Pages

2003/09/30

A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy?

In a new interview with Time, Bill O'Reilly says that Al Franken is "being run by some very powerful forces in this country, and we needed to confront it." (If you'll recall, O'Reilly recently pushed Fox News to sue Franken over the subtitle of his new book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.) Sounds like O'Reilly's channeling Hillary Clinton.

So, Is This Censorship?

In response to a rock band that plans to conduct a suicide live on stage, the St. Petersburg, Florida city council has

    ...unanimously approved an emergency ordinance making it illegal to conduct a suicide for commercial or entertainment purposes, and to host, promote and sell tickets for such an event.
Now call me old fashioned, but I strongly suspect that any band that has to stoop to suicide-performance-art and tossing rats into blenders probably isn't good enough to attract an audience through music alone. That's just a hunch, though.

BREAKING NEWS: DC Traffic Sucks

In what can only loosely be termed "news", the WaPo reports that DC has the third worst traffic in the nation. What a scoop!

New Wave of Land Seizures in Zimbabwe

Oh, that nutty Robert Mugabe's at it again. After seizing most of the white-owned farm land in Zimbabwe, Mugabe's now doing the same to white-owned properties within the cities. And in another month, he begins trying his chief rival on trumped up charges of treason.

Gee, I wonder if the US is going to do something about this?

Nah. Let's wait for it to turn into a full-blown conflagration with thousands dead.

The Bizarre British Taste in Sitcoms

For a country that produced the brilliant comedy stylings of Monty Python, Blackadder, Are you Being Served, and The Office, the Brits sure have strange taste in comedy. Take for example The Radio Times, which has named Sgt. Bilko the best sitcom of all time.

Bilko?

Come on. It's not even the best sitcom of it's era -- an era which included both Andy of Mayberry and Lucy. It's not even the best sitcom of its genre -- McHale's Navy was a far superior show about a scam-running layabout in the US military, and even that pales next to MASH, which included two (and sometimes more) scam-running layabouts. But MASH is only 7th on the list, behind Frasier of all things.

Amazing ... that a people that know so much about comedy should know so little.

Angel

PopMatters has a spoilery review of the news season of Angel, written by Cynthia Fuchs. It's a pretty good review, if a bit synopsisy (but hey, isn't that the point of spoiler-laden reviews?), however there's something weird about reading a geektastic article on a campy SF show by one of your former professors. Especially when she starts to refer to one of the characters as "my boy Gunn."

Nerd Alert!

    I still believe in e=mc^2, but I can't believe that in all of human history, we'll never ever be able to go beyond the speed of light to reach where we want to go. I happen to believe that mankind can do it.

    I've argued with physicists about it, I've argued with best friends about it. I just have to believe it. It's my only faith-based initiative."

    General Wesley Clark

2003/09/29

Squid Flavored Chips

Time has an interesting article on flavorologists and other food technicians. The interesting bit is on the second page where they discuss the foods developed for foreign markets, including squid flavored pringles for the far side of the Pacific rim. Ah, man, now that I've heard about it, I want some. I guess I'll have to check Asian grocery stores to see if they import some.

Elia Kazan, Dead

It's like death is the new rehab in Hollywood -- seems like there's someone famous dying every other day now. This time it's Elia Kazan, director of the classics A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront.

For my money, his best film is A Face in the Crowd, starring Andy Griffith in a rare turn as a villain. OtW and ASND are very much films of their times, though very good ones, but AFitC is actually more relevant today than when it first hit theaters. It tells the story of a seemingly likable hobo, Lonesome Rhodes, who ends up with his own radio talkshow in a small town. His "down-home" talk is so popular that his program quickly goes into national syndication, and soon he has his own TV variety show. But at the same time, we begin to see the darker side of his personality -- the way he looks down upon his audience as a bunch of idiots who'll do his bidding, how he crushes those who oppose him, the way uses the woman who discovered him only to toss her aside when he finds a sixteen year old majorette (the very cute Lee Remick in her film debut). Soon Lonesome's popularity attracts the attention of Washington power-brokers who want to harness his demagoguery for their own purposes by giving him a show on Fox News.

Okay, Fox News didn't exist when the movie was made, but it's hard to watch the film nowadays without imagining Lonesome saying "no spin room." Unfortunately, I doubt Bill O'Reilly will get his comeuppance like Rhodes does at the end. A shame.

Also a shame that A Face in the Crowd remains an overlooked classic. Maybe Kazan's death will finally lead to a DVD release -- or better, maybe someone like Criterion will put together a nice box-set of Kazan's films, preferably with some good documentaries on the HUAC and Oscar controversies.

The ironic thing about Kazan's death is that Turner Classic Movies just ran a minimarathon of his films last night, with On the Waterfront as part of their Essentials series followed by Baby Doll and A Streetcar Named Desire. Of course, they'll probably end up running them again next weekend as part of a tribute.

2003/09/28

German President: Allies Unfair to Nazi Germany

In what has to be the dumbest political statement since Trent Lott praised Strom Thurmond's presidential campaign, the German President Johannes Rau criticized the Allies for not stopping Hitler soon enough, then for taking land away from Germany when they finally did something. And the cherry on top? He compares the Germans displaced by the war to the Jews.

Jebus! Sure, Chamberlain was a Grade-A idiot and the allies should've acted sooner, but for Rau to shift blame away from his own country because of that is like a rapist complaining that the police didn't catch him soon enough -- and then comparing his punishment in prison to what he did to his victim.

Oh My God, the Waltons Are Real

This is hardly a picture you'd expect to see in 21st Century America. It goes along with this article from the WaPo. The funny thing is, the headline on the Post's main page says, "Road Leads to Standoff," followed by the subhead, "Bulldozing through largest U.S. national park leads to Alaska dispute over private access to public land." Now, if you read just that, you probably think it's the Park Service bulldozing the road and this family of down-to-earth hillbillies (according to the article, they call their ranch Hillbilly Heaven) trying to block it for some deeply touching personal reasons. But it's not. "Papa Pilgrim" is the one who drove the bulldozer through a forest to clear an old mining road.

Don't worry though, this isn't going to be another Ruby Ridge fiasco -- despite not watching TV, the family carries pistols and video cameras when they go out, so they can document the Park Service's actions.

The whole story is fascinating in the way that only stories published in the Sunday paper can be fascinating, especially the part about Pilgrim's history. Despite looking like Craster from Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, he's apparently quite a savvy guy who was a minor player in the conspiracies around Kennedy, like some sort of character in American Tabloid

2003/09/27

Quicksilver Annotations

It hasn't even been out for a week, but alredy there's a site dedicated to annotating Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver, not unlike L-Space has done with Pratchett's Discworld series.

Stop the Presses -- Michael Moore Admits He's Wrong

You have to scroll almost to the end of this column, but in it, Michael Moore finally admits there's a mistake in Bowling for Columbine:

    Actually, I have found one typo in the theatrical release of the film. It was a caption that read, 'Willie Horton released by Dukakis and kills again.' In fact, Willie Horton was a convicted murderer who, after escaping from furlough, raped a woman and stabbed her fiance, but didn't kill him. The caption has been permanently corrected on the DVD and home video version of the film and replaced with, 'Willie Horton released. Then rapes a woman.' My apologies to Willie Horton and the Horton family for implying he is a double-murderer when he is only a single-murderer/rapist.
Unfortunately, as Spinsanity notes, Moore fails to acknowledge that he inserted the misleading caption into a Bush/Quayle ad to make it appear to be part of the source material.

What's truly sad about his apologia of the film, though, is how Moore, who was once a great social commentator/satirisit, has now sunken into paranoia, accusing anyone who questions his veracity of being a Bush henchman (or, in the case of Roger Ebert, duped by their lies). A number of websites have documented Moore's distortions and creative editing, including Spinsanity, which is hardly a bastion of right-wingers. The thing is, the whole brouhaha would die down if Moore just admitted what's obvious to anyone who's ever watched his films -- he's making agitprop, not objective documentaries.

Now This Brings Back Memories

I've been a computer nerd since I was six. That's when my father bought a Commodore 128 (no measly 64 for us!), supposedly for its "educational" properties -- like teaching me how to blast Martians, and infiltrate secret bunkers. Well, I did learn how to type on it and use a word processor -- a primitive program called JaneWrite that didn't even have a way to turn off overtyping -- and even a bit of programming.

Oh, and sex.

My father's personal game stash included several adult games, like the aptly titled Sex Games and the classic Artworx Strip Poker. While my parents were at work, I'd insert the floppies into the drive (stop snickering) and edumacate myself about female anatomy -- I probably learned more from that computer than health class.

Sex Games rather sucked -- all you did was move the joystick back and forth real fast to make the woman's orgasm meter go up, but not so fast that you made the man come first. I suppose that counts as an important life lesson, but in actuality you're just whipping your hand back and forth like you're wanking, only you get a sore wrist with none of the benefits.

Now, Artworx Strip Poker, on the other hand, was a great game, and very educational. I learned all sorts of important things from it, like how to play poker, and the names of the various types of women's undergarments (pasties, and teddies, and g-strings, oh my). And it provided me with my first good look at nekkid women -- albeit highly pixelated tri-chromatic nekkid women.

So what's the point of this long, rambling post (besides once more proving what a geek I am)? Well, today I came across this wonderful catalogue of early pornographic games, and it made my mind boggle. I mean, just look at the ingenuity of those early porn pioneers -- strip-backgammon, Spermer, Attack of the Mutant Pricks. Brilliant! So much innovation (most of which seems to've come from Germany).

But the truly amazing part is how far digitized porn has come in less than twenty years. Some of the programs documented on the site take up less space than a nipple in a modern .jpg. It makes a man weep to see so much progress in his lifetime. At this rate, by the time I enter the old-folk's home, I'll be able to strap on a helmet and retire with a digital harem.

"Tell Your Friends -- I'm Rosebud"

Orson Welles wanted to do a Batman movie in 1946? So says a new biography due out next year.

2003/09/26

Man Attacks David Blaine with Catapult

Brilliant!

National Corndog Month

Here's a beautiful post on how Bush and Cheney have ruined National Corndog Month. The bastards!

League of Extraordinary Ripoffs

A couple writers are suing Fox for stealing the idea for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. They allege that Fox took the idea then hired Alan Moore to write the graphic novel so they could film it without paying the original writers. (No, I don't understand why Fox would go to the trouble of hiring Moore then buying the rights off him instead of just buying the original script.)

I don't know which is funnier --

    -that these guys want to be associated with the craptacular LXG,

    -that they're accusing Fox of stealing their idea for a movie about characters they lifted from other people's writings, or

    -that they're suing for more money than LXG actually made.

Another One Bites the Dust

Robert "Addicted to Love" Palmer died of a heart attack today.

Coupling

No surprise really, but the American version of Coupling is awful. The dialogue and story is fine -- largely because it's been ported almost directly from the Brit version with surprisingly little dumbing down for Merkin consumption -- but the actors are beyond attrocious. When I watch the British series, I'm watching Jeff, Steve, Patrick, Susan, Sally, and Jane, not the actors playing them, but with the Americanization there was never a moment when I wasn't aware that these were actors repeating pre-written lines -- there's just something ineffably self-conscious about their performances, like a bad high school production of Death of a Salesman.

If this travesty lasts more than a season, it'll be a sad indictment of the viewing public.

Geeks Around the World Are Doing the Happy Snoopy Dance Tonight

The BBC's officially announced the return of Doctor Who to television. Russel T. Davies, who cowrote the excellent cop show Touching Evil is on board as writer.

2003/09/25

Harold Bloom's Whining Again

Or should that be "still"?

Bloom's on a jag over the fact that Stephen King won the National Book Foundation Award. In the process of whinging about what he considers the sorry state of popular literature, he comments:

    If this is going to be the criterion in the future, then perhaps next year the committee should give its award for distinguished contribution to Danielle Steel, and surely the Nobel Prize for literature should go to J.K. Rowling.


Well, actually, since the Nobel is supposed to be for literature that's "conferred the greatest benefit on mankind," I think Rowling should be the prime contender -- certainly no work in living memory has done so much to get children reading. Splendid idea, Harold.

But really, he has little room to criticize. Here's what he says in the above linked Atlanta Journal-Constitution article:

    What's happening is part of a phenomenon I wrote about a couple of years ago when I was asked to comment on Rowling. I went to the Yale University bookstore and bought and read a copy of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." I suffered a great deal in the process. The writing was dreadful; the book was terrible. As I read, I noticed that every time a character went for a walk, the author wrote instead that the character "stretched his legs." I began marking on the back of an envelope every time that phrase was repeated. I stopped only after I had marked the envelope several dozen times. I was incredulous. Rowling's mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.

And here's what he said to The Atlantic Monthly in July:

    So I went round to the Yale bookstore and purchased an inexpensive paperback copy of the first volume. I could not believe what was in front of me. What I particularly could not bear was that it was just one cliche after another. In fact, I kept a little checklist on an envelope next to me, and every time any individuals were going, as you or I might say, to take a walk, they were going to "stretch their legs." At the fiftieth or sixtieth stretching of the legs, that was too much for me.

Rowling may repeat common phrases in her writing, but at least she doesn't retell the same story almost verbatim. Geez, hypocrite much?

UPDATE: And if you don't believe me, will you take Neil Gaiman's word for it?

The Greatest Thing Since Movable Type

You know how in the Harry Potter books and the futuristic movies like Minority Report, newspapers have pictures that move? Well, it ain't speculative fiction any more.

Want Some Geeky Goodness

TORN has a clip from The Return of the King up. It is most sweet. Though I can here the Tolkienistas screaming now -- "How dare they have Lord Elrond bring Anduril to Aragorn! What is he, a messenger boy!?!?!?" Yeah -- get over it already.

Another Fine Product of American Civics Classes

Adbusters is crying censorship because several networks rejected their anti-corporation television spots. Sigh. Doesn't anyone pay attention in school? The First Amendment applies to government interference in speech -- it says that you have the right to say whatever you want, not that companies have to give you a soapbox to say it on. The Washington Post doesn't print every letter-to-the-editor it receives (can you imagine how big the paper'd have to be if it did?), and it isn't censoring anyone. Harper Collins doesn't publish every manuscirpt it gets, and it isn't censoring anyone. And networks don't accept every ad they're offered, and they aren't censoring anyone.

The freedom of speech doesn't mean anyone has to listen to you.

Americoupling

NBCs version of Coupling is taking quite a drubbing from critics. But what were they expecting? It's an Americanized version of a risque, hip Britcom -- maybe it'd work on HBO, but you know NBC's going to dumb it down until it's indistinguishable from Friends. I'll watch tonight's episode out of morbid curiousity, but beyond that I have zero interest in it.

For those who haven't seen the British series (it's on BBC America tonight at 10:00, and various PBS stations run it), there are clips available from the Beeb.
Principle vs Practice

Glenn Reynolds reviews Scott Turow's new book on the death pentalty for his MSNBC blog (not to be confused with his Instapundit blog, or his Tech Central Station column). Turow's thesis, which Reynolds (and myself) agree with, is that, no matter what self-proclaimed intellectuals say, there is nothing morally wrong with capital punishment, but the implementation of the system is shoddier than Windows XP. In other words, we'd have no problem with executions if there were an infalliable method for ensuring that only the guilty sit in ol' sparky, but so long as the error-rate is non-zero, the death penalty shouldn't be used.

2003/09/24

Georgy for Gov

I've decided to endorse Georgy Russell for governor of California. Why? Well,

    1) I don't live in California, so I have no stake in the outcome, nor any reason to find the candidate I most agree with who has a chance of winning, so

    2) I'm basing my endorsement on the fact that Georgy is the cutest candidate,

    3) she sells thongs on her campaign website,

    4) she's a geek,

    5) she wants lower sentences for women who kill their husbands, and

    6) I just like supporting third-party candidates with no chance of winning.
Why I Love Lisa de Moraes

Running down the ratings for last week, de Moraes has this to say about ABC's John Ritter memorial special:

    Ironically, Ritter hadn't scored that many viewers on '8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter' since Episode 6.

I love a woman who gets catty about the dead. Rwor.
Get Ready for another Gas Price Spike

OPEC's cutting production by 3.5%.
Microsoft Cares for the Chil'uns

Microsoft has closed its chatrooms in Britain in order to save children from preverts.

In other news, Ford's announced that they'll stop making cars with backseats to prevent teen pregnancy.

UPDATE The International Herald-Tribune says MS is closing chatrooms everywhere except the US, Canada, and Japan where they'll restrict use to paying customers. The IHT also points out the ulterior motive for this -- they're getting rid of non-paying users who've been eating up resources (and thus, profits).
Editor? Who Needs an Editor?

    "The steaks leave something to be desired," Mike Barnes told them, "but every week we get steaks flown in from Omaha. Tons of them -- we distribute them to all our friends."

    "That's the truth," Nigel confirmed. "Your corn-fed beef is superb. I'm afraid we're all quite addicted to it."
    --Tom Clancy, Red Rabbit, p13 (paperback)


    "I don't know how you Americans can stomach [domestic beer]. But your beef is better than ours."

    "Corn-fed. Turns out better meat than grass does," Ryan sighed.
    --Tom Clancy, Red Rabbit, p81 (paperback)


Y'know, I've never met anyone, not even when I lived in Europe, who'd wax rhapsodical on the quality of American corn-fed beef, but I'm sure they're out there. However, two separate characters (four if you count the other interlocutors who nod sagely at these observations) talking about it in the same book is pushing it. There are several other similar repetitions, such as Russian characters thinking about how their rank gives them access to better shops than hoi poloi. An editor should've fixed these.

But that's the problem with modern Clancy novels -- for over a decade, his books have come out in August of even-numbered years, regardless of when he finishes them. If he doesn't get it done until July, the publisher still crashes it into production, bypassing the standard editorial process and leaving in all sorts of minor typos, factual errors, and repetitions.

2003/09/23

Edie Brickell Gets out of Bed after Ten Years

After a decade off, Edie Brickell is finally going to release a new album next month. I guess Paul Simon's realized what a greedy bastard he's been, keeping her all to himself.

The Music Choice Progressive/Alternative channel's been playing a couple songs, "Rush Around" and "Volcano," quite a bit, and they sound wonderful. Well, they sounds wonderful if you like New Bohemian style '80s pop, because Brickell's style hasn't changed a whit in the last fifteen years -- from what I've heard so far, this album could've been the follow-up to Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars and no one would've blinked -- and that's fine by me.
Quicksilver

Paul Boutin reviews Neal Stephenson's new novel Quicksilver, which at a thousand pages is just the first part of the Baroque Cycle. Boutin obviously isn't familiar with geekdom, because he questions whether SF fans will have the patience for a 3000 page story. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire is already that long and it's not even half finished, and Jordan's Wheel of Time clocks in at about 7000 pages with no signs of ending. Hell, even Harry Potter's in the 2500 page range and sure to surpass 3000 with the next installment.

Oh, and Boutin claims (presumably based on a press release) that the next book will be out in six months and the third in a year. Given that Stephenson took longer to write Quicksilver than Rowling for the last two Harry Potter books, I find that unlikely unless he's already finished them.
I Can't See You; You Don't Exist

Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's Leader Prime, is, in the long tradition of communist leaders confronted by a reality that contradicts their doctrine, refusing to recognize the Iraqi delegation to the next OPEC summit. Presumably by doing so he'll make them disappear, replaced by something more palatable.
When Critics Don't Pay Attention

Dennis Cass pans HBOs Carnivale in Slate, saying that there's just too much weirdness and not enough plot (what, it's based on a Pynchon novel?). But perhaps the problem is that he's not paying enough attention. Consider this description of the weirdness:

    We see a lot of jarring imagery: trench warfare; a murderous circus bear; a guy running through corn; a shirtless, tattooed guy limping through corn; and possibly Nazis.

Nazis? Well, there's this German looking guy in a uniform, but the Germans did have a history before 1933, y'know. If Cass'd been paying attention, he'd realize that:

    The show takes place in 1934.

    The German appears in flashbacks and dreams.

    The German usually appears in a muddy trench hunting the young Reverend Crowe.

    In the most recent episode, Hawkins asks someone whether Crowe had been in "the War"; in 1934 "the War" referred to only one thing, and it didn't involve Nazis.

Carnivale is more complicated than most shows on US TV, but it's not that complicated. I think Cass might enjoy it more if was a bit more attentive while watching.
Game On

The California recall is go for 7 October -- unanimous decision.

2003/09/22

Iraq Kicks out al Jazeera

According to the Times of London the Iraqi governing council has declared reporters for al Jazeera and al Arabiya persona non grata.

What a Geek

Michael Powell, son of Colin and current head of the FCC comes across as an ubernerd in this interview with the New York Times Magazine, though it is kinda reassuring to know that someone in government is watching Dexter's Laboratory -- it's almost as good as knowing that Karl Rove got President Bush adicted to Babylon 5.
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

The Washington Post's editorial page today ran an article on underage drinking that includes some of the most mind-bogglingly stupid misuses of statistics I've seen outside of cable news. After a brief introduction to a recent study and some hand-wringing, the editorialists throw out some raw numbers to shock the readers:

Consider the following data: In 1996, underage drinking caused 3,500 deaths, 2 million injuries, 1,200 babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome and 57,000 people having to be treated for alcoholism.

Okay, let's consider the data. 3500 people died because of underage drinking. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, to put in perspective, the number of alcohol related deaths for the entire population averages about 110,000 per annum, which means that underage drinkers are responsible for about 3% of them. According to the Census Bureau, around 30% of the population is under the legal drinking age; of course, the number of five year olds who kill someone, alcohol or no, is exceedingly small, so let's throw out everyone under the age of 15, leaving us with 8.6% of the population. What this means is that people between 15 and 21 are responsible for proportionately fewer alcohol related deaths than those over the legal drinking age. Now, you might argue, there are also proportionately fewer drinkers under 21 than over, but that doesn't seem to be the case -- the Post story says that 49% of high school seniors are "drinkers" and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that 80% have at least tried it.

If you take the other numbers the Post cites and compare them to statistics for the population as a whole, you'll likely find that the two are pretty much in line with each other. It's not like someone's going to spontaneously become a responsible drinker when they hit 21. The only thing that sets underage drinkers apart from overage drinkers is an arbitrary age limit. And let's face it, that limit is too high -- the drinking age is probably the most violated law in the US. Instead of fretting about teenagers drinking, we should lower the age to something reasonable and set to encouraging responsible drinking for everyone regardless of age.
And the Lord Saith, THOU SHALT NOT WATCH COUPLING OR MY WRATH WILL BE MOST WROTH UPON THEE

The NBC affiliates for the University of Notre Dame and Salt Lake City have decided that the American version of Coupling is too risque. Compared to what? News of Catholic priests buggering little boys? Stories of Mormon zealots marrying fourteen year old girls? Sorry, I have to give the edge to Coupling in terms of family-friendly entertainment. (Well, for main-stream American families, at least. I suppose if I were one of those Mormon fringe-loons with several wives, I wouldn't want them watching a show about women who have sex anytime, anywhere, and with anyone they want. But then, if I had multiple wives, I don't see why I'd need a TV in the first place.)
The New Shape of British Media

It's official -- the Independent is a tabloid. Content-wise, that's been true for as long as I've been reading it -- they're less loony than Pravda, but only just -- but now they're giving up all pretense and switching from broadsheet to tabloid format.

What I find interesting is that here in America the tabloid format is reserved for gossip rags, the New York Post, and alternative media, all of which are seen as something less than real journalism -- a well earned disdain in the first two cases, though not in the last -- whereas the Brits don't seem to have any problem with it, and indeed, if the Guardian's to be believed (always a doubtful proposition), is quite a popular format among readers. Of course, from what I've seen of British newspapers, most have journalistic standards which are ... ah, looser than their American counterparts. Which is really weird, because the US has much higher standards for what constitutes libel.

2003/09/21

Merkins Soak Their Panties for Clark

A new poll indicates that Wesley Clark is already the Democratic frontrunner, and, along with John Kerry, is the candidate who comes closest to beating Bush (Howard Dean gets handily clobbered, according to the poll). Not bad for a guy who's been running for less than a week and hasn't articulated any positions except that he's opposed to the war on even Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.

Meanwhile, Howard Fineman reports that Clark has personal reasons for disliking the Bush administration, and in fact might only be a Democrat because Karl Rove peed his Wheaties.
Weintraub Gets an Editor

Mickey Kaus reports that the Sacramento Bee has bowed to pressure from the Latino Caucaus and given blogger Daniel Weintraub an editor. Now normally there'd be nothing odd about a journalist having to submit his articles to an editor -- indeed, it'd be strange if he didn't -- but it rather defeats the point of having a blog -- namely, being able to post your thoughts as fast as you can type them. It's like giving someone a high-speed internet connection, then telling them that everytime they download something, they have to wait ten minutes for approval.

This is a problem you'll see more of as dead-tree media try to adapt their daily (or weekly, or monthly) publishing schedule for the 24-hour news cycle of cable and the Internet. There are already several magazines and news-papers that have blogging columnists, and sooner or later, one of them will write something that annoys his bosses and gets himself fired. And it's too bad, because blogging columnists are so much more interesting than ones that come out on a regular basis. (Bob Levey, this means you -- you can't even write a column five days a week without filling it with neologism contests and exortations to donate to charities.)
Holy Warmongering Democratic Candidates, Batman!

I'm not a big fan of Wesley Clark. He's like the Dems version of Arnold Schwartzenegger -- a political neophyte who gained a small level of celebrity through his achievements in a "manly" field, which he then parlayed into a career in the entertainment industry (yes, I consider cable news part of the entertainment industry), and is now seeking public office, skipping lowly city-council positions straight to the big-time in the hope that his fame will cover the fact that he hasn't articulated anything beyond the vaguest positions.

However, I do think he's taking some unfair hits for his actions during the Kosovo campaign. And surprisingly, some of these attacks are coming from the left. Katrina vanden Heuvel, for example, wrote in The Nation that:

On June 12, 1999, in the immediate aftermath of NATO's air war against Yugoslavia, a small contingent of Russian troops dashed to occupy the Pristina airfield in Kosovo. Clark was so anxious to stop the Russians that he ordered an airborne assault to confront these units--an order which could have unleashed the most frightening showdown with Moscow since the end of the Cold War. Hyperbole? You can decide. But British General Michael Jackson, the three-star general and commander of K-FOR, the international force organized and commanded by NATO to enforce an agreement in Kosovo, told Clark: "Sir, I'm not starting World War Three for you"[...]

General Jackson's statement has been bandied about the Internet quite a bit since Clark announced his candidacy, making Clark seem like some sort of General Ripper. However, that characterization is completely unfair, and relies upon the fact that too few Americans paid attention to what happened in Kosovo at the time. Sgt. Stryker puts Clark's actions in historical perspective here; and here you can read the transcript of a BBC documentary on the whole Kosovo campaign. And, in point of fact, if NATO forces had deployed to the airport, it's quite possible the Russians would've backed down -- in fact, what ultimately happened was that the Russians backed down when the Rumanians threatened to shoot down their transport planes.

But you can expect the accusation that Clark wanted to start a war with the Russians to pop up quite a few times before the elections.
Sonic Middle Age

Sonic Youth was on some PBS music show last night, and I have to say -- it's time they consider changing the name. They look old enough to run for President. I guess I should be thankful they haven't gone all Liz Phair and released a pop-album in a desperate attempt to trade in their credibility and integrity for fame and money, but even so, it's kinda sad to see three forty-somethings on stage and realize they'll never achieve the fame of crap-rockers like Nickleback and Limp Bizkit.

2003/09/20

Time Saving Technologies that Don't Save Time

What's the point of ordering pizza on-line? Unless you're ordering on a Sunday afternoon during football season, it doesn't really save time -- in fact, Pizza Hut's interface, which makes you go through half a dozen screens in the process of ordering, actually takes longer than using the phone. As far as I can tell, there's no advantage conferred by ordering over the computer; it's just one of those high-tech ideas that people assume is better because it' involves computers.
We Like the Moon!

These guys should be on Adult Swim. Link via Andrew Sullivan.
More Complaints Against VeriSign

VeriSign's decision to redirect web-surfers to a VeriSign search page when they enter a non-existent URL has already provoked an anti-trust lawsuit, and now privacy advocates are crying foul. I'm not sure the privacy argument is that compelling -- at worst they'll be able to aggregate information on surfing patterns, but given the sheer volume of data, I'd be surprised if it was ever used beyond the macro-level -- however, the anti-trust case sounds like a reasonable complaint.
JetBlue -- Official Airline of Big Brother

If you flew JetBlue last year, chances are the airline turned your personal information over to a government contractor who may or may not have been working on a profiling system for the TSA or a security program for the military. But don't worry, JetBlue says:

Contrary to reports, JetBlue has not entered into an agreement to implement the CAPPS II program with the Transportation Security Administration. Further, no JetBlue customer information has been provided for purposes of testing the CAPPS II program currently under design.

Well, gee, if they turned the information over for something other than CAPPS II, that's all right then.

Actually, I don't have any objection to the government using publicly available information for the CAPPS system -- the concept's not that different from actuarial charts, which, as much as people hate to think of their lives as statistical probabilities, are quite accurate. It's only when the government starts digging up information that was given to a company with the understanding that it'd remain confidential that I have a problem.

2003/09/19

Welcome to De-Nile, Tennessee

He's a nice guy, really:

Kilpatrick's cousins say denial of admission to Dyersburg State Community College Wednesday might have caused him to take students hostage. They don't condone his actions, but they question why police shot him. "Why, why they had to do it the way they did.' Catarsha Thompson, cousin said, 'I understand he had hostages but he wasn't going to harm any of them. He was gonna let them go, little by little."

Why'd the police shoot him? You think it has anything to do with this?

Investigators say a suicidal gunman holding a college math class hostage in Dyersburg yesterday caused his own death by firing a random pistol shot while surrounded by police.

A police SWAT team killed 26-year-old Harold Kilpatrick after a nine-hour standoff at Dyersburg State Community College.

Two of Kilpatrick's hostages were shot. One was in critical condition in a hospital today and the other was listed as serious.
Davy Crockett Would Be So Ashamed

Y'know, you'd almost have to try to be this bad a shot:

Six Knox County deputies fired 28 shots at a suicidal man with a bull-eye paint on his chest after he pointed a gun at an officer.

The man was only superficially wounded when one bullet struck his right shoulder.


Chief of Police Stevie Wonder had no comment.
Still More on Swen

The Washington Post has more to say about Swen.A.

Spread via e-mail, the 'Swen' worm appears to do little damage, but experts say the unknown author's painstaking attempt to make it look like a real security bulletin from Microsoft shows a level of trickery new to Internet virus and worm attacks.

Yeah, well, it might not be doing much damage to the computers it's infecting, but that doesn't mean it's harmless. I'm receiving an average of one message per minute -- if I don't download email every couple hours, my account fills up and starts bouncing messages -- and from other people I've talked to, I'm not alone. It doesn't matter that my computer isn't infected, because the virus has still managed to render my email worthless.

Thankfully, only one of my accounts has been hit so far.
Am I the Only One Being Bombarded by Viruses?

I just downloaded a hundred emails, almost all of which were viruses disguised as patches from Microsoft (and the few that weren't were to inform me that my account was almost filled). I'm guessing a lot of people received the messages and figured, "It says Microsoft, so it must be okay." Wonderful. Just frickin' wonderful. That means this is going to spread, spread, spread.

UPDATE: It's the Swen.A worm. Please, make sure your virus protection is up to date, and whatever you do, never open an attachment.

UPDATED UPDATE: Here's Symantec's page on the subject.

2003/09/18

The Biggest Black-Out Since Last Month

Lots of people without power tonight. It's really too bad that I'm living in an area with buried utility-lines. I mean, look at all the fun I'm missing.
How Dumb Can You Get?

"This is one of the fun hurricanes." --a CNN correspondent explaining why Isabel is better than Hugo
How Bad Could It Be?

What could be worse than an American version of The Office? How about a Spielberg produced movie of The Office? He better not turn Brent into some likable fool.
When Guinea Pigs Ruled the World

Scientists have discovered the fossil remains of a giant guinea pig that roamed the earth 8million years ago.
Why Does the News Even Bother

All the television stations could save money if they'd just pool their resources in covering the hurricane. They all have someone standing on a beach (some have someones on several beaches) saying, "Yeah, it's getting really windy. There's debris blowing around. It's going to get worse." The channels could just choose one guy (I nominate Geraldo) to do it -- for that matter, they could just send out a camera crew and convey the same information.
It's Here

The wind is rising, the sky's growing dark, and the cat's prowling the window box.
Support the Red Cross

Donate to the Red Cross to support hurricane victims.
Heh

Some stories just write themselves:

Princess Stephanie of Monaco has married a Portuguese circus acrobat, the royal palace said, in the latest of a series of turbulent love affairs that have included liaisons with an elephant tamer and a bodyguard.
11:00 and All Is Calm

Got the deck cleared -- no one's going to have a table-umbrella smash through their window, unless its from that idiot behind me. Put some towels against the door.

So far it's overcast, but no wind or rain to speak of.

UPDATE: Here's the forecast for Washington. Should be hitting any time now.

2003/09/17

Axis of Isabel

Joined the Axis of Isabel, bloggers who are in the path of the hurricane. And as a side note, I am left leaning. Er, at least that's what conservatives tell me, though liberals don't always agree.
It's Like the World Is Taunting Harold Bloom

Harold Bloom, crotchety critic who's still recovering from the success of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings now has something new to bitch about -- the National Book Foundation's given Stephen King a literary award. Poor, poor Bloom. The only thing that could make this worse would be if someone told him that people will be reading King long after he's dead.
Way to Be Reassuring

"So we won't have too much death and destruction." -- the weatherman on WUSA.
I Wish We'd Had This Internet Thing When I Was in School

When I was in high school (way back in the mid-90s) and a storm came through the region, I had to sit in front of the TV watching a ticker slowly crawl across the screen to see if school was closed -- and the station'd invariably go to commercial before it got to my county. Now you just go to the Washington Post's website and look at the list.

Of course, when I was in school, they'd never shut down school this far in advance. Oh, no. If a huricane was supposed to hit in the afternoon, they'd make us come to school in the morning then announce early dismissal around 11:00.

Ah, these kids today don't know how lucky they have it.
No One Likes a Girl Who Won't Sober Up

Kathleen Edwards' Failer is my new favorite album -- I like it more even than The Velvet Underground & Nico or The Clash's London Calling. Amazon says it's "alt-country" -- a term which apparently means "country that doesn't suck" -- but Best Buy more accurately files it in the Rock/Pop section. (I mean, she's Canadian; how can she be country in a nation without rednecks?) Only the first song, "Six O'clock News," (you can see the video here) about a woman whose husband gets killed holding up a store, is countryish, but even here Edwards exhibits more wit than you'd find with The Dixie Chicks, or Shania Twain, or (Ghu forbid) Garth Brooks.

And that's what sets her above not only country artists, but the singer/songwriters of today (Michelle Branch, John Mayer, I'm talknig to you). Take this nugget from Westby:

And if you weren't so old I'd probably keep you
If you weren't so old I'd tell my friends
But I don't think your wife would like my friends.


Or "One More Song the Radio Won't Like" (you can listen to a live performance of it here), in which she describes the advice given to her by an A&R guy:

Write a hit so I can talk you up
No one likes a girl who won't sober up.


Needless to say, the album wasn't released by a major record company.

Those two quotes also give you a glimpse at the other themes running through the album -- sex and booze (with some drugs thrown in for variety). Lots of sex and booze. Enough sex and booze to make Liz Phair blush. And while many of the songs are clearly about fictional characters, you can't help but come away from the album with the impression that Edwards is more than passingly aquainted with the bottle and one-night stands. But she carries it off without sounding overtly feminist (like Liz Phair), or burnt out (like Janis Joplin), or just plain slutty (like way too many to name). Instead, when she sings,

I don't want to be your friend
Just take off your clothes and get into my bed,


you just want to snap her a salute and do what she says.

Add to this that the music's pretty damned good and features guitar solos, something that's largely disappeared from modern rock (mainly because you can't do guitar solos when the band only knows two chords), and you have one fantastic album.
You Have No Right to Vote the President

Interesting column from David Broder on something we should all know from high school civics but don't.
Kinsley Misses the Boat

Michael Kinsley writes:

K Street uses the wobbly hand-held camera and the quick cuts and other items in the visual vocabulary long familiar from shows like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. This look is intended to convey a sense of realism and honesty. The mere visual association with shows about dedicated public servants lends an unearned sense of gritty integrity to less admirable subjects, such as big-time legal practice (L.A. Law). And now, hand-held-camera populist nobility has been conferred upon a group of people who charge a lot of money to give disproportionate influence in our democracy to people with even more money. And somewhere in America, there is a child who watched K Street and is thinking this week, "I want to be a lobbyist when I grow up."

Um, no. You know why? Because K Street is a boring show. Sure, if you're a political junky there's some fun to be had in spotting all the politicos playing themselves, but most of the country can't tell Bill Frist from Rick Santorum, and doesn't care about the Inside Baseball of politics. Which is why K Street pulled in only three million viewers. So don't worry, if all the kids who watched the show grow up to be lobbyists, we won't have any more than we have today.

(And on the subject of HBO's new series, I'll mention that I really like Carnivale -- with the proviso that I hope the writers know where they're going, and aren't just making it up like Chris Carter did with The X-Files. It's nice to see an American SF show with the complexity of a British series. Plus it has the always nummy Clea DuVall.)
The Weathermen Are Shaking with Glee

All the TV weathermen are giddy as schoolboys who've just realized the cute girl in class is sprouting boobs. They always get this way when a storm's coming, and they don't get to report on a full-fledged hurricane bearing down on Washington every day -- or year. Of course, last time they predicted that DC'd be lashed by a hurricane was back in '99 with Floyd, and it fizzled before it reached us, giving us a mild storm no worse than what we'd normally get at this time of year. See, that's why I support legislation that would require weathermen to cut off a finger every time they're wrong. When they reach the point where they have to hold the chroma-key clicker in their mouth, you'll know not to listen to them.

UPDATE: Bill Ciminio sounds like he'd agree with such a law, as well.

2003/09/16

The Post Gets It Wrong

The Washington Post says John Edwards officially announced his candidacy today in North Carolina. That's not true. He did it last night on The Daily Show.
Wesley Clark is in the Race

Washington Post is reporting that General Clark plans to announce his candidacy for President tomorrow. On the bright side, it's new blood in a Democratic field that seems more dregs than wine; but he's also the tenth candidate, which is just going to make things bloodier, which could give Bush an advantage.

And if Clark starts looking like a strong contender, there's a chance Hillary will enter the race, since if a Dem wins in '04, she won't have at the party's nomination until 2012, and even then, there'd be a chance she'd have to fight the Vice President for the nod.
"Heineken? Fuck that shit! Pabst! Blue Ribbon!

Last night, I finally got around to watching Blue Velvet. Going in I really didn't know anything about it, except that it was a David Lynch film, and it'd been controversial when it first came out in the '80s. I figured that meant it had graphic sex scenes -- well, it does, but that's apparently not what caused the countroversy. People had been taken aback because it's a Lynch film -- and I don't just mean it was directed by David Lynch, like The Elephant Man or The Straight Story, but that this is one of the films that justifies using his name as an adjective -- dense, symbolic, ironic, and open to interpretation like Madonna's legs to Guy Ritchie's dick.

The actual plot is essentially the Hardy Boys Meet the Real World -- Jeffrey (Kyle McLachlan) is a naive college student who's come back to his idyllic little home town. In the field behind his house, he finds a severed ear, which he dutifully takes to the police. But his curiousity gets the best of him, and he decides to do some sleuthing on his own (well, with the help of Sandy (Laura Dern), the teenage daughter of the cop he gave the ear to). Before long, he's breaking and entering, trailing people, and getting the shit kicked out of him, just like Frank and Joe Hardy. Except Frank and Joe never had sex with a woman after she caught them in her apartment -- but if they had, I bet their girlfriends would've been just as dumbly forgiving as Sandy is in the end (if the end is real; if the rest of the film is real). Dear sweet Sandy, who says some of the most pretentiously awful lines, even by the standards of high school students -- if I weren't positive that Lynch was being ironical with the robin speech, I would've puked.

But the best part of the film is, without a doubt, Dennis Hopper, who's never been a more believable psychopath than as Frank Booth when he takes Jeffrey out for the joyride -- and that's saying a lot. During that whole sequence, there's a palpable sense that the only thing keeping Jeffrey alive is Booth's whim, that if Booth were a little less crazy, he'd just kill him and get it over with. And that performance pays off with the climax, which is one of the tensest I've ever seen, beyond anything Hitchcock or Cameron have ever done -- say what you will about Lynch's style, you have to admit he knows how to direct a thriller when he chooses.

And this brings us to the thing that most often turns people off to Lynch films -- the ending. You can easily interpret it as a very literal ending, in which case you have to ask yourself how ironic is Lynch being with it, because there's no way the man who wrote the scenes between Jeffrey and Dorothy Vallens could write that final sequence without his tongue in cheek. Another interpretation I've seen is that the main part of the film was a dream, but that's the same interpretation I've seen for Mulholland Drive, and in both cases I think it's a cop-out. I think the film should be seen as ... well, not quite an allegory since there's no definitive interpretation of what everything represents, but still a work of heavy symbolism, like 2001: A Space Odyssey. And like 2001, this is a film that you'll either adore or turn off after the first fifteen minutes.
We've got a Blogspot down.

Well, looks like Blogspot is non-operational right now. My page won't load, and I've checked several others with the same result. Of course, unless you're an invisible fairy standing on my shoulder, you aren't reading this right now, but at some indeterminant point in the future where Blogspot is functional, and thus this post is completely useless to you.

2003/09/15

Question

There's a non-zero chance that the 9th Circuit will be overturned regarding the recall delay, which means that candidates need to continue campaigning just in case; but if the ruling's upheld, the candidates will either have to find the money to finance their campaigns for an extray five months, or else suspend their electioneering for a few months. The upshot is that some candidates will have to drop out, while those who have the money to campaign the whole time will have an even bigger advantage than their money already grants them. So is this actually more democratic than holding the elections as originally planned with the knowledge that a few goobers won't know how to punch a hole in the ballot?
Saletan to Democrats: Quit Your Whining

William Saletan says that Democrats are just as bad as Republicans when it comes to playing dirty pool. It's about time someone pointed this out, because too many liberals are copping a sanctimonious attitude, as though they're holders of some great political Truth handed down from on high. They ain't. Most of their ideas are dumb. Most of the Republicans' ideas are dumb. Both sides behave underhandedly to achieve advantages. This is the nature of politics and has been since Pisistratus exiled his enemies from Athens. According to Machiavelli in The Discourses, heated political debate short of civil war is a sign of a healthy society.

So, yeah, what Saletan said -- stop bitching about how mean the Republicans are and go out there and play dirty so you might actually have a chance of winning this time.
The Hegemon Expands

Motorola has announced plans to produce a phone with Microsoft. Great, now when you open your address book, your phone will suffer a fatal exception error, and if you try to dial 911, you'll be asked to download a patch. At least they haven't found a way to display the Blue Screen of Death on an LCD -- yet. (Hey, they've done it with electronic billboards. Let's just hope this remains satire.)
California: Now with 600% More Political Chaos

Just when you thought there was only one more month of the California Recall, the 9th Circuit delays it until March, six months from now. Six months of campaigning. Six months of contradictory polls. Six months of Ah-nuld gossip. Six months of non-stop coverage. Thank you, 9th Circuit, America loves you.
This Will Either Suck or Rock

According to AICN, Will Ferrell will play Ignatius J. Reilly in a film adaptation of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. I'm not sure about this. Ferrell's comic stylings are rather broad compared to the novel, but then Jim Carrey and Robin Williams are the same way and they've acquitted themselves quite well in dramas (well, when they aren't in maudlin crap like The Majestic and The Bicentennial Man). This'll either be a work of staggering brilliance, or an affront to literature so heinous that all negatives should be burned.

UPDATE: AICN's talkbackers have some interesting alternative casting ideas. Philip Seymour Hoffman is by far the best -- the man was made to play this part -- but John C. Reilly is almost as good. As for the Jack Black suggestion ... well, that'd be an interesting take of the book ... but no.
Another Notch on J-Lo's Night Stand

I feel a great disturband in the Force, as if a billion horny boys suddenly orgasmed as one.

2003/09/14

Y Kant Tori Read?

Kudos to whoever requested the Y Kant Tori Read video on VH1 Classic's All Request Hour. That was frickin' brilliant! I don't know which was better, Tori in the toreador outfit (Get it? Tori? Toreador? The director was so clever with that.) with her boobs ready to fall out, or Tori in the chiffon nightgown-cum-dress that makes her look like she and Tawny Kitaen should be having lesbian sex on the hood of a car in a Whitesnake video. Or maybe it was Tori telling the cop, "Someone broke into my car and stole my underwear." And let's not forget Tori in the vinyl pants, or Tori in the ripped jeans.

I don't know why Tori's ashamed of that era in her life. Really, I don't.
What a Difference a Day Makes

The problem with journalism is getting ahead of yourself in the rush to be the first with the story. For example, less than an hour before the Columbia disaster, the Washington Post had an article on their website discussing what a successful mission it'd been. Though it didn't actually say the Columbia had landed safely, it was clearly meant to imply it so they wouldn't have to change anything once the Columbia touched down.. (Not surprisingly, the article's been removed from the Post's website.)

Now it's the Guardian's turn, with this article all but declaring Sweden's acquiescence to the Euro to be fait accompli, and then this article back-peddling now that the Swedes have rejected the referendum.

But this isn't just a case of the Guardian buying into a faulty poll, but bad reporting, plain and simple. Just consider this paragraph:

In a dramatic move with potentially huge implications for the two other 'outs', Britain and Denmark, a Gallup poll gave the yes camp a one percentage point lead over the no camp for the first time since December last year.

Jeebus! The reporter needs a remedial class in statistics -- one percent is less than the margin of error for every poll in existence. Extrapolating election results from numbers that close, even couching them with qualifiers, is stupid in the extreme.
Blame It on Rio!

Gee, I can't imagine why any woman wouldn't want this done.
Coolness

Turner Classic Movies is showing Bringing Up Baby -- Cary Grant as a sexually frustrated man pursued by the insane, man-crazed Katherine Hepburn and her pet leopard. Classic comedy.

I can just see Hollywood remaking this. Tara Reid and Ishtar Ketchup to star.
Dean Comparison of the Week

Comparing Howard Dean to George McGovern is passe. Now if you want to sound hip when discussing politics, you should use John McCain -- they're both overly-blunt populists with fiery tempers.

And you know it's true because the talking heads on Fox said so.
Why Doesn't Anyone Tell Me These Things?

According to Toon Zone "Harry Goz, the voice of Captain Hank Murphy on Cartoon Network's Sealab 2021, passed away this week. The cause of death is unknown." Apparently he died on Thursday, but this is the first I've seen of the news.

I wonder if Adult Swim will do a tribute of any sort tonight?

2003/09/13

META

Due to bandwidth limits I've had to remove the pictures and switch to a non-graphical template. I expect full service to be restored by tomorrow.

UPDATE: Should be all working now.

UPDATED UPDATE: Permalinks should be working now, too. That means if you want the URL for a specific blog entry, click on the time-stamp and the permanent address will appear in your location bar.

Just for You, Trots

(I guess some context is required for those who don't read rec.arts.movies.current-films. Greg Singh is a schlub who gets his rocks off by trolling various groups under the nom-de-guerre Trotsky. He's the sort for whom saying "Wimmin can't use computers" is the height of his intellectual discourse. After a recent beat-down in which he was compared to a Shoggoth, he challenged his mockers to show what they look like.)

That's me in the corner, me in the spot--light, losin' my religion ... er, um, talkin' on the cute chick.





Here're some pics from a biology class I took where we had to go into the mountains to tag some bears.

Random goofy pic.





Hanging around the camp.





The whole class.





Not me, but a neat pic of a grad student examining a cub.




And for fairness' sake, here's a bad picture of me three-sheets to the wind.




Right click and select "view image" to see them in high-res.

Happy, Trots?
The Most Interesting Chart You'll See Today

Ever gotten into an argument with someone over a celebrity's bra size? Oh? Well, uh, neither have I. But hypothetically if you were to have such a debate, now there's a way for you to find the answer. Some of these numbers are actually surprising -- for example, I'd never've thought that Winona Ryder has a bigger cup-size than Ursula Andress. And how small is Christina Ricci that 36-Cs make her look like she's going to fall down when she walks?
Ain't It Tool News

Drew "Moriarty" McWeeny "reviews" the script for Wes Anderson's latest film, Life Aquatic -- really it's a summary of the first act followed by some gushing about how brilliant it's sure to be and some speculation about stop-motion animation being used in the film. And on the subject of stop-motion, McWeeny as something interesting to say:

The notion of using an all stop-motion crew is pretty bold. Henry Selick tried for MONKEYBONE, but the studio lost its nerve and cut the budget and the schedule so dramatically that by the time the film was released, all the sequences that should have been filled with stop motion creatures were instead populated by actors in cheap costumes on shitty sets. Brilliant.

Wow, so that was the problem with Monkeybone? That the studio didn't let the director do the FX like he wanted? Not that the story was stupid? Not that the direction was bad? Not that the film just plain sucked?

Hey, Drew, are you sure you aren't being an apologist for the film because the director cast Harry Knowles in it? Nah, that couldn't be. AICN has integrity.
Why God? Why Dost Thou Taunt Me So?

Just when I thought the long national nightmare known as The Osbournes was over, someone had to go and give Kelly Osborne a new record contract. Hasn't anyone noticed that she can't frickin' sing? In that one "hit" she had, her voice was so synthed out she sounded like a Dalek. Sure, other artists use the same trick on occasion, but it's always an effect, whereas the producers of wee Miss Osbourne's song were clearly trying to hide her voice.

I can't wait for the little ball of brattiness and her family of hype to disappear until double-aught kitsch kicks in around 2014.
Will They Play Manilow on the Space Elevator?

The Guardian has an article on the a scientific conference on space elevators, but the writer focuses almost exclusively on the technical issues and ignores the real-world questions that should be addressed. Like, oh, say what happens when terrorists try and destroy the anchor-point? Proponents generally handwave around such problems, saying there'll be precautions in place. Sorta like the precautions NASA put in place after the Challenger accident?

(The author of the piece, who's credited as a "science correspondent" also makes a major gaffe, saying "At about a third of the way along the cable - 36,000km from Earth - objects take a year to complete a full orbit." Um, no if that were true, the elevator would slowly wrap around the Earth. He's obviously trying to describe geostationary orbit, which is when a satellite orbits the Earth once per day and thus stays fixed over one area.)

2003/09/12

Whatever Happened to Ensign Crusher?

Right now TNNs showing the Star Trek episode where Wesley gets abducted by that intergalactic child molestor known as the Traveler. I've always felt the PTB missed the boat when they didn't reference the ep in the series finale.

Q: A-ha Picard! I lied way back in the first episode when I said you'd passed my test. This whole series has been your test, and I'm afraid I've seen no sign of humanity advancing over the last seven seasons.

Picard: What are you talking about. Why just look at Wesley.

Q: O, yeah, he did evolve into a higher being, kinda like me but with the personality of a petulant teenager instead of a mischievous five year old.

Picard: What? O, that, yeah I guess that's so. I just meant that we finally got rid of the little bastard.

Bam! The episode's over in five minutes.

How to be a Hollywood Executive

When someone comes up with an idea that everyone loves and is likely to make your company millions, but it happens to interfere with your personal kingdom kill the project to protect your own prestige.
The New Craze That's Sweeping the Nation -- Dean Bashing!

Howard Kurtz offers a nice summary of who's bashing Dean for what, however he misses the latest attack coming at Dean from conservative groups and John Kerry -- that he called members of Hamas "soldiers." But Dean has a reputation as a "straight talker" (Politicese for "speaks first, thinks second), so it's a wise move to look at the content of his statement not the words he used. According to CNN, what he actually said was:

Asked if he would oppose the Israeli policy of selectively killing leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups, Dean said, "I think no one likes to see violence of any kind."

But he also said that "there is a war going on in the Middle East, and members of Hamas are soldiers in that war, and, therefore, it seems to me that they are going to be casualties if they are going to make war."


In other words, if Hamas is going to attack Israel, they shouldn't be so surprised when Israel turns around and blows the dren out of their leaders. The statement also implies that Dean has no problem with the US using Predator drones to blow up al Qaeda members in Yemen. Apart from the use of the word "soldiers," I'm perfectly in agreement with what he said, and if anyone should attack him over it, it should be the far left loons like Kucinich. Maybe he should've said "warriors" instead of "soldiers" -- as Tom Clancy recently observed, "Warriors are tough guys who kill people for fun or money. Soldiers are part or a living, thinking TEAM or [sic] tough guys who organize to do it better." -- but that's a minor quibble, not something worth getting worked up about unless you're trailing Dean in the polls.
Scarlett Johansson's Booty Is Exquisite (oh, and the movie's pretty good too)

Here's a tip for aspiring film-makers: if you want a good review out of Stephen Hunter, all you have to do is cast a really beautiful woman and give her a spectacular wardrobe.

Back in May he had an orgasm all over the front page of the Washington Post's Style section because of Monica Bellucci in The Matrix Reloaded, saying -- and I quote -- "Monica Bellucci--Monica Bellucci!"

Well, now he's discovered Lost in Translation and waxes poetic on the deeper meaning of Scarlett Johansson's ass:

Under its title, 'Lost in Translation' begins by displaying an image that is itself lost in translation: a beautiful woman's rear end in repose, lightly sheathed in gossamer knickers.

Calm down there, Kevin! Or at least save the fancy prose for your next book.

Hoo boy, you think (if you're emotionally about 17), is that ever in the Esperanto of sexual possibility.

Seventeen? Giving yourself a lot of credit there, Stever-ino. I'd say more like thirteen, fourteen tops.

But that very image is misunderstood. Scarlett Johansson's lyrical caboose decodes not as sex, but as something related yet utterly distinct: intimacy.

He's been talking about her ass for three whole paragraphs and only now mentions her name.

For if you see a woman in her skivvies, that doesn't always mean sex is about to happen. (If you're married, it means sex is probably not about to happen.) But it does signify that between the two

...or more...

of you there's a feeling of trust, of togetherness, of wholeness

...and/or drunkeness.

against a world full of idiots and morons and schemers. And that's exactly the subject of 'Lost in Translation.'"

Geez, I wouldn't want to've been sitting in front of him through that opening scene. But then again, it is Scarlett Johannson, so the reviewer in front of Hunter was probably in the same state of ecstasy. (Though personally I've never been able to fantasize about her. Any time I try, I realize that if we were married, her name would become Scarlett O'Hara, and let's face it, that's a deal-killer right there.)

Stephen Hunter can be a brilliant reviewer, better even than Ebert, but there are just some movies he should be kept away from. I shudder to think what his review of Mona Lisa Smile will be like.

UPDATE: David Edlestein also ponders the meaning of Scarlett Johansson's ass.

2003/09/11

Other Side of Time

PopMatters has a good review of Mary Fahl's album The Other Side of Time. I agree with everything in it, except I'd say that the prettiness of her voice makes up for the wince inducing lyrics ("lenses of contact" has to be the worst line I've heard since I took creative writing in high school). This is definitely an album that'd be better if it were in a different language. I wouldn't say I regret buying the CD, but if I lost it, I wouldn't rush out to replace it. If you were thinking about buying this after hearing "The Great Unknown" or "Going Home," I'd recommend getting Loreena McKennitt or Sarah Brightman instead.
Dean and Clark

The Washington Post says Dean's courting General Clark for VP. Smart move given that America's attitude towards generals running for office is similar to a 16 year old French girl welcoming the Allies in 1944. (Oddly, this only applies to army flag officers, not naval, otherwise Perot/Stockdale should've won. Personally, I blame William Henry Harrison for souring America on Admirals.)

Perhaps this'll put to rest the Draft Wesley Clark movement. (UPDATE: Nope.)

I think it's time the Republicans realize that "Dean=McGovern" is the same kind of thinking as "Bush=moron" which has led the Dems to near ruin.
Bateman ... Batman ... same diff.

Looks like Christian Bale is the new Batman for Christopher Nolan's adaptation.

I wonder if the fanboys have heard? Hmm, can't access AICN, so I'd say it's so.
What's the first thing you should do when you get caught with your pants down?

Why blame the guy who caught you!
Animal House: Double Secret Probation Edition

I just got the new Animal House DVD, and I have to say I'm disappointed. Don't get me wrong, the movie's every bit as brilliant as it was in the '70s, but when I buy a DVD, I've become accustomed to getting something a little more than the movie, and in that this disc disappoints.

The first problem comes when you pop the disc in -- you automatically get previews of other upcoming Universal DVDs. Now, I don't mind watching trailers, and if they'd just put the ads on the disc somewhere, I would've watched them of my own volition. But they didn't. The previews just start when you insert the disc, and they lock out the controls so you can't skip ahead, so now everytime I watch Animal House, I'm going to have to watch the ads. Which means I'm not likely to rewatch the DVD.

Once you get to the menu, the special features aren't too hot. The big disappointment is that there's no audio commnetary -- there should be a law that anytime a company releases a DVD as a $funkyname Edition, they should get at least one commentary track, preferably two. What we do get are the Universal Animated Anecdotes, a text trivia track. If you've seen the excellent Back to the Future DVDs, you might be thinking, "What's wrong with that? The BttF trivia track was pretty nifty." Well, whoever worked on the BttF DVD wasn't involved with this one. There are maybe a dozen trivia bits spread over the entire film, almost all of them repeating information from the other features. Not only that, but they don't stay on the screen long enough -- I had to rewind several times so I could read all of the trivia.

And you know how I just mentioned "information from the other features"? Well, that should really be "feature" singular. The only feature with any informative content on the making of the film is the "Reunion" one, where they go and interview all the surviving stars. Watching it really makes you wish they'd done a full on commentary track with the cast together. And I will admit, as DVD documentaries go, this is one of the best, going through the development of the movie from the initial story ideas to the final editing, with lots of stories from the set. The biggest problem is that it could've been twice as long (its only half an hour as is).

Probably the best part of the Reunion docu is seeing Bruce "D-Day" McGill and realizing that he's That Guy. You know, That Guy. That Guy, who was in That Movie, and That Other Movie. That Guy, who you recognize instantly when you see him, but you don't know his name. In this case, he's That Guy from My Cousin Vinny and The Sum of All Fears. Now when I see him playing a Senator or cabinet member, or Sheriff, I won't be able to stop picturing him driving a motorcycle up stairs.

But the other major features are nothing but fluff. One is a music video from some group covering "Shout!" and it stinks of corporate synergy (I'd be five bucks that the group is under contract with a Vivendi-owned record company). The other is a mockumentary showing where all the characters are today. But anyone who's seen the movie should already see the problem -- we've already seen the gag at the end of the film where the captions inform us of everyone's fate. If we know that Flounder went into self-help groups, seeing Stephen Furst in a tacky suit doesn't make it any funnier. Apart from a bit involving Kevin Bacon's character, the whole thing is a one-note joke stretched to half an hour.

(Not to mention that since the film was set in '62, the characters should be in their 60s, but apart from Dean Wormer, no one made an effort to age the actors.)

But despite these problems, I can't bring myself to not recommend the DVD -- it's still a classic and only a noid wouldn't own a copy. Just don't pick it up expecting some super-deluxe special edition crammed with informative extras.