the left and right are guilty of trying to control people's lives. The Alliance more likely represents authoritarian government in general than the right or left in the US specifically. The Blue Sun Corporation, whatever it is up to, is colluding with the government. It wasn't in the film aside from the occasional logo popping up, but that's all we ever saw in the series as well. An evil, government colluding fictional corporation does not a condemnation of capitalism make. As for the show promoting anarchism, I don't think that is the case either. The fact that there is essentially no law in parts of the 'verse seems to be portrayed as 'bad'. Mal and crew operate in these areas, but it is that or be controlled by the Alliance. Incidentally, even the Alliance isn't exactly portrayed as this monolithic entity of pure evil. We have met Alliance officials who were honorable (the captain in Bushwacked and the marshal in Train Job, for instance). Inara supported unification. Simon didn't exactly think badly of the Alliance until he found out what they were doing to River and kids like her (he was working in one their hospitals). Only the highest officials knew about the Reavers or the project involving River. My guess is the citizens of the core planets are happy with their bread and circuses and have no idea what is really going on. Now they know. RE: Inara... I believe the Companions are based partly on Geishas, partly on courtesans and partly on temple priestesses. They seem to cover all of these functions. My take on Inara is that she's not exactly as happy as she pretends with her line of work. It certainly conflicts with any true romantic relationship she may want, with Mal or otherwise. I don't think Companions are allowed to have those kinds of ties, at least that is the way it seems from her conversations with Kaylee. I also suspect that Inara is dying and that her dying has something to do with her being a Companion. My leading theory is that Inara is actually very old and that Companions undergo some kind of anti-aging treatment. Nandi, who was a student on Xenon with Inara looks much, much older. In addition, Saffron, another former Companion, tells Inara she has 'a condition' when Inara shuts her in the dumpster in Trash. There is something fishy going on there, and the Guild isn't the group of happy hookers they pretend to be. Certainly they exert a lot of control over their members (hence Nandi leaving).
  9. Serenity (2005)

    Being sort of a sci-fi nut, I've given some thought to all of the above. Very rarely does a genre show (going to lump fantasy and horror here as well) have mainstream appeal. For one, it requires imagination. For another, if the show is done right, it requires thinking. Even 'hits' like Buffy, X-files and Star Trek TNG have had low ratings in comparison to the big shows on the regular networks. The thing is, genre shows tend to bring in the demographics advertisers want (middle to upper income, 18-35). However, the low numbers over all and the higher expense of producing these shows mean they have a difficult time making money. Even a specialty network like Sci-fi will have difficulty. For instance, prior to BSG and Stargate SG1, Farscape was the network's biggest hit. However, because of the budget, it just wasn't breaking even and the show was cancelled at the height of its popularity, right about the time Firefly went on the air (hence the Sci-fi channel not picking it up when Fox dropped it). For a while there, even the Sci-fi channel was producing gobs of those idiotic 'reality' shows because they were cheap to make. Scare Tactics might not get the numbers Farscape got, but was a fraction of the cost to produce. I am not sure of the exact ratings for the Firefly re-runs on Sci-fi, but I heard they were good. The show is run in a less than ideal time slot (not during prime time), so maybe that is an option for Firefly. SG1 should be wrapping up any time now, SGA is mediocre at the best of times. BSG, despite being too dark and overly naturalistic for some, is actually a really well made, intelligent series and it is getting incredibly good ratings for a genre show on a cable channel. Firefly has a great deal more in common with BSG than the Stargates and I think the Sci-fi channel would be smart to pick it up and run it in the time slot where SGA is now. That is, IF Joss Whedon and the cast are even interested at this point. I do know Whedon is about to start on a movie version of Wonder Woman and at least one cast member (Adam Baldwin who plays Jayne Cobb) is already working on a different series. The box office take for Serenity's opening weekend was lower than expected. Hopefully word of mouth and DVD sales will save it. My guess is that it will make most of its money in DVD sales. My hope is that if the film performs only so-so, it will still be good enough for a continuation of the television series. I'd be thrilled with more movies, but I think the story is actually better suited to television.
  10. Serenity (2005)

    Spoiler free JRoberts -- a non-spoiler overview of what makes Firefly/Serenity so fantastic. Serenity is based on a cancelled television series, Firefly (the story of how it went from cancelled tv show to feature film is a whole 'nother inspiring saga in itself). There is a great deal that is good about it, but overall I'd say it is creator Joss Whedon's ability to masterfully integrate character, plot, theme and style. I think what probably appeals to most Objectivists specifically (and initially) is the unabashedly, unapologetically selfish hero and the underlying theme of independence as an essential to living any kind of life worth living. At the beginning of the series, independence is the sole value the hero still hangs onto after fighting on the losing side of a war against a quasi-fascist government. He has pretty much given up on everything else (this isn't a spoiler, as this is established within the first five minutes of the first episode). Had the series continued, I think it would have been primarily about Mal (Serenity's captain) regaining his sense of purpose. This is, in fact, one of the main plot themes of the film. That's not all, however. Joss Whedon is the absolute master of characterization and dialogue. He creates and populates a world that is all at once extremely stylized, yet very, very real. In just over a dozen episodes, the viewer becomes emotionally invested in these characters and their lives. The good guys aren't perfect. They are, in fact, criminals (though really, we only ever see them scavenge, steal from the government or low lifes, and smuggle). Overall, they are good people. They struggle, they make mistakes, but they develop and learn. You just can't help but fall in love with them, most especially rugged individualist Mal and the ship's passionate, benevolent young engineer, Kaylee, with her beautiful sense of life. The bad guys are usually motivated by very explicit (and bad) philosophy While the science is (mostly) quite solid (no sound in space!), there is no technobabble, no aliens and the story is always about the people, never the technology. Firefly is probably the most human science fiction around. The overall style is part western, part space opera. The characters speak in an invented vernacular that is difficult to describe (nearly all of the cursing is Chinese, for example). The dialogue is witty, sharp and and often humorous, but flows from the characters and situations without undercutting the more serious themes. Even the music is outstanding. The episodes and film are well written with superb acting. The plots are always engaging, well paced and well integrated with the themes. There are ongoing plots and mysteries, but the main plot of each episode is self-contained -- there is continuity and evolution of character, but the continuity isn't like that of a soap opera. The episodes are incredibly re-watchable and filled with small details you may not notice until a second or third viewing. Joss Whedon and his team of writers never underestimate the intelligence of their audience -- probably why the show was eventually cancelled by Fox. If you are yearning for good art with great values, Firefly and Serenity are a must see. However, I would strongly recommend you watch the television series (available on DVD and in re-runs on the Sci-fi channel) first.
  11. Editing the first page of a novel

    Without having read the whole thread, and no meta context beyond your initial excerpt (which is what I would get as a reader or editor), my comments are thus: You start in media res, which is perfect. I don't know the context, but I *want* to know the context. The first few paragraphs should tantalize the reader into reading more. You don't want exposition, you don't want to establish the full context, you want something that is going to grab the reader's attention. I think you have been successful in this. I am trying to guess at what is going on and I want to read on to find out. However, I do think this could use some polishing -- clean up your sentence strucuture in spots, pare down the descriptions and fix a minor punctuation error or two. Your prose is good overall, but occasionally takes on a lavender tinge. I think a little tweaking and tightening would make it evocative rather than ever so slightly purple.
  12. That's not my job!

    dondigitalia, it sounds like you have a great employer and the not-my-jobbers are being lazy and only harming themselves. Ignore them and continue to do the best job you can. You will be rewarded and they will not. However, just to play devil's advocate for a moment... I've had the experience over and over again where I was eager to do anything, 'my job' or not, and had mountains of other people's busy work piled on me as a result. Instead of being rewarded, I was often taken advantage of. When I would say no because I was too busy with my own work, I was punished for having a bad attitude or not being able to handle the work load or not being a 'team player' since I had always done it before. I think it often depends on what kind of work enviroment you are in. If it is a positive one where people are recognised/rewarded for hard work, productivity and taking initiative, then 'not my job' are three words you should never say or hear. If you are in a negative work enviroment (which, in my experience, seems to be the norm), I really can't blame someone for not wanting to pick up the slack if it isn't their responsibility and they are not going to be recognised for it, or worse, punished by their own manager for doing someone elses job. I agree, totally, that you should be as productive as possible in your job. However, you can't drop context either. There are those who do have bad attitudes, who do want to get away with doing as little as possible, but I think the incredible negativity in many work enviroments is perpetuated by managers and executives, who often don't notice who is working hard, really feeds into that. At my last job, I was actually punished for suggesting to an executive how the company could do something more efficiently and save a great deal of money. Hence, my now being self-employed -- my hard work, ingenuity and productivity is very tangibly rewarded in my own bottom line, not someone elses who may or may not appreciate me. I know as Objectivists, we want to see businesses as positive places, but the sad truth is that coporate culture as a whole is a reflection of the entire culture as a whole -- a mix of good, bad and horribly toxic. I know the suggestion here is 'find a new job', but that is easier said than done, especially since many times you don't know what kind of enviroment you are going to land in next. While I changed careers and became self-employed because I couldn't deal with working for/with people who were lazy/stupid/unjust/political players/etc., not everyone can change jobs so easily. While 'not my job' is often the result of second-handed thinking, I think it can also be simple self-preservation. As an aside, I've found that people who really bust butt in 'crap jobs' like fast food, restaurants, retail and the like actually do get recognised more than in an office enviroment. I think it is easier to see someone who is sweeping floors and doing extra work that is physical. When I was a teenager in those low level jobs, I was always rewarded for being productive and taking on additional work. Later on in 'real jobs' it seemed the opposite -- the more I did, the more I was taken advantage of and underappreciated with few exceptions. My last job was the worst, where I was hired as an executive assistant, doing the work of a high end marketing consultant, but getting paid (and treated) like a low level office clerk.
  13. Yay! Glad to hear you got your Vette, congratulations Cassandra is a lovely name, but you have to find the one that 'fits'.
  14. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    SPOILERS I enjoyed this one a great deal, though Phoenix (with its 'ignore reality at your own peril' theme) is still my favorite. In many ways, it was a mirror of the second book with the return of the theme of Choice. I love JKR's take on Prophecy and destiny -- that the Prophecy was like the Prophecy in Macbeth. It was Voldemort who chose to fulfill it. I think, in the end, Draco Malfoy wlll be redeemed because Dumbledore, unlike Voldemort, gave him a choice. I wasn't quite expecting that until it happened as Rowling has tried to discourage the fans from having any sympathy at all for Draco for years. Hence, my now being 100% certain that Snape is every bit Dumbledore's man. And I am 80% sure I know why Dumbledore trusts him. Snape... he is not a good person. He has made some horrible choices -- joining the Deatheaters, treating Harry and Neville like crap, etc. HOWEVER, I do think that all of Snape's actions since going to Dumbledore after overhearing the Prophecy can be traced to two very important themes in the story -- love and redemption. Given how much Slughorn thought Harry was like Lily following the instructions of the half-blood Prince, I strongly, STRONGLY suspect that Lily and Snape had to have been working closely together in Potions. Snape is not one for trusting easily or making friends, so his affection for Lily must have been great. Snape trusted and liked her enough to share his Potions knowledge or collaborate with her (Hermione thought some of the handwriting looked female). Either way, Lily and Snape shared a friendship and I suspect he was in love with her. Her running off with Quidditch jock James Potter may have been what tipped him over to Voldemort's side (well, that and having an abusive Muggle father). However, it was Lily's impending death that brought him to Dumbledore's side. And, I think, this is why Dumbledore trusts him. Dumbledore has said over and over that THE most powerful force in the universe, above all magic, is the power of love. Snape came to Dumbledore AFTER he knew who the Prophecy was talking about. He had to warn him or it would be his fault the woman he loved was killed. Snape's character arc is one of redemption. I think this is why Snape takes such an interest in Draco. Draco has these same tendencies -- that is why he protects him and why he made the promise to Narcissa. He wants to save Draco before it is too late. I also strongly suspect that Dumbledore knew he was dying from the beginning, that he and Snape planned the whole ending, including not letting Harry in on Snape's true motives. For one, Harry isn't ready to hear that Snape loved his mother. For another, Harry is crap at Occlumency and that would seriously compromise Snape's position as a spy. I do think Voldemort knew about Snape's feelings for Lily -- hence Voldemort's intention to spare her. Maybe he was planning to give Lily to Snape as a prize. However, Voldemort consistantly underestimates the power of love. Voldemort killed the woman Snape loved, and now it is personal. In order to redeem himself, Snape has to make sure Voldemort is good and dead. Mysteries aside, I think there were some excellent touches in this one. I ADORED the trick Harry pulled on Ron with the fake Felix. I have always suspected Ron is incredibly talented and intelligent in his own right -- he just lacks confidence. I enjoyed the romantic entanglements involving Ron, Lavender and Hermione. It was played for comedy -- pure teenage silliness. She's been building up something there for a while, and I enjoyed the pay off. The Harry/Ginny stuff, on the other hand, left me a bit cold. I am happy because Harry is happy, but I wasn't rooting for Harry and Ginny the way I was rooting for Ron and Hermione. It felt sudden, and I don't think she's done Ginny's character development justice. Too much telling, not enough showing. Harry/Ginny is supposed to be 'the great romance'... and it just fell flat to me personally. The Peter Parker line at the end was... lame. If Ginny were worthy of Harry she'd have told him where he could stuff it. I think Hermione or Luna either one would have done just that. I enjoyed Fleur very much in this book. I always liked her for some reason, and was very glad to see her put Molly Weasley in her place. Molly, Ginny and Hermione were horrible to her for no real good reason. 'I am good looking enough for the both of us!' You tell 'em, Fleur. I agree with Joss Delage that this one was less of a self-contained story. However, I don't have a problem with that and rather expected it. We got more resolution and fewer clues, but considering how late we are in the series, that was to be expected. I think the seventh book will be a complete break from the narrative structure of the previous books, most especially if they don't go back to Hogwarts. I like this, however. Harry will be an adult at the beginning of the next book. I think taking him out of Hogwarts, to do away with Voldemort once and for all, is what needs to be done. Harry is a man now. R.A.B? Definately Regulus Black. In fact, if you go back to OotP where they are cleaning out Grimmauld Place, they do find a heavy locket they can't open. Let's just hope that no-good Mundungus Fletcher hasn't hocked it. The one great mystery for me... Ron's watch. Ron got a watch exactly like Dumbledore's for his birthday, further convincing me that Dumbledore is a Weasley. JKR did recently say that Dumbledore's family would be a profitable like of inquiry and he does look just like Ron, only about a 130 years older.
  15. The Morality of Monogamy

    First of all, thank you Stephen for defending my honor. I was not in any way advocating promiscuity. I advocated casual dating when one is young and still discovering what is attractive in a potential partner, not casual sex. I also stated that having a relationship with someone who shared important, key values ( such as sense of life, implicit or explicit moral standards, important-to-you optional values, etc.), but was not The One, may still be worthy of a romantic/physically intimate relationship in the absense of The One. These types of relationships, so long as both parties are rational (this is key!) and have the proper expectations, can be very satisfying. And by satisfying, I don't mean simple range of the moment sexual gratification, but emotional and spiritual satisfaction. You can be close to someone, share core values with them, be sexually attracted, yet not want to marry him or her. I hesitate to bring up personal experience again lest my virtue (which is indeed great) be called into question, so I will now speak in generalities. RE: The potential pain and angst of relationships with non-ideal individuals Inspector -- I am not going to address the morality of a romantic/sexual relationship with someone who is less than your ideal partner. Clearly, there isn't going to be agreement on this. However, for those who are still trying to work these things out, I would like to bring up the point of pain and disapointment in the context of relationships with 'ideal' vs. 'non-ideal' individuals. I don't think this should come as a surprise to Objectivists, but values are not automatic, most especially in the context of romance. If we could not potentially lose that value, it would not be a value qua value (something one acts to gain or keep). The heartache and disapointment one experiences at the end of a relationship with a non-ideal individual is NOTHING compared to a divorce or losing someone you thought was going to be your partner for life. As Stepehen pointed, even Objectivists get divorced or end long term relationships. By only pursuing relationships with 'ideal' partners, you are by no means avoiding potential for pain and disapointment YES, look for your soul mate. Find him or her and do everything in your power to make it work (finding that person is only half the battle - all relationships take work). However, realize that you are still subject to potential pain and disapointment. Perhaps she is your ideal, but after a time, she discovers that you are not hers (this happens!). The greater the value, the greater the pain experienced when that value is lost. Potential loss is no reason to avoid seeking value, regardless of whether that value is a romantic relationship with someone you simply value very highly or someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. Going after values means you open yourself up for potential loss. This is true of all values, not just romantic values RE: Masturbation I actually advocate healthy masturbation in the context of my profession. I advocate it for a variety reasons, from figuring out what is physically required for you to acheive orgasm (this one is pertinant to women especially) to using it as a release valve for pent up sexual tension. However, none of those reasons is as a substitute for a romantic/sexual relationship with another individual. There is absolutely, without a doubt, no substitute for that experience. And, yes, just as you can have unhealthy sex with entirely the wrong person, you can masturbate in a way that is just as unhealthy. Yes, there are people who use masturbation as a crutch. Yes, there are people indulge unhealthy and malevolent fantasies. Yes, people create for themselves entirely unrealistic expecations in their minds (this happens frequently with people who become dependent on pornagraphy). A vibrator, not matter how impressive its multi-speed Japanese motor, is no substitute for a man. Your right hand, no matter how lovingly the two of you are aquainted, is no substitute for a woman. A good friend of mine (also an Objectivist) once called masturbation 'sex with someone you love'. But it's not sex. It is not a substitute for sex in the long term. It can be a complement to sex. It is physically satisfying. It feels good. It's great for exploration. It's great for release. It is most assuredely preferable to sex with random men or women you don't share values with, but it is a poor substitute for sexual intimacy with another like minded individual. It will get you by short term, but not for the time it can take for those individuals who have very high, exacting standards to find that one person he or she wants to spend a lifetime with. If you've found your true love in your early twenties, that is wonderful. I am sure many here envy you. I congratulate you on your success and wish you a long, happy life with your love. However, I think it would be wrong to morally condemn that virtuous man or woman who is still searching for wanting that wonderful affirmation of life and shared values that only comes with sex with another person. Random observations I don't remember who brought this up (I think it may have been Stephen), but there are ways to be physically intimate and have mutual sexual pleasure without penetrative intercourse. That's a good point, and can be a satisfying option under certain circumstances. Sometimes that non-ideal person becomes ideal, either as you get to know them or as they change and mature. Sometimes an ideal person becomes non-ideal as you change and mature. I am not the same person at 28 as I was at 20. Few people are, even those of us who discovered Objectivisism early in life