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Monday, December 22, 2003


Christmas 

Merry Christmas. I'm leaving for Christmas, be back... maybe after New Years.

What Saddam deserves 

Jonah Goldberg gets it just right.

Sunday, December 21, 2003


HomeStarRunner 

For those not familiar with it HomeStarRunner is a very funny flash animation site.
Here is the introduction.
Here are some great Strongbad email selections, kid's book, techno, japanese cartoon, guitar, comic

And here is a good halloween cartoon.

Hamas and the Press 

Excellent catch by Powerline.

Saturday, December 20, 2003


Spell checking 

I just find this kind of funny. The word Blog isn't a word by default in the blogger supplied spell-checker.

Buyer's remorse 

Howard Dean, according to the conventional wisdom, will be the Democratic nominee for President in 2004. There is good reason for this. He is leading the polls(Including an overwhelming lead in New Hampshire), he has the organizational and money advantage, and he was recently endorsed by Al Gore. This story, provides a pretty good confirmation. Dean is in the lead and he wants it to stay that way. If any of the other candidates is going to get ahead, he'll have to tear down Dean with negative attacks first.

However, there are signs that many within the Democratic camp are very concerned about this. There is a worry that a Dean candidacy could turn into a major disaster for the Democratic party as a whole. Here's a slam at his foreign policy from the DLC. Jonathan Chait of the New Republic, who attained senior member status in the Hate Bush club for his very long, very emotional, and very factually challenged article on why it's all right to hate George Bush, has gone so far as to start an anti-Dean blog. Here's Kaus's take on one particular Dean campaign remark- "A few more flailingly stupid statements like that--...--and the Dean campaign could succeed in frightening even Iowa Democratic caucus-goers. ..."

Of course, there's also the Wesley Clark phenomenon. Wesley Clark was surrounded by former advisors to Bill Clinton as he entered the race, and it has been widely assumed that the Zipper-man was giving his implicit(but not explicit) support to the Clark campaign. Continuing in this vein of conjecture, it was assumed this was for two reasons, 1)Because of concern over the possible Dean Train wreck, and 2)Because Dean might wrest control of the Democratic party away from the Clinton Political machine. Of course, Clinton hasn't outright endorsed Clark. After all, he would look foolish giving his early support to a candidate who failed ignominiously, which is exactly where it seems Clark is headed.

This raises the question, why is Al Gore giving such early support to a candidate who may turn out to be a disaster for the Democratic party? The simple answer is that Al Gore is an idiot, not to mention a bad politician. He has never really succeeded in any great degree in the political arena. He essentially inherited Tennessee from his father, an enormously influential and popular politician there. From there, he failed to secure the Democratic nomination for president. He got a lucky boost when Bill Clinton gave him a ride to the Vice-President's office. He was perfectly positioned to win the presidency, but then he screwed it royally. He disassociated himself from a popular President and a booming economy so he could prove something by relying on his own political skills and charisma(shudder). Here's a tip for all aspiring politicians, if you're the sort of person who will attempt some sort of weird serial-killer stalking routine in the middle of a Presidential debate on national television, rely on other people's charisma whenever possible. If Dr.Dean were a superstitious man, he might regard an Al Gore endorsement as the equivalent of a black cat crossing his path. ... As it knocked over and shattered a mirror.... underneath a ladder.

Peta, Peta, Peta... 


You can't parody this stuff. It's simultaneously hilarious and disturbing. Peta apparently plans to hand these fliers out to children. Tim Blair and Eye on the Left comment.

Update: This actually reminds me of those satirical propaganda posters done by modern humorist.

Friday, December 19, 2003


Iraq- Al Queda? 

If the Clinton administration says it, they're obviously telling the truth. But if the Bush administration says it, it's a lie.

The Skeptical Environmentalist 

To anyone who hasn't heard, Bjorn Lomborg is a Danish statistician who published a book that questioned much of the conventional wisdom regarding environmental issues. I haven't read the book, but some sort of official Danish committee formally rebuked him for supposed scientific dishonesty. The rebuking panel has now been rebuked. The Economist has further comments.

Iranian reaction 

An interesting article on Iranian reaction to the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Previews 

Before RotK, I saw previews for the Butterfly Effect, the Mask 2, The Chronicles of Riddick, and Spiderman 2. Spiderman 2 looks like it will be great, I look forward to that. The Mask 2 preview is sketchy. You don't see any live actors and none are listed(Jim Carrey?), the only thing you see is an obviously animated baby that jumps up and does a somersault. Animated babies that jump around and dance are pretty much like nails on a chalkboard to me, so I almost certainly won't be seeing that movie. The Chronicles of Riddick is a sequel to the movie Pitch Black starring Vin Diesel. I saw pieces of Pitch Black on cable in a motel room, and it was actually ok. The sequel is a big budget affair science fiction movie, and it could be good. Vin Diesel, despite his propensity for starring in mindless action movies, is a good actor. However, this could just be another one of those aforementioned... mindless action movies. I had read a description of The Butterfly Effect earlier, and had written it off solely on the basis that it was starring Ashton Kutcher. The preview actually made it look like it might be worthwhile. It's a time travel, changing the past and causing catastrophic unintended consequences in the present story, and it looks reasonably well done, and Ashton's acting isn't embarassingly bad.

More Movies 

If you are a Bruce Campbell fan, you should check this out. I haven't seen it, no theaters near me show it. I'll have to wait for video.

Virtual St.Petersburg 

Here

Thursday, December 18, 2003


Return of the King 

Well, I liked it. Quite a bit actually.

I got there at 3:15 for the 4 o'clock show, and there were already 50 people in line. Yet again, all shows were sold out for the day.

The movie stays truer to the book than the Two Towers, and the battle scenes didn't have the grating cheesiness of much of those in TT. A lot of stuff is cut from the plot, which is necessary, as it is, the movie is over 3 hours long and still feels rushed much of the time. To substitute for the cut plot, they provide shorter solutions that get to pretty much the same end point. It's not perfect, but a seven hour movie wasn't an option so...

The battles were pretty good, one thing that annoyed me were catapult strikes hitting huge stone walls and collapsing them in one hit like a bunch of children's blocks. This bothered me both as unrealistic( yeah, I know, like trolls and magic rings aren't) and as unbalanced. Why bother with battering rams and siege towers if they could have just knocked a big hole in the wall with a couple of catapult hits? There were scenes with Giant elephants that were very reminiscent of the fight against the AT-ATs in The Empire Strikes Back. That was actually ok.

In general, the characters are simplified and given less depth than in the book. Also, Gandalf is made less wise so that Aragorn can essentially gain some stature at his expense. This is somewhat understandable and pretty much in line with the previous two movies, but in one case, that of Denethor, it was unnecessary and really weakened the movie. Denethor was made into a simpler villainous character just so Jackson could have some more action and drama in a movie that already has plenty. Of course, more arbitrary Arwen(Liv Tyler) and the elves plot stuff was tacked in, which was neither better or worse than I expected.

Early in his career, Peter Jackson made a move called Dead Alive. It is apparently fairly entertaining in addition to being very schlocky. He still has some of this sensibility in him and it shows up particularly in scenes with orcs. He has this way of leering and lingering over the grotesqueness of the orcs that frankly diminishes the seriousness of the story. In this movie, this shows up even more, since he has an undead ghost army to work with. Not just there, but in other suspenseful, 'scary' scenes there is a definite Evil Dead vibe. Anything that makes me think of Army of Darkness doesn't really belong in this movie.

The end of the movie is probably something that will cause a great many people to complain. Essentially, after the day is won, there's about 20 minutes of epilogue. I loved it. It was slow, it was reflective, it gave you a chance to stop and feel this wonderful world Jackson(and Tolkien) has created. This is especially important because the entire preceding movie doesn't give you a chance to catch your breath, endlessly pummeling you with special effects and enormous action set pieces. Events that take hours and days(or should) seem to happen all at once. The epilogue is essentially symmetrical, mirroring the early peaceful scenes in The Fellowship, which I loved as well. It also was more or less faithful to the book, except it doesn't have 'the scouring of the shire', which is fine, I think. The Scouring was fine in the book, but in the movie it would added substantial length, which they couldn't have afforded, and really wasn't necessary for the development of the story, which was over in all important respects at that point.

I suppose if they made a seven hour version of this movie(and the others), I would watch it, along with the other diehards, and love it. However, Jackson is forced to consider commercial aspects, so he has to keep it at a (somewhat)reasonable length.

Compared to the other movies? I liked it far better than Two Towers, and not quite as much as the Fellowship. Why did I like the Fellowship more? Because, first, it had more quiet time. It had a better balance between sensory assaults and reflection. Secondly, because it had a smaller group of characters, it could focus more tightly on those and draw them better. Lastly, because of Sean Bean and Boromir. The actor, I think, provided the best work in the whole trilogy, and I find Boromir to be the deepest and most interesting character, at least as shown in the movies.

Jacob Levy has more thoughts.

To move on to a related subject I've read stories that Peter Jackson wants to make The Hobbit. If this is really true and he really wants to do this, it will happen. After the massive pile of money and critical acclaim he has produced for the studio, he can do anything he wants. Only two major characters show up in both the Lord and the Hobbit, Bilbo and Gandalf. Ian Holm is too old to do a young Bilbo(They actually taped back the skin on the sides of his face to remove the wrinkles in that one flashback scene and I don't see them doing that for a whole movie). That leaves Ian Mckellan, and I'm sure they can offer him enough money to do it.

I've thought about this, and I've decided I'm okay with it. I'm not completely happy with what Jackson has done with the Lord of the Rings, but the Hobbit is actually a much less cohesive work, so he can meddle around quite a bit with it and not do any appreciable harm.

A demonstration 

In the interest of demonstrating a capability for displaying images, I offer this

This is the American contestant to the recently completed Miss World contest in China. Here's the winner, Miss Ireland

I actually think Miss America is better looking, but it's hard to say, because the Miss World site is remarkably stingy with photos. There are only two pictures of Miss America provided, and they are both close-up publicity type face shots. There aren't any more natural, realistic type pictures that would be much better for judging how she really looks. Plus no swimsuit pictures. I mean come on!

50 Reasons 

Why Lord of the Rings sucks.

Pretty funny.

Nonviolent solutions 

I read this some time ago. I was reminded of it again recently. Very funny.

This is good as well.

F***ing Psycho B*** 

"I shouldn't take it personally. Because what (the Bush) administration was attempting to do was turn back the progress of the entire 20th century. They were not just after Bill Clinton - they wanted to undo Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt. They were on their way to Teddy Roosevelt. It was a bipartisan right-wing extreme agenda." - Senator Hillary Clinton

She can say anything she wants, and everybody just nods and smiles. No accountability.

France 

Roger Simon returns from France and provides his assessment.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003


Some funny stuff 

Frank J explores what would happen if an ancient evil Japanese demon were to run for the Democratic nomination.

Saturday Night Live apparently ran a skit that very amusingly parodies the hysterical extremes of Bush-hating.

Ok, one more 

This comment is priceless

Unfortunately it is too late for new product placements, however in the extended version DVD of Return of the King, due out just in time for Christmas 2004, there is a scene where Sam and I stop at a Pizza Hut on the way to Mount Doom. The scene is an homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction where would be Orc robbers hold up the restaurant and unaware of what it is, try to steal the ring from me.

Posted by: Frodo on December 16, 2003 10:02 AM


Lord of the Rings 

Actually this sums it up pretty well.

Tomorrow 

Well, I bought my ticket for Return of the King. Tomorrow at 4pm. They were already completely sold out for today's shows, which I wasn't too surprised at. It was 2:30 and there were already about 10 people in line for the 4pm show. And this is a Wednesday.

I have to say, I have some apprehensions about the movie. Jonah Goldberg writes, "The battles are bigger and better than even the Helm's Deep conflagration of The Two Towers" The problem here is that the Helm's Deep battle sucked. It demonstrated that Peter Jackson didn't know how to stage a large scale battle in a way that was intense and convincing rather than a cheesy Bruckheimerian Action Movie exercise. Aragorn and Gimli pop out the little secret-side door right next to the gate.... and nobody in that giant horde just across the way notices? And then they do the 'dwarf-tossing' routine again, right on top of a bunch of upraised spears that somehow don't impale the tossed dwarf and then.... Everything about that battle reeked of pandering to ADD afflicted 10-year old boys who need some kind of arbitrary crisis created and resolved every five minutes. Braveheart was a movie that knew how to stage a battle. A battle fundamentally is about two large groups of men(or humanoids) slaughtering each other until one side wins. It isn't about one hero or individual pulling out some cute little trick that saves the day in one swoop. Jackson tries to personalize the battles far too much. For example, that one orc, conveniently wearing a nice shiny mail coat, who makes a mad dash to light the explosives. A big deal is made of trying to shoot him before he gets there. Why? Were they hoping the torch would go out and that was the only one the orcs had in the entire army? Then there is the cavalry charge into the leveled spears of the orcs. If you saw Braveheart I shouldn't need to explain the problem there. In case you aren't familiar with the book, none of this is in the book, save for the fact that explosives were used to breach the wall, but without any of the cheesy melodrama of the olympic torch runner.

Whew. Feels good to vent. Hopefully Return of the King will be better.

Pictures 

All right, to post pictures, or have them as part of my design, I have to have an external server to hold them, since Blogger won't store them for free. I tried getting a GeoCities free site, but it acted very weird when I tried to use that as the source. I think it's because GeoCities requires advertising on your free web site, and by just using it as a file server I was bypassing the advertising. I tried putting up an image drawn from some other web site, and that worked fine. Oh well, no pictures for now.

On a personal Note 

To those who want to know what's going on in my life, here's an update. I'm still not employed. I still have no prospect of employment. I still live in South Lake Tahoe. I'm going to New Zealand in March. The snowboarding season has been decent so far, steady snow falls at decent intervals since early December. We haven't had a huge dump of snow like last year, but then again, last year it almost completely dried up through January and February, so slow and steady could be all right. I'll be coming down to LA a few days before Christmas. I haven't seen Return of the King yet, I'm hoping to see it Thursday. I'm cautiously optimistic, reviews have been incredibly glowing, but then again, reviews were good for The Two Towers, and I was pretty disappointed with that. The movie I saw most recently was Master and Commander, which I saw with Dad, and I highly recommend it. Not much else new in my life.

On Hatefests..... 

When the Republicans held their National Convention in 1992, the press went on and on about how it was a "hatefest". In fact, you'll still see references to this in the press today. The problem is, it wasn't really true. Pat Buchanan used some rather confrontational 'us vs. them' rhetoric, but it wasn't any worse than Al Gore's 'people vs. the powerful' demagoguery in 2000, and that got a pass. Well, Howard Dean recently held a fundraiser that really could be called a "hatefest", and it pretty much got ignored by the press. It was covered in a column in the New York Post, read it here.

Global Warming and the Hockey Stick 

Read this , If you're interested in the Global Warming debate.

Also, if you haven't seen the Crichton essays, see them here and here

Some Perspective on the UN 

"I have had the ideal background for being an actor. I have always been an outsider. I grew up in colonial Africa. And I remember in 1955, it would have to be somewhere between July the 25th when the school holiday started and September the 18th when the holidays ended. My father took me down to the quayside in Dar-Es-Salaam harbor. And he pointed out a dhow in the harbor and he said, “You see that dhow there? Twice a year it comes down from Aden. It stops here and goes down [South]. On the way down it's got boxes of machinery and goods. On the way back up it’s got two or three little black boys on it. Now, those boys are slaves. And the United Nations will not let me do anything about it.”"
-John Rhys-Davies

More from the interview here

Geography Quiz! 

Eugene Volokh has a quiz for you. I got two out of three right, and I was close on the third. It was down to two choices and I guessed wrong.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


This is my First post.... Just testing.... testing.... testing.... echo... echo...

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