Saturday, September 25, 2004

Sky Captain and the Princess of Mars

First of all: I haven't yet seen Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Frankly, what few clips I've seen in on TV remind me of the FMV cutscenes from mid-nineties computer games like Wing Commander III. OK, the resolution is better, but still, the whole live-actors-composited-into-CGI-backgrounds thing just feels similar to me.

But, it's been getting generally very good reviews, which makes this all the more interesting: The director of Sky Captain, Kerry Conran, appears to be attached to A Princess of Mars for his next project. I know Joe will be interested in this...

Interestingly, there is a post on IMDB about this saying that Conran became involved after Robert Rodriguez became ineligible to direct after resigning from the DGA, which was apparently a result of a dispute with them over Sin City:
6) Rodriguez is currently sharing directorial duties with Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino. While Rodriguez and Miller will be co-directing the entire film, Tarantino will only be directing certain scenes of The Big Fat Kill. Rodriguez was contacted by the Director's Guild of America on the first week of shooting. He was told that having more than one director on this project is a big DGA no-no. Rather than take Miller or his name off the project, he told the DGA to get bent and quit the guild.
(from the FAQ posted at IMDB)

Friday, September 24, 2004

Recedite, plebes! Gero rem imperialem!

Are you losing sleep at night because you're worried about the fact that those new electronic voting machines are so insecure even monkeys can hack into them? Then maybe what you need is a new bed to help you feel safe and secure.

I, for one, welcome our new monkey overlords, so I'm just going to go have a sandwich.

If we would learn what the human race really is at bottom, we need only observe it in election times.
(Mark Twain, Mark Twain's Autobiography)

Internet Junkies

Another study about internet addiction and the associated withdrawal symptoms.
Participants in the human experiment were deprived of the web for 14 days, and found themselves quickly succumbing to "withdrawal and feelings of loss, frustration and disconnectedness".
While this cruel "qualitative" torture was inflicted on just 13 households containing 28 guinea pigs, a broader "quantitative" trawl of 1,000 web addicts found that 48 per cent of respondents could not go without the internet for two weeks. This unwillingness to even contemplate disconnection from the digital world was confirmed by Yahoo! chief sales officer Wenda Harris Millard, who reported: "This study is entirely indicative of the myriad ways that the internet, in just ten short years of mainstream consumer consumption, has irrevocably changed the daily lives of consumers. This is true to the extent that it was incredibly difficult to recruit participants for this study, as people weren't willing to be without the internet for two weeks."

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Parenting Tips for Complete Boneheads

Brenda and I watched the last half of the Dr. Phil special last night... If these parents are in any way representative, there’s going to be a whole lot of people growing up in the next generation with absolutely no concept of how Real LifeTM actually works. There was one mother who literally buys her 4-year-old daughter everything she asks for. Her husband took her credit cards away from her, and actually gives her a daily allowance in little envelopes... which she said she cheats anyway by shifting money from one envelope to another. And why does she do this? Because apparently she doesn’t want the girl to be "traumatized", and because she’s afraid of what other people think of her when the girl starts throwing a tantrum in the store. "Other people in the store think I'm beating her, the way she screams" (to which I, personally, would respond, "Has anyone ever actually come up to you and accused you of beating your daughter? No? Of course they haven't, because everyone knows kids throw tantrums, and what those people are actually thinking about you is 'Why does she let her kid get away with that crap? What a lousy mother she is, not even able to win a battle of wills with a preschooler'").

Dr. Phil's advice: Take away 99% of the kid's toys and stuff, and either put it in storage or, better yet, donate it. Keep the few things the girl actually plays with regularly. And I would tend to agree with that advice, except that he didn't give her a good explanation of why she should do this, and I suspect that the result is that nothing will change—either she'll give in and give the toys back, or she'll buy the kid new toys. Because the real reason she needs to do this is not for the kid's benefit so much as for her own. She needs to see this kid throw the worst, god-awful, screaming tantrum fit she's ever had, and survive it. She needs to see that when the kid doesn't get her way by screaming, eventually she will get tired of screaming and stop. And then she'll get over it, probably a lot quicker than mom expects. And, for obvious reasons, this (being basically the first time that throwing a fit doesn't work) is going to need to happen at home rather than out at a store somewhere. But because Dr. Phil didn't tell her any of that, that the main reason for doing this is to train herself to resist the kid's tantrums, or even give her any idea of what to expect when she does it, I suspect that when the kid starts throwing her fit over mom taking her toys away, mom isn't going to be able to go through with it.

And then there was the woman whose 3-year-old son watches 9 hours of television every day, because "it's so easy to just leave him in front of the TV, so I can get work done around the house..." Twit. This is someone who didn't want an actual child; she wanted an ornamental bonsai child she could set out on display on the coffee table when they have guests over: "See my kid? Isn't he adorable?" I guess it hasn't occurred to her that she could get just as much done with the kid playing in the yard, or in his room, or wherever, as she could with him watching TV. Dr. Phil's obvious answer: Get rid of the TVs. Get them out of the house. Of course, there are a couple of problems with that. For one thing, mom's reaction was a facial expression along the lines of "Oh, well, that can't possibly be a serious suggestion, he's just exaggerating to make a point or something", so I'm skeptical she’ll actually do it. I have a feeling the idea of actually not having a television is inconceivable for her. For another thing, this teaches the child that mom is so weak-willed, she can't actually say "no" to him, and it teaches him that if temptation is available to you, at all, it's impossible to not give in to it. Only by making temptation physically unavailable to us can we resist its lure. These are not good lessons.

And I have to say, for all Dr. Phil's reputation as no-nonsense and brutally frank, Brenda and I don't think he was nearly hard enough on these airheads. We decided we probably wouldn’t make very good Dr. Phils, except maybe for people who are only motivated to change by being ridiculed and abused (at least verbally, although there were a few of them who could have used a good thwack on the head with a cricket bat).

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Random Quote seen on Slashdot

"Open the iPod and play The Doors, HAL"

Cultural differences

From a gossip column:
Brit hottie Paul Bettany likes his language salty. “He uses the word ‘c’ [word] more than anybody I’ve ever met, mostly for guys, but he completely uses it like he’s saying the word ‘water,’” Bettany’s “Wimbledon” co-star Kirsten Dunst said while promoting the flick. “I mean, he has the worst mouth ever.” . . .

Maybe someone should explain to Ms. Dunst that, in Britain, the 'c' word doesn't have quite the same stigma that it does here. It's still a "dirty word", it's just not considered quite so beyond the pale across the pond. At least, that's what I've heard.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

This opinion column provides some nice examples of the economic principle referred to in the title of the post: That when the economy as a whole grows, everyone in it benefits.

My personal favorite:
Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

Of course, in all fairness, I should point out that this paragraph is completely inaccurate:
Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family isn't hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs.

The author appears to have simply taken a bunch of items that individually appear in more than 50% of poor households, and stuck them all together as if they were items that all appear together in more than 50% of poor households. In reality, the "typical American defined as poor" probably has one or two of the things in that list, but I would be surprised if more than a very small percentage of them had all of these things, as it is presented here.

As a rough estimate, make the simplifying assumption that these items are independently and randomly distributed among poor households (they wouldn't be, but I don't have any other data to go on). You can them multiply out the percentages of each of the things listed in that paragraph for which percentages are given: Car, air conditioning, microwave, two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo (for those given as only "more than half", I assumed 55%). What you end up with is that, assuming a purely random distribution, only about 6% of poor households would actually contain all of these things together.

Unfortunately, the author of this column has buried the valid point ("Most of America's "poor" live in material conditions that would be judged as comfortable or well-off just a few generations ago.") in favor of attempting to make a point that is much less supported by the evidence he cites ("While this individual's life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty...")

Monday, September 20, 2004

True awesomeness.

Show tunes. Pure genius.

Oh, My Dear Sweet Lord...

From the FAQ posted at IMDB:

"Sin City is based on a series of black & white crime/drama comics created by Frank Miller"

"The leads for the stories are Mickey Rourke (Angelheart, 9 1/2 Weeks, Barfly) as "Marv" in the first segment followed by Bruce Willis (Die Hard, Moonlighting, 12 Monkeys) as "Hartigan" in the second with the third segment featuring Clive Owen (The Bourne Identity, Gosford Park, King Arthur) as "Dwight"."

"We will meet Kevin (Elijah Wood), an angel-faced mute with an affinity for wolves and a taste for human flesh. Then there's "Iron" Jack Rafferty (Benicio Del Toro from Traffic), hero cop and all-around scumbag. Also, there is Jr. Roark (Nick Stahl from Terminator 3), degenerate spawn of the powerful Roark empire"

"[Robert] Rodriguez is currently sharing directorial duties with Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino."

"As per Rodriguez's preference, Sin City will be shot in high definition video, not film, and then digitally changed to black & white with spot color added here and there for visual effect"

Friday, September 17, 2004

It be that time of year again, me hearties

Aye, Jim-boy, International Talk Like a Pirate Day be fast approaching. Arrrrrr! Avast, ye scurvy dogs!

Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.
(Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi)

Monday, September 13, 2004


Brenda came home from the hospital, so while she rested, here are some things we/I watched this weekend:

The Ladykillers: Very good. I’m not sure what it is about the Coen brothers, but every film they’ve ever made (with one exception), as I’m watching it, I’m just filled with glee at seeing something so incredible. The one exception, at the moment, is Intolerable Cruelty, but I’m reserving judgment on it, because I’ve only watched it once so far. Some of their movies take a couple of viewings to appreciate fully. For example, I don’t think I really "got" The Big Lebowski the first time I watched it, but when I went back and watched it again, I suddenly understood what they were doing, and realized how great it actually is. So for now, I officially have no opinion about Intolerable Cruelty yet. But The Ladykillers was immediately very enjoyable.

Lost in La Mancha: This is the documentary that was intended to be the making-of special on the eventual DVD of Terry Gilliam’s movie, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Unfortunately, what it ended up being instead is a documentary about Quixote running into so many problems, they literally shut down and abandoned the project two weeks into production. There were only about 5 days on which actual filming occurred. A real shame, too, because from what can be seen, this looks like it was going to be a really great Gilliam movie. When they put that armor on Jean Rochefort, boy, he just looks like a perfect Don Quixote.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

My exciting weekend

Brenda (my girlfriend/domestic-partner/whatever-you-want-to-call-us) is in the hospital; she had a heart attack late Sunday/early Monday around 1:30-2:00 am. They pretty much immediately went in with a heart cath and put in a stent (they were finished and had her in a room recovering by 6:00 am). They’re expecting to keep her in the hospital for 4-5 days.

So if I don’t manage to get a post of fun stuff up by Friday, it’ll be because I’m a little preoccupied this week...