Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Reefer Internet Porn Madness!

Cyberseduction: His Secret Life:
"In just a few mouse clicks, good-natured student and athlete Justin Peterson (Jeremy Sumpter) went from your average hormonally charged teen to an Internet porn addict."

The only way I can see this being anything but noxious is if they use Da Vinci's Notebook for the theme song.

(via Radley Balko)

Quick Movie Review

The Aviator: Well, first of all, has Scorsese ever even made a movie that wasn't at least very, very good? And then to direct that talent at a story that could just about have been written by Ayn Rand: Genius entrepeneur vs. evil interfering government. Puts a smile on my face. I particularly liked the dialogue at the Hepburn estate/socialist-artist-commune ("We don't care about money here, Mr. Hughes." "Well, that's because you have it.")

On the Ain't It Cool News discussion thread regarding the new King Kong trailer, some people complained about the CGI effects in The Aviator, specifically the "ridiculous camera acrobatics". I believe that what they meant was that the camera did things that no physical camera could ever do, and that this therefore destroyed the illusion for them (and contrasting with the big crash scene, which was a miniature shot with physical cameras, and therefore "felt more real" to them). I'm afraid I can't agree with that argument. Tools develop; they progress. The physical cameras of today are capable of things that the physical cameras of 40 years ago were not. There are possibilities with lighting open to filmmakers now that were not available even a decade or so ago. So should filmmakers refuse to use these new tools, just because they create images that would have been impossible in films made earlier? I'm not just talking about effects work, here. Should Welles have eschewed using deep focus in Citizen Kane, because it would destroy the illusion by presenting images earlier lenses could not have captured?

I find it a particularly ironic complaint with regard to this movie, given its emphasis on Hughes' combination of technological engineering genius and iconoclasm (as exemplified by the line, "Don't tell me what I can't do!")...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

How Empathic Are You?

Can you identify the fake smiles?

Myself, I got 17 out of 20 correct. I misidentified two genuine smiles as fake, and one fake smile as genuine, which tells me I may be very slightly more cynical than I need to be, but not by much at all.

Google Advertisements

I've followed Joe's lead and added Google Adsense advertisements to my blog. For similar reasons: I greatly desired to see what Google's advertising algorithms would do with my recent post entitled "Dance of the Enormous Robot Dildo". Alas, the results weren't nearly as interesting as I had hoped.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

String of Profanity!

Gamespot, an honest-to-god video game news/reviews site, reports on a kid in Japan who beat his parents to death, then blew up their apartment to cover his tracks. They quote the boy saying to police, "I wanted to kill my father since he made a fool out of me. I decided to kill my mother as well, since she was always saying that she wanted to die because of all the work she had to do. I felt sorry for her."

So what headline does Gamespot, a site devoted entirely to video games, remember, a site whose very existence depends on the popularity of such games, attach to this story? "GTA linked to homicide in Japan". Why? Because "the boy's schoolmates have described him as an average student who loved playing video games and who was a fan of Grand Theft Auto III."

What the fuck? How is the video game industry supposed to combat the public misperception of video games as "murder simulators" training whole generations of sociopaths, when even fucking Gamespot uses headlines like that on such a tenuous connection?

Jesus, Peter, Paul, and Mary. You might just as well put on a headline like "Studying linked to homicide in Japan" - he was an "average student", right? Or how about "Being a teenager linked to homicide in Japan", that seems equally relevant.

Sometimes, I think that if I let myself go, I would never stop slapping people.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Weekend Movie Roundup

We didn't quite manage to get out to see Batman Begins this weekend, but we did watch a bunch of stuff at home, as well as a stage production of Steve Martin's (adapted) play, The Underpants. If you're really interested in my opinion on that subject: The play is an amusing farce, though not quite as good as Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile. The performance, particularly the acting, was considerably better than the disappointing recent local production of Crimes of the Heart.

On to the movies:

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: See, this is why I love movies. I know some people complained that this wasn't quite as good as Wes Anderson's other movies, but I don't care. I've said this before, but I've seen so many movies at this point that any time a filmmaker can show me something I've never seen before, it's worth praising for that alone. Wes Anderson has demonstrated that he can reliably do that. My favorite thing in the whole film, and it comes at the very end, so don't read on if you don't like spoilers: Finally facing, again, the Thing that had hurt him so, had utterly destroyed him, Zissou says, "I wonder if it remembers me." I understand completely. I've been there. Any film that can include that kind of emotional truth is a great one, in my book.

Mulholland Dr.: David Lynch, being David Lynch. I think you pretty much either like what he does, or you don't. I happen to like it, so I enjoyed this movie. No, it doesn't make sense in a linear narrative way, but on the other hand, it makes perfect sense when you understand that part/all of the film takes place in one character's mind. Like several of Lynch's other films, it has a dreamlike logic - events on the screen relate to one another in ways that have little to do with traditional dramatic narrative structure, and more to do with the ways our mind connects unrelated images in dreams. Someone on the IMDB discussion board for this film lays out what's "really happening" in some detail, and I find it lines up pretty neatly with my own opinion, for those who insist on understanding the plot on a "literal" level. My only real disagreement with that interpretation is that I disagree with his insistence on labelling part of the film "dream" and part "reality" - personally, I think it's pretty much all dream. Some of the dream is just (probably) a more accurate depiction of reality than the rest.

X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes: A classic Roger Corman movie. A doctor experiments with increasing the frequency range of his own vision, gaining the ability to see through objects, until it all becomes too much for him. In some ways, it's largely an example of untapped potential - the concept is strong, but the movie ultimately doesn't go far enough with it. I would love to see a remake of this, by someone like John Carpenter or David Cronenburg. Imagine a version of this story in which the character at first performs miracles (a doctor able to see inside his patients), then gradually becomes disconnected with other people - much as with the legendary second wife of Adam, he sees only the biological unpleasantness inside everyone. Gradually, as his vision becomes stronger, he begins to see the Lovecraftian horror underlying reality (as in Corman's version, he abruptly does at the very end, talking about vast blacknesses, and the Eye at the center of the universe, watching us all). And then not shying away from the ending Corman apparently discussed but never actually filmed: After clawing out his own eyes, the doctor exclaims, "Oh, God, no! I can still see!" That would have made a great last line of the film, and it's a shame Corman didn't use it. As one review I just found puts it, "Frankly, it's such a good line, we all want it to be part of the movie!"

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Dance of the Enormous Robot Dildo

"The ballerina gracefully dances on a small stage." Make sure you click on the picture to view the video clip, to get the full effect. And this is NASA spending money on this, apparently. "Niche robotics capabilities", indeed.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Additional Weekend Movie Roundup

Having previously posted about Identity, here are other movies we watched recently:

Sideways: Not bad at all. I don't think I'd have called it the best film of the year, but certainly enjoyable. In terms of quality and entertainment value, I'd put it in roughly the same ballpark as As Good As It Gets: Enjoyable, certainly well worth seeing, I'm glad I watched it, but perhaps not quite on the Greatest Films of All Time list. I do think that Maya's "Because a bottle of wine is actually alive" speech (seen in all the preview clips) is probably one of the more pretentious things I've seen in a film recently, but since in context it is late-night after-bar-closing alcohol-haze conversation, it's actually entirely reasonable (I've had late-night conversations like that); I'll forgive them for it.

In Good Company: We actually watched this last weekend, but I'm just getting around to writing it up now. Very interesting. I'd put this in the class of "Movies That Are Better Than They Have Any Right To Be". What I mean by that is that based on the people involved, the premise, and the marketing of the film, there is really no reason to expect it to be any good at all, but somehow it is anyway. Based on the marketing, and the fact that it was directed by the director of "American Pie", it seems like it should be a sitcom-ish cute comedy about a middle-aged guy, and his new younger boss who starts dating his daughter. To some extent, that's accurate, but it's actually a much smarter and more interesting comedy than what you'd probably expect.

I will also mention something I actually first said some time ago: If he plays his cards right, I believe Topher Grace could very well be the next Tom Hanks. He's easily as good an actor, with a similar charm, and he seems to be doing an equally good job of picking projects so far (unlike, say, his colleague Ashton Kutcher, who seems to be a remarkably intelligent young man in all the interviews I've seen, yet tends to pick brainless dumbass movies to act in...).He may not have had a success comparable to "Splash" or "Big" yet, but I, for one, won't be surprised if/when he does.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

News, and Preliminary Weekend Movie Roundup

Just an FYI: Friday was my last day on my current job. My boss didn't seem too happy about it, actually: Monday, she came to me and said that her boss had decreed that because profits were down, they needed to cut development costs for the quarter (ending this month), so he suddenly canceled the project I would have been working on through the end of July. In the email she sent around to the entire team to let them know that three of us were leaving at the end of the week, she said things like "This was unexpected. I usually like to give folks at least three to four weeks advance notice of when I will end their contract. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury this time", and "We are at a point now where every cut hurts us as a team."

I don't expect it will take me too long to find something else. I have several irons in various fires, including applying for positions both at this same company, and at the one that laid me off a year ago. I'm optimistic.

So, on to a quick review of the movie we watched earlier tonight:

Identity: Eenh. Interesting premise, not executed as well as I had hoped. I will point out that this is another case of a "twisty" suspense movie where I (literally, no exaggeration) turned to Brenda before we started watching and said, "Without having watched a frame of this film, here is my prediction of what the big twist ending is:" Yes, I got it right. Again. I had formed this prediction based on the TV trailers, and the title of the movie. What this says to me is that either I am a genius at predicting twist endings, Hollywood movies have gotten way too predictable, or Hollywood trailers have gotten way too revealing.

Without spoiling the twist for others, I will say that it would have been interesting to see it done slightly more realistically, and also to see it done by someone like David Lynch. Those are not mutually exclusive - I maintain that Eraserhead was, and remains, the most realistic depiction of a dream/nightmare ever committed to film.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

This can't be real, can it?

Seen on the MARC Baltimore-D.C. commuter train:

Report, comrade!

Surely this is the work of some guerilla artist making an ironic political statement. Right?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Supreme Court Justices Are Assbags

Well, six of them anyway. O'Conner, Rehnquist, and Thomas still have a little sense left in their heads.

Plenty of others have registered their displeasure with the Gonzalez v. Raich decision yesterday. I'd write up an analysis of everything wrong with the decision, but I'm perhaps a little too disgusted to be rational about it. Fortunately, I don't really need to: Radley Balko has already done a bang-up job on that count. Go read all his posts on the matter. Particularly worth noting are the posts on the left's response to the decision, and a where-do-we-go-from-here look at some pending legislation.

The idea that someone growing marijuana for their own use can be prosecuted on the theory that it's "interstate commerce" is just absurd. Did they cross a state line bringing the buds into the house from the back yard? If this is interstate commerce, then the federal government has no limitations on their power to regulate whatsoever.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Say this peach is the Earth...

Japanese scientists are to explore the centre of the Earth. Using a giant drill ship launched next month, the researchers aim to be the first to punch a hole through the rocky crust that covers our planet and to reach the mantle below.

Friday, June 03, 2005


Kneel before Rod!

[PC | Console] Gaming Is Dead?

CNet predictably predicts the Death of PC Gaming.

This is not exactly anything new. This question seems to come up every time a new generation of consoles is released.

The argument invariably goes something like this: With a whole game console available for under $400, why would anyone pay over $2,000 to play PC games? The new consoles are putting out graphics equal to or better than the best available video cards for PCs, so the more expensive PC offers nothing beyond what the consoles do!

Among the flaws with this argument: People don't pay over $2,000 to play PC games. People pay $1,500 or so for a computer to do all the things one uses a computer for (web, email, office apps, graphics editing, music downloading, etc.), and then spend an extra couple hundred for a video card that they don't need for all that stuff, but which enables them to play games. Comparing the full system price of PCs vs. consoles is comparing Apples to oranges.

As for the second point, that the graphics from a $400 console are as good as the graphics from a $400 video card for a PC: Right now, at this very moment, that's true. However, well before the next generation of consoles is released, probably after about 18-20 months, the $400 PC video cards will be putting out graphics far beyond what the non-upgradeable consoles can do.

And when they are, the folks at CNet and other PC/Tech magazines will be predicting the Death of Console Gaming.

Myself, I expect things to continue much as they always have: Serious game geeks like me will have both a PC and at least one console. College students will have access to both PCs and consoles, even if they don't personally own them all. Technogeeks who aren't interested in games will have PCs. People who can't afford computers will have consoles.

Thursday, June 02, 2005


"As usual, Bill Maher is right."

Erica Jong, apparently still under the impression that we may be less than five years away from nuclear annihilation. And here I could swear we survived the '70s.

First paragraph: She's upset about the nuclear nonproliferation treaty dying. Second paragraph: "I look at my 16-month old grandson, Max, and I try to wrap my mind around a nuclear accident in New York" - wait, "accident"? How would a nonproliferation treaty prevent a nuclear accident in New York? Do we even have any warheads stored in New York? "The materials are there. The terrorists are there." Well, now, if there are terrorists involved, I don't think it's an "accident" we're really worried about, now is it? "What we do know is the more materials out there the more the percentages against our survival go up." Lovely writing, there. Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? "The percentages against our survival go up."

"Think about New York in case of some kind of Chernobyl happening here." Wait, WTF? Chernobyl? What does a catastrophic accident that it would literally be impossible to duplicate on purpose in the U.S. have to do with terrorists and nuclear nonproliferation treaties? "Multiply 9/11 times a million." My god, that would be... nine-hundred-and-eleven million! "People die, get radiation poisoning, children die or get cancer, the stock market tanks, the world stops dead..." Yes, that's right, a tragic nuclear event in New York would cause the complete and global collapse of civilization.

So: The death of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty means that within the next five years, the entire world could be plunged into barbaric dark age, the likes of which has never been known, by a Chernobyl-style nuclear accident, caused by terrorists with a loose nuke. Presumbably, they were holed up in New York where they brought the loose nuke in from whichever ex-Soviet country they bought it in, preparing to transport it to Washington (or wherever they planned to detonate it), when one of them jostled it and it went off accidentally. Or, since that still doesn't sound much like Chernobyl, perhaps the loose nuke's control rods caught fire somehow...?

Anyone who cannot find at least one impossible and one implausible thing* in that last paragraph I wrote, is hereby not qualified to discuss nuclear policy. Nothing about nuclear weaponry, nuclear power, nonproliferation treaties, or the threat of nuclear terrorism. Just keep repeating to yourself: Duck, and cover.

*I counted three of each. There may well be more.