Monday, January 30, 2006

Blogs a Fad?; PI Book Editor; Giant Elephant Robot; All-Girl AC/DC; Brokeback Redux

I like this Arnold Kling essay quite a bit. Excerpts: One way to distinguish a fad from a trend is to ask what would happen if you reversed the order in which technologies were invented... ...Suppose that the news media consisted of individual reporters and blogs. If someone came along and invented newspapers, CNN, or other centralized news media, would we see this as an improvement?

Here is the blog of Philadelphia Inquirer Book Review Editor Frank Wilson. I think I'll add him to the blogroll next time I update.

Via The Speculist, here's a giant elephant robot walking around in France.

What does the world need to make it complete? An all-girl AC/DC cover band, of course. How could I have gone this long without knowing of AC/DShe?

The other day at work, I was saying that I'd probably pass on seeing Brokeback Mountain at the theater, and that I might just see it on DVD sometime, no big hurry. I had mentioned that elsewhere and someone (can't remember who) had a reaction that suggested that people who don't see BB Mtn must be homophobic. Absolutely not; I'm quite libertarian about all that -- the boys from Brokeback are not threatening to me, etc. etc. However (building my syllogism) if I wouldn't go to the theater to see a romance about two heterosexual cowpeople in love, why would anyone expect me to make the effort for a movie about two homosexual cowpeople in love? Have a movie about two gay guys fighting off a zombie siege, and I am totally there.

I guess that probably makes me a hypocrite or a pig or something for finding this amusing. Whatever.

Happy National Gorilla-Suit Day!

I hope everybody has gotten their gorilla suits back from the cleaners, because National Gorilla Suit Day is almost here! (I added the hyphen myself.) For those of you not in the know, NGSD's patron saint is Mad Magazine's maddest artist, the late great Don Martin. Here are Fred Hembeck's comments from last year, and here are some words from NGSD's greatest proselytizer, Mark Evanier. As Mr. Evanier has pointed out, this year President Bush will be giving his State of the Union Address on NGSD. Evanier excerpt:

George W. Bush will be delivering his 2006 State of the Union address on National Gorilla Suit Day. I think it would be a nice gesture of respect to the holiday if he addressed the joint Houses of Congress wearing a gorilla suit.

I don't really think G.W. would seriously consider doing that, though. Just another symptom of the War on National Gorilla Suit Day.

A Couple of Things...

  • Not to shock anyone, but we watched the documentary Inside Deep Throat this weekend. (It's by the same guys that made an earlier documentary that I liked called The Eyes of Tammy Faye.) Very interesting (no, really!) -- it dealt with The First Amendment, the mob, old Hollywood, new Hollywood, technological advances, nostalgia, complicated human relationships, federal control vs. individual liberty, you name it. Interviewees include Camille Paglia, Dick Cavett, Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Marilyn Chambers, Hugh Hefner, Alan Dershowitz, and many more. Make sure to check out the extras, too.
  • Ever want to swear at someone in Xhosa or Romanian? Then check out the Insult Monger's Swearsaurus for practical vocabulary lessons in those and 168 other languages. (NSFW/ads; Also, pop-up warning.)
  • Steinhaltu kjafti helvítis hórutussa!

  • Richard Lester, Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune, Tom Savini, Alice Cooper, Fred Thompson, Pam Grier, Jack Webb, James Ellroy, Steve Ditko, Nina Hagen, Doris Wishman, and Bernard Herrmann all really are Interesting Motherfuckers; With that, you just cannot argue.
  • Adventures in Ethics and Science has moved over to be a part of a compendium of science blogs organized by Seed Magazine. The Mungers are part of this project too, with Cognitive Daily.
  • Kottke points to this analysis of instances of high numbers of Star Wars actors appearing together in non-Star Wars films.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Trillin on Lugar

Going through more stuff, I found a clipping from about 10 years ago that I thought I'd share here. It's from (The Nation? The New Yorker? The New Republic? One of those N magazines.) Calvin Trillin wrote this piece of poetry regarding Richard Lugar's unsuccessful run for the Republican nomination in 1996. Mr. Lugar got single-digit poll numbers for having dared to suggest that preventing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists might take precedence over discerning who in the Clinton entourage slept with whom.

Lugar as Candidate
by Calvin Trillin

Poor Lugar's problem's quite specific:
The man is simply soporific.
His speeches, well prepared and deep,
Affect one much like counting sheep.
Although his résumé is great, he
Can really make your eyelids weighty.

His ads now say that he's the guy
We want in charge if bad types try
To do atomic terror here.
He may be right, except it's clear
If Dick is Prez -- make no mistake --
We'll need The Bomb to stay awake.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Eine Kleine Geburtstagmusik

Happy 250th Birthday to W.A. Mozart! Tomorrow marks a quarter of a millennium since the birth of my favorite classical composer. Here's the official Mozart 2006 blog. (Auf Deutsch.) Weil du kannst keine Deutsch lesen, hier ist der (die? das?) Blog von Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. (In English.)

The Russkies are having an "International blitz-competition for composers" to celebrate.

This gentleman attempts to set the record straight on Mozart fact and fiction. Excerpt: Anselm Huttenbrenner reported that Salieri always spoke of Mozart "with exceptional respect," and the two composers were on friendly enough terms so that Salieri would loan Mozart scores from the court library. Apart from Constanze's remark, there exists no independent evidence to conclude that Salieri and Mozart were on bad terms. On the contrary, their relationship may have been a healthy professional one. (Maybe Salieri wasn't Dean Wormer after all?)

They have a bunch of recommendations for listening and reading up at Marginal Revolution.

In my desk drawer at work, I have some Mozart discs sitting on top of my copy of Never Mind the Bollocks. Here's the Times Literary Supplement's comparison of Mr. Mozart to Mr. Vicious.

But does listening to him make you smarter? Sid Vicious, certainly. Not even disputed. But Mozart? Wellll... The Mungers tackle that question here, here, and here.

And LBNL, here are some gift ideas featuring Mozart and his friends.

A Few Things I Read and Liked...

Boing Boing points to a great essay on Digital Rights Management gone insane.

Here's a piece from Slate about YA novelist Louis Sachar that caught my attention.

Sometimes at work they accuse me (me?!?) of going on and on and on when a topic catches my attention. Here's a guy that takes that to another level, in that every sentence of this academic essay is self-referential.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sunday Afternoon Stuff

Well, I've been working on my move-the-CDs-to-the-living-room-shelves project a bit today. The classical stuff all fits into three of those little crates that I'm using (each of which holds about 40 discs). I put all my ♥GF♥'s discs into one regular-size and one half-size crate next to the sterero. (I want to consult with her before I put them in any order.) Jazz next; I think that'll be about five crates, and then world music, blues, bluegrass, and misc. I think I'm keeping the rock albums in here (my bedroom), more for considerations of space than anything else.

I've found some cool stuff that I had forgotten I had, some of which I have never even listened to, some of which I can't understand why I haven't listened to it in so long. For instance -- Have kids? Like classical music? Look no further than Beethoven's Wig ("Beethoven's Wig... Is Very Big..."). There's also Beethoven's Wig 2.

How about Latin American indie rock? Check out Colombia's Aterciopelados. (That's Colombia the country, not Columbia the record label.) I have three of their albums, and I haven't listened to them in probably two years, even though Time Magazine identified them as one of the ten best bands in the world. (This was back in Sept. 2001; I know I have the issue around here somewhere. Stupid Time Magazine makes you pay to search their archives -- Here's a cache of part of their special music issue.)

Like jazz? (If you don't, don't tell me.) If you ever get a chance to pick up The Verve Story: 1944-1994, do it! It's a four-disc compilation of Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Illinois Jacquet, Stan Getz, Wes Montgomery & Jimmy Smith, and a whole bunch more great artists. Again, due to the letter "V"'s position in the alphabet, I forgot I even had this. I'm going to put it in my briefcase and listen to it on the way to work tomorrow. If my drive is anything like Friday's, I'll have time to listen to all four discs.

Meanwhile, I found this guy over at Nude Magazine who reorganized his record collection and is documenting his feelings about each album quite thoroughly. (Just so I don't get accused of having too much time on my hands.)

Now I had never heard of Nude Magazine before, and it sounded like something that could hold my attention. It wasn't what I had originally thought it might be, but it's still pretty good. Here's from their About Us page: Nude was launched in August 2003 by Suzy Prince and Ian Lowey; two people brought together by a shared interest in many of the strange and exotic things which exist at the margins of pop culture. Prior to launching Nude, Suzy owned and ran the late lamented Last Chance Saloon shop in Waterloo; a counter-culture emporium which also served as the venue for massively successful first British art shows by Coop, Frank Kozik and Vince Ray amongst others. Ian was formerly a member of the Strangely Satisfying collective, who ran a popular store in Camden, selling lowbrow art, zines, books and other underground ephemera. Nude has evolved as a logical extension of these projects, another means of championing all manner of stuff we care passionately about. As such, Nude aims to celebrate the spirit of wayward creativity in all its forms, serving up an eclectic mix of contemporary graphics, deviant design, outsider and alternative musics, eccentric architecture, cult writing, indie film, cutting-edge fashion and profiles of maverick genius the world over. It exists as a cross between a fanzine and a commercial magazine, in that the subjects we cover always reflect our own personal interests as well as those of our contributors, but we aim to make Nude as colourful and accessible as possible. In doing so, we try to ensure that Nude is free from the kind of fashionable post ironic cynicism that bedevils many other publications. We prefer the more honest approach of sticking your neck out and admitting to liking things. I like that last sentence a lot. Looks like lots of the stuff they have is abridged from the longer articles in the print versions (like this Bob Moog piece) but still, they're certainly worth a look.

The other day I watched another one of those VHS tapes I got last fall from the going-out-of-business sale at a video store a couple of counties over. To recap, I grabbed about 12 or 15 tapes of late 70s/early-to-mid-80s sex comedies, slasher movies, science fiction, etc. of the sort that no one is in too much of a hurry to release on DVD. (Probably none of the actors are in too much of a hurry to admit they appeared in them, either.) This time, the film in question was 1987's Psychos in Love. Here is the only online review I found of this movie*, and I have to agree with his summation: I just cannot believe how much I laughed through this. Joe and Kate would argue about where their relationship is going while disposing of bodies. The plumber / killer / cannibal is very good. The gore is cheap but good. I recommend this like I recommended "Scary Movie," with some reservations and a stern warning that this will probably not enrich your life in any way. Bon appetit! (I must add -- the title song and accompanying montage are nothing short of fantastic.) To put it another way, if you have ever used the words "plumber," "killer," and "cannibal" in the same sentence, you definitely want to see this. If not, it's optional.

* I just noticed that they pasted that review to the bottom of the imdb page. Whatever.

I'm almost done with watching a real good documentary called The Nomi Song about a guy I had not really been familiar with before, a 70s-80s new-wave performance artist named Klaus Nomi. Real interesting guy. I'm going to have to do some further research and do a whole post on him later this week or next. He drew heavily from a lot of Weimar Berlin influences, which is a topic that interests me, as well as 50s sci-fi movies, opera, and pop standards. In his performances, he often looked like he might have just walked off a Fritz Lang set.

Finally, based on the title of Amba's post from last night, titled "Has Radical Islam Found Its Hitler?" I now feel justified regarding this brief NOTM post from last summer about Mr. Ahmadinejad over there in Iran. Up until now, I was afraid that I might have hurt his feelings. Seriously though, this is a guy who passionately loathes all of the fun, interesting, silly, artistic, brilliant, stupid, brilliantly stupid, dirty sophisticated, original manifestations of human creativity of the sorts mentioned above. He's the world's foremost Anti-KlausNomian. (At least the dictator they have in North Korea likes our movies.) And he wants the whole rest of 1) Iran, and 2) the world, to hate it all just as much as he does. Or else.

Guys like Ahmadinejad hate images like the above. (Weirdos!) I should post more stuff like this, just to piss him off. USA! USA!

Sunday Morning Stuff

Via Crooked Timber, here's a great National Journal piece on the political influence of the Blogosphere. It was reprinted from the magazine, and it seemed strange (primitive, really) not to have a bunch of hyperlinks in the body of the text. Really good article, check it out. Excerpts: One milestone came during the confirmation hearings of Chief Justice John Roberts. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, acknowledged having read blogs the night before and then asked Roberts a question based on a post at The Volokh Conspiracy... ..."People sat up and took notice when they heard Senator Cornyn, a 50-something Republican from Texas who is not your stereotypical hipster geek, begin his questioning of John Roberts by saying that Cornyn had stayed up the night before reading the blogs to see what they were saying about him. Then Cornyn proceeded to ask Roberts a question that a blogger had [raised]."

Freakonomics points to the Lulu Titlescorer, which is supposed to analyze the type of title a book has and use decades of best-seller list information to predict the book's popularity. Excerpt: The Lulu Titlescorer has been developed exclusively for Lulu by statisticians who studied the titles of 50 years' worth of top bestsellers and identified which title attributes separated the bestsellers from the rest. We commissioned a research team to analyse the title of every novel to have topped the hardback fiction section of the New York Times Bestseller List during the half-century from 1955 to 2004 and then compare them with the titles of a control group of less successful novels by the same authors. I'm trying to decide whether this is BS or not. Here are some results that Language Log got playing around with this thing last month. Here is the website of the software business partially owned by the guy who developed the statistical model.

Here's an insightful NYT article on the use of footnotes in audiobooks. I'd like to see strategies for how to include maps, charts, and pictures in audiobooks. Maybe include pdf or other image files on the compact disc versions, as happens with lots of music CDs these days. That, or have the narrator say something like, "OK, there's this kind of crooked red arrow that shows how the 4th Infantry Division moved forward, and then there are three swastikas that show where the German tanks were..." etc. as needed.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Done With Snow Crying

OK, all done with complaining about the snow. It's what sets us apart from those pansies down in Arizona. We did some driveway shoveling today, I went and let the friends' dog out, and I went grocery shopping. All has returned to normal.

I watched the documentary End of the Century this morning, about the career of The Ramones. Real good film for anyone even slightly interested in the early punk rock scene. Good thing they got those interviews when they did. Joe Strummer was interviewed, and told a story about some Ramones gigs in the U.K. that were attended by The Clash and The Pistols before they hit it big. I'll have to look into that further.

Here's Unlocked Wordhoard on the question of the gayness of Paraguay. Excerpts: One serious drawback to being a textual scholar is that I find it hard to see text anywhere without some part of my mind analyzing it. Yes, unfortunately this includes restroom graffiti. On a wall in my building, some scribe decided to immortalize the sentence "Paraguay es en Sudamerica"... ...The next change that followed was someone scribbling the words "is gay" over the latter half of the sentence, making "Paraguay is gay."... ...The next phrase, with an arrow pointing to the "Paraguay is gay" reads, "You wish fag."

Here's Arnold Kling at TCS on How Thinkers Influence Us. Excerpt: If folk beliefs were popular music, then one of the biggest rock stars of the 1950's and 1960's was Sigmund Freud, who had died in 1939. Freud dominated the charts, with hits like "Oedipus complex," "sibling rivalry," "phallic symbol," and many others. What strikes me about Freud is both how spectacularly pervasive his ideas became in a relatively short period of time -- and how quickly many of them have faded. The idea of unconscious desires has survived, and with it the term "Freudian slip." Overall, however, the prevalence of Freudian concepts in popular discussion among people born after 1980 is far lower than among people born before 1960. The scholarly impact of Freud may persist, but in the decades to come Freud may turn out to have no more cultural significance than Herman's Hermits.

OK, tired now. Must sleep.

Oh, the Weather Outside...

OK, sorry about the potty mouth before. Usually I don't blog to emote, but last night I had the worst snowstorm driving experience of my life. I have a 20-mile commute, and it usually goes fine, even in bad weather. 30 minutes is my best time, and when traffic is bad, it might get to 45 minutes.

Last night I walked out the door at work at about 6:05, and didn't walk in the door at my house until 10:25.

There's a long two-lane road (a main artery, not a dirt road or anything like that) with a bunch of ups and downs near my work that I have to travel for about 10 miles on my way home. I turned the corner onto this road, and in a couple of minutes I came upon heavy traffic backup as far as the eye could see. I probably went 100 yards in 45 minutes. Then, the cops were waving drivers off to the left onto a country road that I had never been on before. I'm like "great." So I followed a bunch of cars along through unfamiliar territory until I ended up turning on to where I thought would bring me back to where I wanted to go. Before I was able to do that, I spent another 45 minuted waiting in a long line behind a trailer truck that got stuck somehow, in back of a car full of teenagers who thought it would be funny to throw snowballs at all the cars coming the other way.

So I finally get past all that and on to the main stretch of road that I wanted. I had been planning to go over to meet my ♥GF♥ at the house of some friends of hers for whom she was dog-sitting so that I could get the key to let the doggie out Sat. afternoon so that she could go help her other friends do something. I got down (driving slowly, of course) without much incident to the town next to mine, and I had to pull over to knock the snow off of my back windshield, because even though I had cleaned everything off before I left, all the snow that had accumulated on the roof decided to slide back onto my back windshield so that I was totally blind in my rear view. The snowfall had picked up at that point so that even if you got out and cleared your windows off, they'd be totally covered less than five minutes later.

I had half of a bottle of water left over from work and 2/3 of a bagel that I bought Wednesday that I hadn't eaten and that I had left in my car; This was dinner.

So when I got into town, heading in the general direction of my ♥GF♥'s friends' house, I came upon another traffic backup at a medium-sized intersection. In all of this there was nothing but confusion. Were people stuck in snowbanks? Were there actual accidents? Couldn't tell you. But after I sat in this particular clog for about 45 minutes or so, traffic had started inching forward. Lanes were irrelevant. I could see police cars with flashing lights pulled off to the side up ahead. Some genius started waving cars into the left side of the road, and in the darkness and confusion I thought he was a cop. Guess what? He wasn't a cop. This became evident after the real cops came over and told him to quit, but by that time I had moved out of the inch-by-inch travel of the regular lanes and got stuck in the middle of the road, halfway sticking out into what should be the oncoming lanes, totally stuck (with about ten other cars in the same predicament, on top of the hundreds that were backed up in some other manner in the same incident). This whole time, I was probably a mile and a half from the friends' house in one direction and a mile and a half from my house in the other.

Then the ambulance came. Oh my God, I can't remember the last time I felt so horribly powerless. I was envisioning the medics pulling a baby out of a rolled-over car or something, en route to the hospital, stuck behind all this parking lot, with me in the wrong lane and unable to move. Keep in mind that everyone was blind, except for their front windshield view and driver or passenger window view, if those windows were rolled down. It was horrible. Not-a-cop Genius started trying to direct things again, but the real cops went over and told him to knock it off. (Direct quote: "Do me a favor. Don't help anymore.") After what seemed like an eternity, I got my car into another lane, and managed to get it through the intersection, and made it down to the next intersection, where I saw a much smaller bunch of people (nowhere near as many as before) who were trying to push some cars out of the snow. I told them they did not want to go that way (i.e., the intersection from which I had just come) and I realized that I was quoting the guy from the beginning of the Dawn of the Dead remake. As I was sitting at that intersection, waiting, I saw the ambulance finally come through behind me and make the turn it needed to to get to the hospital.

So I made the turn to go towards my house. (I must have called my ♥GF♥ a dozen times to give her updates and/or release frustration, and I rarely make frustration-release calls) and I made it (slowly but surely) to my street. As I turned into my side street (this was at about 9:40) there was a guy stuck in the middle of the street. I was three houses away from home! Once on Lost in Space they almost made it back to Earth, and were able to see it, but couldn't reach it.

One of my best friends lives on my street. In a demonstration of why he is one of my best friends, he came out and spent 45 minutes helping the other guy get unstuck, helping me get unstuck from the area in which I had been stuck trying to get out of the other guy's way, and helping me hand shovel out a spot in my driveway to put the car, even though he had to get up early and go to work the next day (i.e. today).

So, after four hours of nerve-wracking, hazardous commuting (I was surprised I didn't have to fight the Cyclops, though I felt like I did have to negotiate Scylla and Charybdis several times) I made it home, soaking wet, cold, hungry, grouchy. I know that there are all sorts of things that could have gone wrong that didn't; I didn't go into a ditch, my car didn't get smashed up, I wasn't in the ambulance. But I was still as happy to see my house as I have ever been.

Dammit, I wish I hadn't left my house keys on my desk at work.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Blizzard of 'Ought Six,

Ordinarily, most of my friends think I am pretty even-keeeled and not too excitable. But let me just say this about my drive home from work today:
So at about 2:30 this afternoon, we went for a walk at work. Nice day out. At about 3:30, I looked out the window and there was the slightest hint of a snow flurry. At 4:30, it was really coming down. I figured I'd wait a bit to let traffic subside. so I left the office at about 6:05. I walked in the door of my house at 10:20 PM. What is ordinarily a 35-minute drive took over four hours.
Further comments tomorrow. (Hint: The whole thing sucked.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Memo to CNN

Memo to CNN:

Re: Today's Dallas Freeway Chase

When you see an angry black woman get out of a car with a baby in the back seat, and that car has just been hit by an oncoming BMW driven by a fugitive from the police, and the woman looks in the window of the BMW and immediately strikes the window with her fist and yells something at the driver, that probably does not mean that she is "checking to see if the driver of the other car is OK" as was asserted by your anchors.

It means that the BMW guy is lucky that a couple dozen cops rolled up right away, or else he'd really be in trouble.

Page 124: "When some asshole is going the wrong way down the freeway because the police are chasing him and hits your car head-on while your baby is in the back, get over there and smack the shit out of him."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Playing Hooky

OK, I guess it's not hooky when you sign up in advance to take a couple of days off, and you go in on Sunday afternoon and stay late Monday night to get ahead on work, but still, it's odd to be hanging around the house on a weekday -- weekdays have a different feel than weekends.

Doing some more cleaning out of stacks of stuff from the book room, and I also want to see if I can get the CDs in the living room in some kind of order. After we put up the bookshelves and stuff, it occurred to me that a bunch of CDs would fit just right on the shelves if we pushed the books back a ways and used those wood crates that they sell at Wal-Mart. I've had them sorted alpha by genre for some time, and I don't think that all the genres will fit out in the living room, so some will have to stay in my bedroom. We'll see how it all shakes out.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

"Sorry to Discharge My Weapon in the Station House, Frank..."

TBSATIO Anthro & Econ has a real good post about the growing sophistication of popular television shows. One of the commenters references a great NYT Magazine piece from last year by Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good for You. Anthro & Econ excerpt: Prime time TV was not about continuities. It was about episodes. The world that just kept starting over. Time didn't happen. Events didn't accumulate. There were no critical paths, no path dependencies, no differences that ever made a difference over the long term. Typically, people didn't age. They didn't change. They didn't grow. Outside the narrow narrative particulars, prime time dramas were timeless and placeless. It was as if all the characters had a really terrible case of amnesia. Clearly, this is changing. Shows like 24 are really unthinkable without a knowledge of the larger, overarching narrative. Lost the same. I am noticing that while House can be watched without a knowledge of narrative continuity, it makes a vast difference when this is in place. Even with the cheat sheets from Entertainment Weekly (to say nothing of the love notes), Lost remains daunting.

The NYT piece above talks quite a bit about the pivotal role of Hill Street Blues (possibly my all-time favorite show) in this evolution, and I was quite happy the other day when I realized that HSB: Season One is finally coming out on DVD.

"...but the rascal caught me with my flanks exposed."

Rick Trembles Is Awesome!

I can't believe I have gone this long in my life without having known of the work of Rick Trembles at the Montreal Mirror. Stop what you are doing and look through this archive immediately! These are great! Here's his comic strip-style review of King Kong. (He has one on T:TCHOE too; I found him while Googling for that movie.) He has these things collected in a new book, too.

Click here for full view

Saturday Morning Stuff

So I have a nice fresh cup of coffee, a (mental) list of things I want to accomplish today, and a few good things to mention:

  • Please welcome First Science and Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics to the blogroll. A Venn diagram of those two sites might overlap with this article, The Science of Superman. Excerpt: On a planet with gravity 1,000 times that of Earth, would it be possible to send a rocket ship, especially a small one as seen in numerous issues of Superman and Action Comics, to Earth? The escape velocity (the speed necessary to break the gravitational pull of a planet) of Krypton would be enormous, approximately 11,000 km/second. That’s about 1/30 the speed of light. No chemical reaction in the universe could produce enough energy necessary to achieve such velocity.
  • Also, please welcome to the blogroll Xooglers. This is a blog for former Google employees (two of them, so far) to share their experiences, insights, criticisms, etc. about their former employer. Excerpt: The seminar was advertised with an incentive: everyone who attended would get "a special bonus prize" or something like that. The prize turned out to be a Google T-shirt with the slogan "All your search are belong to us" on the back. (Note that "search" has to be singular to remain true to the spirit of the thing.) We were admonished not to wear them in public.
  • I have some Netflix flix to watch this weekend (or whenever I want, really): Thriller: They Call Her One Eye, which was part of the inspiration for some of the stuff in KBV1&2; The Godfathers of Mondo, about the lives, careers, and works of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi; and Cut and Run, a 1985 jungle film from Ruggero Deodato (of Cannibal Holocaust fame -- btw, this looks like a cool book).
  • Here are a whole bunch of custom sign generators.
  • Here's a logic puzzle, supposedly devised by Einstein (Fred Einstein, maybe) that I started doing on New Year's Eve, but then put aside until finishing it (starting over, actually) last night. I made an Excel doc that helped me keep all the stuff straight.
  • Still working on cleaning up and decluttering and tossing and organizing stuff in various rooms. Among the stacks of paper I am weeding through and filing or tossing, I have been finding blogfodder such as a brochure from Literary Luminaries, which is a company that offers playing cards, posters, umbrellas, etc. of Poe, Shakespeare, Dickens, et al. Give 'em a look sometime.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Skull-Islandese, Delurking Week, Fly Me to the Moon

  • I watched the extras on the 1933 King Kong DVD the other night, and they include a great documentary on Merian C. Cooper (referred to by #1 here), and Peter Jackson's elaborately researched and executed Lost Spider Pit Sequence. For an interesting take on the dialogue between the ship captain and the tribal chief, see this Language Log article. Excerpt: ...but I thought the specific references to Sumatra and Nias could mean that their linguistic interaction with Captain Englehorn might carry a shred of verisimilitude. From what I could catch, there was only the tiniest shred. When the chief makes an offer to trade six of his women for Ann Darrow (as a "gift for Kong"), Englehorn declines by saying "Tida, tida!" That seems to be modeled on Malay-Indonesian tidak /tida/, meaning 'no, not.' Also, when Englehorn buys time by telling the chief that they'll come back tomorrow, he says "dulu," which in Malay can mean 'for the time being' (as in tunggu dulu /tuŋgu dulu/ 'wait for now'). Other than that, nothing in the exchange between the chief and Englehorn sounds much like Malay or related languages.

  • It's National Delurking Week, so make sure to leave comments wherever in the Blogosphere you might visit. (Via Geeky Mom.)
  • Here's former astronaut Harrison Schmidt on our eventual return to the moon. He's given some thought to the economics of it: To achieve the commercial aspects of these efforts, Chapter 11, “Investors: The Best Approach”, is a business plan for attracting investors through the economic rewards of not just the sale of helium-3 but also the countless spinoff technologies and services as a result of lunar settlement. There is even a chapter devoted to past and present laws, both terrestrial and celestial, and a section covering property and mineral rights.

Monday, January 09, 2006

New Woody Allen Movie

Real quick about the new Woody Allen movie, Match Point, which we went to see last night. First, about half a dozen GFIMFD multiplex-goers walked out before it was over. Whatever. Second, I'm glad I didn't really read any reviews of it beforehand so I wouldn't have a lot of preconceptions. (I'm purposely not linking to any specific reviews, but if you absolutely have to look, here's the Movie Review Query Engine page for the film.)

I liked it a lot -- it was bleak, but it built up towards its bleakness. (Bleakocity?) And there was one line (delivered by one of the detectives; you'll know it when you hear it) that made me laugh out loud (I was the only one in the theater who did) because it was like a minimalist punchline to a two-hour set-up. A few things to mention: The protagonist was reading a lot of Dostoevsky at the beginning of the movie; I bet if I knew very much about Opera, I would have caught more of the stuff that Allen included as a nice touch for people who do; Because I always stay until the credits are done, I saw that he included an audio clip from the great French crime film Rififi, and I think I know where he used it (and if I'm right, he used it in a very clever way); Lastly, if you have a chance to see (TO AVOID POTENTIAL SPOILER, DO NOT CLICK) this earlier Woody Allen film you ought to, so as to compare and contrast.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

"I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing..."

Here's Daniel Drezner on the topic "Unassisted Human Intuition Is a Bomb." This ties in nicely with a new book by Michael LeGault called Th!nk: Why Crucial Decisions Can't Be Made in the Blink of an Eye that I noticed coming out from Simon & Schuster that counters the Malcom Gladwell school of thought. (BTW, if you want to know what Drez is talking about when he mentions The Hedgehog and the Fox, click on this link for a good summary.) (No, not this Hedgehog, either.)

An any normal day, I'd agree. Tomorrow I'll agree too. However, last night, after almost everyone had left my office, my boss told me I was getting a promotion and a raise -- totally out of the blue. I was like "Hey, cool!" When I got home I was going to try and play it off smooth, but when I guess-whatted my ♥GF♥, she hit the nail right on the head immediately. I was like "!!!!" because I would never have guessed it right away if it had been my clone asking me the same question. Then, she sets the scene -- "You were sitting at your desk, typing away, and you were munching on a snack..." Bingo! Must have been The Force.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

College, Hasidic Reggae, BB Survey, Dumb Idea, TSOTWC



Here's a good article that A&LD linked to the other day about the differences and similarities between movies and the novels from which they are adapted. Excerpts:

Yet, the film version may offer its own virtues. Indeed, many films have outshone the books that inspired them. "The Godfather" and "Gone With the Wind" come to mind. The fact is, novels and films are entirely different storytelling experiences. When it comes to making a movie based on a book — or ultimately watching that movie — being too invested in the integrity of the novel is probably a bad idea... ...Ultimately, feature films cannot replicate the experience of reading, nor can everything about a novel end up being adapted — nor should it be. Filmmaking is about compromise and concession. It's a miracle they don't toss the book right out the window.

I think this is quite true. A good example, IMHO, of the book experience and film experience working in synergy is L.A. Confidential. The movie? Just plain great. The book? Just plain great. This is true even though the plots of the book and movie diverged greatly from each other. (For instance, the Kevin Spacey character, Jack Vincennes, meets his fate in an entirely different manner in the book than in the movie. I'm going to keep this relatively spoilers-free, so forgive my vagueness.) It didn't matter that the film digressed from the book's plot, because the experience of having both stories (book and film) in effect gave us one great story and then another great story with the same characters. (Kind of a do-over like those in Marvel's "What If?" or DC's "Elseworlds.")

James Ellroy's LAC novel, like his other excellent crime novels, was an epic tale of corruption, celebrity, sin, lust, amoral tough guys, racist anti-heroes, celebrity mobsters, thinly disguised American icons behaving badly, and a bunch of other nostalgic tawdriness. As with the works of authors like William Faulkner and Stephen King, many of Ellroy's novels exist in the same universe, so that bit players from one novel are key figures in another, and vice-versa, even though the different novels aren't really sequels or prequels to one another.

(BTW, here's an excellent documentary on Ellroy that you ought to watch if you have half a chance.)

The film version of LAC [which, through an act of criminal sappiness lost the '97 B.P. Oscar to a certain suck-ass big ship movie (not even the best big-ship movie of that year, I might add)] was just as enjoyable an experience as the novel was, despite its aforementioned divergence from the novel's plot. A novel about classic Hollywood can go into a lot of salacious detail, but you know what it can't do? Use a bunch of conventions and gimmicks from the medium it celebrates to actually help tell its own story. ("You've got to acc-cent-uate the positive...") They have a great subplot about a call girl ring with prostitutes who have had plastic surgery to look like 40s movie stars. At one point one of the cops insults a Lana Turner lookalike on a date with a mob enforcer, and after making his opinion of her morals sufficiently known, the other cop informs him that the woman in question really is Lana Turner. For a while, I thought that was a gimmicky throwaway scene of the sort used as padding in buddy cop movies, until I later learned that Lana Turner really was involved with mob enforcer Johnny Stompanato, and not only that, but that her 14-year-old daughter stabbed him to death in 1958.

Here's an Ellroy fansite, a James Ellroy quiz, an Identity Theory interview, and a National Review Q&A after Ellroy got the Jack Webb Award. This seems to be becoming my tagline, but if you haven't seen and read L.A. Confidential yet, you're cheating yourself.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Suggestion for Overdue Media

Suggestion for the guys at Overdue Media, creators of every librarian's favorite comic strip, Unshelved --

In addition to making a feed available for bloggers to have a daily feed from your (almost-always 3-panel) comic strip, comme ça...

...why not also make a vertically stacked version of the strip available so that the daily feed is narrow enough to easily to add to a sidebar? My sidebar width is 220, and the horizontal strip above is 600 (i.e. three 200s).

Just a thought.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Few Things

One of the benefits of cleaning out the junk/book room is that I have been finding stacks of articles, magazines, newspapers, pictures, posters, maps, notes, etc. (often from way back before the advent of the Blogosphere) about things that caught my interest. Depending on whether or not they have kept their interestingness/coolness/quirkiness factor between the time I originally put them aside and now, I may be posting some of them here (or at least related stuff that I find on the Web).

For example, the Chicago Tribune ran a (now long-ago-archived) story a couple of years ago about a guy named Patrick Hambrecht who came up with an ambitious project: To have his alt-artsy friends (and their friends, and their friends, etc.) illustrate every single verse of the Bible. They currently have 2,595 complete, with 34,070 remaining, and the 2,595 are fascinating to browse through. (And before any of you smartasses run for the comments section, I'm not talking about this.) This is the kind of lifelong obsession that, if successful, the Simon Winchesters of the 22nd Century are going to write about.

Genesis 4:4
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering...

In other news, here's a great Boing Boing-linked article by David Weinberger titled Why the Media Can't Get Wikipeida Right. Excerpt: With Wikipedia, the balance of knowing shifts from the individual to the social process. The solution to a failure of knowledge (as the Seigenthaler entry clearly was) is to fix the social process, while acknowledging that it will never work perfectly. There are still individuals involved, of course, but Wikipedia reputations are made and advanced by being consistent and persistent contributors to the social process. Yes, persistent violators of the social trust can be banished from Wikipedia, but the threat of banishment is not what keeps good contributors contributing well.

Also, Reason editor Nick Gillespie visits the Modern Language Association's annual convention on behalf of Tech Central Station and shares his impressions with us here, here, here, and here. (Those are in order, and no I haven't read all of them yet.) Excerpt from the fourth: Still, it's clear that in an information- and media-drenched world such as ours, critical reading and writing skills are at more of a premium than ever before. On this point, [University of Rhode Island Assoc. Prof. of French Alain-Philippe] Durand cited Roland Barthes who once said, with characteristic overstatement, that if the university could teach only one subject it should be literature -- because literature includes all other disciplines. What is blogging if not literary criticism gone wild?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Junk Room; Staircase; Other Stuff

Items removed yesterday and today from the junk room (aka "the book room") include:
  • Broken folding camping chair.
  • Two grocery bags of old newspapers (more to follow).
  • My airplane barf-bag collection (unused) from the early 90s.
  • Duplicate copies of a Bill Moyers book and a Saturday Night Live book.
  • Numerous dried-up pens, icky crayons, dried-up rubber bands, and rusty (!?) staples. Also, one exploding stapler.
  • One grocery bag of financial documents to be shredded (more to follow).
  • Printer that only works if you hand-feed it one sheet at a time.
  • Xeroxed sheet music of Christmas carols for the guitar I let my brother have over a year ago.

More junk/book room cleaning tomorrow. (Another day off work, but I'll probably go in for a couple hours anyway. Why? To finish reorganizing my desk, of course.)

However, all work and no play... so, my ♥GF♥ and I spent NY Eve and NY morning watching all eight installments of the fascinating documentary "The Staircase" about the murder trial of Michael Peterson. OMG, it was absolutely riveting! It was about this guy whose wife died when she either fell or was pushed down the stairs of their house. He says she fell, the cops and the D.A. say he pushed her (and maybe helped her along by hitting her on the head). Perfect for fans of any or all of the 47 "Law & Order" or "CSI" shows currently airing.

Here's a cool site I found via Chicago Bloggers: Wackapedia. Go check it out; I think I'm going to add it to the blogroll.

This is a good (and extensive) piece about Roger Ebert. (Via Kottke.)

And lastly, guess who's back?