Saturday, December 31, 2005

One Hi-Def Resolution
I was watching a "Law andOrder" re-run last night when my New Year's Resolution crystallized before my bleary eyes: In 2006, I resolve not to watch re-runs of television shows I have already seen.
If the toob is all full of re-runs, I will read a book, rent a viddy or practice my guitar. I believe this is a resolution I can realize. Readers are invited to comment up their own resolutions if they so desire.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Heh Heh
One step closer to these.

And a link because it's one of the funniest things I've seen in weeks: Classified ads.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Moment of Puggy Zen
I was changing the cartridge in my razor this morning - and the idea that one changes a "cartridge" in a razor is alone worthy of reflection - when I thought of one of the founding pugs of the BlogDog family, now deceased. She was called Tiggy though her formal name was Sandyhook's Classic Antigone. Too much name for the runt of the litter but she was a sweeheart just the same. She was, to put it bluntly, a chewer.
The home of Mr. & Mrs. BlogDog had some lovely new blue wall-to-wall carpeting installed after we moved in and I will give much credit to the good decorating sense of the XMBD: It was wonderful carpet. But it seems thecarpet was not in too terribly long before we found little Tiggy sitting in the middle of the living room chewing away on something. Let me note that she could not have chosen a more conspicuous place to gnaw had she been blessed with actual intelligence. And what had she happened on that she decided was so delicious? A ball point pen of course. Now I have no idea why a ball point pen would send her into a chewing jag but indeed, there was a nice blot of ink smack dab in the middle of the room. My uninformed cleaning efforts mitigated the blot but didn't solve it, I'm sorry to say.
Ah well, moving on. What else did we find little Tenzing Norgay (another name she came to have after her brother's climbing ability got him tagged "Sir Edmund Hillary") having a taste for? There was a sewing needle with thread. The XMBD was a very talented needlepoint artist and had left a needle with a length of floss somewhere, possibly on her nightstand. I spotted a thread hanging out of the pug girl's mouth as she was working her jaw. Worried, I scopped her up and found the needle in her mouth, not stuck in any flesh at all, mind you, just in her teeth. A bullet dodged for sure.
I suppose she liked to chew on things that had been handled - the pen, the needle and the last item which I would have to assume is loaded with epithelial cells: a razor cartridge. Now you see the genesis of the post. Mining the trash, or the snack bucket as pugs seem to think of it, the Tigster had found a used razor cartridge and, using that impenetrable puggy logic, she set out to chew it up. Luckily, I found her chewing with her nutty concentration when I couldn't think of anything that she had a legitimate reason to be noshing, so I opened the mouth and found the cartridge. Oy. If she had swallowed any of those things, we would have had an emergency run to the vet for sure. But we were lucky enough, I think, to have caught her chewing misadventures.
Changing a razor cartridge brings this moment of puggy zen.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Post Christmas
Oh lordy. I feel awful today. Christmas was wet and warm with a great wallowing gout of fog in the evening. And today has blown mightily leaving me under the weather. I won't go into detail but I feel pre-fluish achy all over with periods where I just don't feel I can get my temperature right. Enough clothing at one point turns into too much clothing after a while. If I had some Thera-Flu, I'd probably take it.
But I should not dwell on the negative. My earlier-mentioned gift was indeed a Tortuga Rum cake and its lifespan is now to be measured in minutes, possibly hours. I got iPod accessories from Lycurgus - just what I wanted. The Apple lanyard headphones for the Nano absolutely kicks buttocks. The best way I've ever worn an iPod. The Shuffle comes with a lanyard but it leaves the earbud cord a-swing. The lanyard headphone solves that problem. Also a skin for the Nano which I have been desiring. The Nano is wonderful but it can be hurt. Now mine is ruggedized.
I got some sweet guitar accessories from the friend who set me up with the gitbox. I now must spend a lot more time with it. Christmas was good to me. I hope it was to you too.
Now, I'm going to flop.
One Billion Internet Users

I have no idea how they figured this out but I saw the number on the Internet so it must be close. It was paired with the projection that the number of users will double in the next 10 years. This also sounds pretty accurate when you consider China and India.

These sort of stories always remind me of one college administrator I spoke to in 1994 about the Internet. I had basically suggested to him in a piece of email (he had his secretary print it for him so he could read it before our face to face meeting) that it might be a good strategy for Dickinson College to consider how technology might be used to better connect with alumni.

Without patting myself on the back too much (I was simply standing on the shoulders of visionaries like Lycurgus and the BlogDog) I then listened with shocked disbelief as this man said he didn't think anybody would use it. He meant email but he might as well have said the Internet. Much to his credit he did change his tune a couple of years later and my alma mater is as wired as any campus in the country. Though I will always fondly think of him as the man who "didn't think anybody would use it." I will probable still regard him this way whenever the Internet reaches 2 billion users.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

One Housekeeping Note
Ch-ch-ch-changes coming in the new year. I'll be signing up for Adsense, a site re-design has become a necessity and I'll look into getting some multi-media content. PodDogCasts? If I have anything to say about it, you just might hear it.
A Few Christmas Eve Dust Bloggies
I've been calling 'em dust bunnies but if I'm going to be dumping the brain sweepings on the blog, I may as well call them something new.

First: Merry Christmas to one and all. There are too many people I love to list them, not to mention that such a list would be dead boring for the majority of readers until and unless they found their own name. But God bless you, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and health, wealth and joy abounding to you all.

Watching ABC last night I realized I had missed a bet in getting my Christmas music this year. I do very much like the John Fahey/Terry Robb album but my next Christmas music purchase will be the Vince Guaraldi "Charlie Brown Christmas" album. ABC did a feature on that 40 year old music and it was like magic. That piano (co-opted by a car company ad this year I'm sorry to say) just takes me back to a time Chistmas still had its childhood wonder. I should note that it was a jazz trio that did the music but it's the piano of "Linus and Lucy" that really just reaches back into your brain and drags that memory out in the open, so bright and beautiful you almost want to cry. Funny to think that something so light and confectionary as a half hour of the Peanuts gang (first brought to us by Dolley Madison cakes as I recall) could become such a classic.

Movies I have rented lately: I mentioned "Serenity" already though I still don't have my copy since Costco didn't have it in stock. But I will get it when I see it there.
I did, however, get a copy of "March of the Penguins" which I rented and flat-out loved. I figure it's a well-known quantity by now so there's no point in explaining what goes on. But I have to say that the cinematography is nothing short of stunning. Antarctica seems to be the very definition of the term "stark beauty" in the lens. There's more anthrpomorphizing than a Disney flick but it sure works with those penguins. It's very touching. Also, renting the DVD is a good thing. You might miss the wide screen effect of seeing it in the theater but you get a couple of very interesting extras: a look at the "making of" and a NatGeoSoc feature that's too heavy on the global(warming)oney but fascinating to see how they used the "crittercam" on the Emperor 'guins. Definitely rent it. You might want to buy it. I did.
"The Brothers Grimm" - I'm a huge Terry Gilliam fan (except for the mullet-ish hairstyle, wuzzup wid dat Terry-man?) and "Grimm" isn't bad. It's just not what I'd expect from him. It seems that he ceded control of the movie to the studio (very unlike the man who forced "Brazil" to be the dark masterpiece it is) so it's not the deeply layered movie that it would be had it been a "true" Gilliam filliam (sorry). But it's fun and exciting. Far from perfect but a good rental for a night you just want to sit back and be entertained. Peter Stormare, who I always think of as the monosyllabic Gaear Grimsrud from "Fargo," chews up the scenery with abandon as the Italian 'torture specialist' Cavaldi in "Brothers Grimm." In my estimation, he needed to dial his madness back by a bout 20%. It got to be wearing. Not a fatal flaw.
"Fantastic Four" - Enh. Feel free to skip it. I'm not a slobbering fanboy for Jessica Alba as many are. I agree with Lileks who called her smooth and shiny like a balloon. I'm working from memory on that so forgive me if I get the words wrong. But he is right: the Sue Storm character looks like the makeup has not only been troweled on but buffed to high gloss. Possibly even a nice coat of carnauba wax on top. But the whole movie is inconsequential. Obligatory Stan Lee cameo. Good special effects. Chris Evans as the Human Torch has the best role. And he plays the reckless yute perfectly - the only character I really bought into. Final word on the movie: it has all the feel of a prequel. It tells us how it all started in excruciating, needless detail and the bad guy is vanquished in what seems the tacked-on ending. I doubt I'll be seeing the next FF movie.
Why can't the people who made the Spider-Man movies for Marvel make all the movies for Marvel?

Enough of the movies. A little bit of Christmas reverie on my way out the blogdoor.
I decided not to go overboard for the holiday eating. I have a present from the Enigmatic Misanthropes which I think may be a Tortuga Rum Cake. (insert image of BlogDog drooling here) Just the best commercial cake made in the whole wide wet wonderful world. If you've never had one, you are missing one of the greatest pleasures in life. So, in the immortal words of Carl Spackler, at least I have that going for me. And I bought some delicacies at Costco (smoked salmon, ham steaks, stuffed portobellos, champagne, a couple of nice cheeses) which I will nibble today and tomorrow morning (I'm thinking champagne, nova lox, scrambled eggs and coffee for the meal) and that'll be it. A new year of Myoplex shakes and salads is in the offing. 2006 will be the year of the Great Shrinkening. But I will enjoy what I have.

So, you there, go. Go and enjoy. A suggestion for your holiday spending: spend some time with your loved ones.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Yahoo Widgets

These are worth a look as they make them for the Mac as well as Windows. The BlogDog will be glad to know they have a widget for the home page of the Australian Football League. Though be forewarned this is all Web 2.0 stuff and is likely to be filled with security holes. Download at your own discretion, but do go visit the Australian Football homepage so you'll know what the BlogDog is talking about next time he uses "Footie" in a sentence.
And In The Spirit Of The Season
Chewbacca sings Silent Night. Good grief.
The Law Firm of Bitch, Carp and Moan
Why does Cingular have all the coolest phones? I clicked an ad link and saw the Samsung d307 which looks just way cool. And of course Cingular has the exclusive on the Motorola Razr phone. Black or silver, it's a geek lust phone, no question.
I have Sprint service but I'm just exceedingly tempted by Cingular if they're going to carry these sweet devices. It has nothing to do with Catherine Zeta Jones. Honestly. I swear. She's married fer goshsakes!

That being said, I want the wireless carriers to offer a device to potential clients. It would be small, about the size of an iPod Nano, with nought but a screen which displays the signal strength available on that carrier's service. I'd carry one with me and if, say, Cingular, provides "more bars" more consistently than Sprint in the areas I frequent, I'd be very inclined to switch. I'd pay $10 to $20 for the device as long as I could get that credited to me if I decide to use their service when and if I turn it back in.

I wonder if Elizabeth Windsor congratulated Sir Elton John on his recent marriage.
"Dear Sir Elton, From one old Queen to another...."

E-mailing The Future
Paul suggests I would be a candidate to write an e-mail to my future self. It's not writing that makes that message. My e-mail would consist, in its entirety, of the following: "Well?"
New On The Blogroll
I've added Brian Tiemann's Peeve Farm ("Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets") to the sidebar as I had the sudden revelation that I check it every day. It's Mac-centric but done with rationality and thought, not Cult of Mac excess. Plus he finds good info and posts about it. There's a very good look at the prospects for the coming MacTel machines if you scroll to the Tuesday, Dec. 20 post.
I think the clincher for shoehorning the listing into the blogroll was his posts about Chipotle (the eatery) and one just opened in my neighborhood. I will probably get lunch there either today or tomorrow. He's had really good experiences with them (them being a scion from the McDonald's main trunk) so it's well worth the trying. Finally I have an option other than Tac O'bell for spanglish food.
The Venn diagram of Peeve Farm and BlogDog's politics would probably reveal a rather substantial overlap as well. As much as I love and respect my co-blogger, he likes "The Boondocks" and I will hate it for it's idiot liberal claptrappery with a certain abated heat. It did make me laugh when it had a strip making George Lucas's misbegotten JarJar Binks into JabariJabari Binkara - a fierce adherent of ther Nation of Islam. Peeve Farm seems to agree with my dislike. Good on ya.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Movie Dog Says
See "Serenity." Now. Do not waste time. Joss Whedon writes absolutely crackling dialog and tells just one hell of a story. I'm buying a copy of this movie. Probably tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Not Gone Yet
A little Yule music if you'll be as happy as I am that The Blogger Formerly Known As Sugarmama is back in the blogosphere. Megabeth is online and dispensing triathlon-related info and reportage.
PoW loves Mega-Sugar-Beth ... whoever she is!
Working In Your Pajamas

As a New Yorker who was left without a reasonable way to commute to my office in mid-town due to a crippling transit strike, I enjoyed today what will no doubt be an extended bit of telecommuting. Thank goodness for broadband access!

Truth be told I just couldn't see waiting on line for 2 hours in the freezing cold to buy a train ticket when I could accomplish the same amount of work in the comfort of my apartment. Thankfully my employer agreed and since the demands of my schedule are none too urgent in late December I was given the option of working at home. No, I didn't really work in my PJs but it sure is fun to blog about it.
Who Cares?

Microsoft announced to what I assume was a huge yawn in the Macintosh community that it was discontinuing the development of Internet Explorer for the Macintosh platform. Let me pose this question: What person who is concerned about the security of their PC uses Internet Explorer anyhow? If it weren't for web sites that are designed to function only with IE there would be no reason at all to use any other browser besides my favorite, Firefox.

Speaking of Firefox, if you haven't tricked out your browser with a myriad of extensions you are not using your browser to its fullest ability. I love the ClickWeather extension and the extension that allows me to send text messages to a cell phone. There are hundreds of extensions to choose from and it leads me to wonder what Microsoft will counter with when they finally introduce their latest version of IE sometime next year.
Google Earth

I have commented on Google Earth before and I love the aerial view it gives me of places I know very well from the ground. The fact it is now unnerving governments around the world who are afraid it offers too good a view of their government buildings and military installations is just another example of how the Internet is changing everything. Or more to the point, how Google is changing everything.

Whether this is good or bad depends upon your prospective. I won't say that India, for example, shouldn't be concerned that Pakistan is able to evaluate images of all their defense preparations.
Though in Google's defense it can be said that any technology can be misused. In my opinion this is usually not sufficient enough reason to limit how people employ it. I wonder if the furor would have been greater if Microsoft had introduced "Microsoft Earth" before Google.

Monday, December 19, 2005

This is either a sad, deeply disturbed idea or something that is very optimistic. I haven't figured out which but the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Go to to find out more about this site that allows you to send an email to yourself sometime in the future. They claim that over 112,000 people have done this so far.

There is no guarantee the email will ever arrive as they have only secured $58 in donations to date. The other snags are that people change email addresses, SPAM filters might block the messages, and the entire operation could go out of business. Besides those minor details I am warming to the idea of this Internet Age Time Capsule. Though for the time being I'll leave it to a more reflective and prolific writer like the BlogDog to compose messages worthy of being read sometime in the future.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Darkness At The Edge Of Christmas
To save readers' time, I don't expect to be posting for the rest of week leading up to the holiday of Christ's nativity. My iMac is in the shop with a power issue and I'm running on my PowerBook. Nice enough but not the machine I prefer to use for extended writing. So, absent Paul's picking up the slack, you'll not hear from me again until the iMac is back home and running. If you drop by because I've commented on some other blog, that's as much of me as you'll see for a while.

Good God I hate the taste of Hoppe's No. 9.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bad Idea

"New York City--yes, the Big Apple--is considering following in the footsteps of Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans and a host of other cities planning to offer free WiFi to local residents. On Monday city council member Gale Brewer, chairwoman of the Committee on Technology in Government, held a legislative hearing on a proposed bill which would create a special commission to advise Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city council on how the city can get affordable broadband access to all its residents. The commission will learn about the different technology options available and educate the public about them. The vote on the bill is scheduled for December 21. If New York builds out its own WiFi network, it will be the biggest deployment of municipal WiFi in the country and even the world."

This is more laughable than anything else. As a point of reference, I design and install wireless networks for corporate clients in New York City. I don't care that it's going to be free but I do care that it will step all over existing wireless implementations. In point of fact, this will generate tons of business for me as my clients call to say that their wireless networks no longer work! I'll just keep turning up the power on the Access Points as far as they can go and see what happens. If the New York City free wireless network is anything like the for-profit one that Verizon has in place then my clients will certainly lose the battle of the airwaves. You see, Verizon can overpower any signal that I can legally configure for my clients. When all is said and done, I will end up ripping out wireless networks that were functioning fine before the free wireless network was installed.

My question: Is providing wireless Internet access a proper function of government?
Another Bad Idea

"Verizon says it is ready to begin offering in-flight broadband service to airline passengers sometime in 2007. Verizon's announcement follows last week's issuance by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of updated rules on spectrum auctions, which open the door to broadband WiFi service for passengers high up in the air. Bill Pallone, president of Verizon Airfone, urged the FCC to auction new licenses in the 800 MHz band. "There are many interested airlines and general aviation operators that share our commitment to this broadband vision," he said.

Verizon's WiFi technology is based on CDMA2000 1xEV-DO with provisions for extended distances and Doppler compensation for high-speed aircraft. The company had been conducting trials since 2004 of service capable of ground-to-air peak speeds of 2.4 Mbps--enough for Web browsing, email service and VoIP telephony. The system will not interfere with cockpit electronics."

While I realize we will never return to the era where men wore ties and jackets and women wore dresses while traveling by plane, this announcement signifies the end of civility as we now know it. I expect many fistfights involving people who couldn't take listening to someone chattering away on their (VoIP) phone. What's more, the flight delays caused by having to have the combatants escorted from planes by Air Marshals will be awful..

Monday, December 12, 2005

Took, Took, Tookie Goodbye!
Clemency denied.
I am not, despite my moss-backed conservatism, a fan of the death penalty. I remember reading a Bob Tyrrell column of a couple of years ago which laid out the conservative case against the death penalty and it was persuasive. However, the lies supporting clemency for multiple murder "Tookie" Williams bring no credit on the celebrities who have chosen to lionize the predator and ignore the vicitims.
Add mush-mouthed professional agitator and faux reverend Jesse Jackson to the mix, likening Tookie to Nelson Mandela, and it's a slam dunk. Society is served by removing the weeds from the garden.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Two Items
Both of these items deserve some long-form blogging but I'm fogged. I'm just not wrapping my head around anything these days. So I'll just post them as short items and hope the fog clears shortly and do the topics justice later.
•I've heard stories of Katie Couric being offered $20 million to put her dainty little pixy foot in Dan Rather's well-chewed shoes. How exactly is this distinguishable from the ridiculously high CEO compensations that the left is always howling about? Shouldn't a meat puppet news reader like Katie make no more than a single-digit multiple of the lowest paid production assistant on the news program?
•In the same vein, I saw (I think it was a segment of ABC's 20/20) a report on a movie being filmed in Russia. Why was it being filmed in Russia? Because it was cheaper. This is not new of course as movies have been filmed in Canada for years for precisely that reason. But isn't this just a Hollywood version of what Wal-Mart does? Isn't this just a form of outsourcing which the left has been (I'll say it again) howling about for years? Cheap foreign labor seems to be not so much a problem when the money flows to our liberal friends on the left coast.
A Re-Run of Sorts
The Burger King version of the "Carol of the Bells" has been mashed up with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's version. And for the not easily offended, here is the original.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I've been reluctant to dive into the new NCAA basketball season as Duke was ranked pre-season #1 and I'm always a believer in jinxes when it comes to roundball. But I watched most of the Blue Devils' 30-point ass-kicking of soon-to-be no-longer #2 Texas. I don't want to denigrate Texas as they are a good team, a very good team even. But Duke was hitting its shots and I saw some of the best team defense I've seen in a while. If the pros were allowed to play defense like this, I might actually care about the NBA.
There are a few things about Duke that make me worry. First, when Duke had scored 66 points, JJ Redick had scored 33 of them. He finished the game with 41 points but a balanced attack doesn't have one player score half the team's points. Second, if Duke has a off night in hitting its shots, they can be beat. Fargin' VA Tech almost did it at Cameron the other night. But sometimes luck is as important as talent and a 40-foot buzzer beating three to win has a whole lot of luck in it. Third, I'll be a lot happier when DeMarcus Nelson gets back in the mix. A third scorer is important.
And finally, Duke is still a young team. Two freshman start. If the young player don't develop, there will be a late season breakdown. On the other hand, if the young players do develop as expected, this team will be in the top five for another couple of years. At least I hope.
Also, Roy Williams at UNC is showing anybody who didn't already know it how good a coach he really is. Last year's championship UNC team was decimated by the departure of superb players. UNC was not picked in the top 25 preseason. Yet they've already beaten a top ten team. Don't be surprised to see the Tar Heels stay in the top twenty and even make the Sweet Sixteen at year's end.

Movie Dog Just Has To Say
I'm watching a broadcast of "Dances With Wolves" and Mary McDonnell looks just stunning in her Sioux garb. Dirty-faced and rumple-haried she is gloriously, luminously beautiful. She is a lovely woman but never looked better than in her role as Stands With Fist.
A Post Wherein I Solicit Suggestions
It has been the custom of my family to have a large Christmas brunch. This allowed for the kids to have their grand present opening without having to sit through a meal. Now, there was something to nosh, in a breakfast-y way, and coffee and juice but not a real breakfast. So by about the noon hour, when the under-tree area was denuded and the colorful drifts of wrapping paper had been collected and tossed, everyone is ready to have a real meal. And it would be quite a meal: grits, champagne, eggs, fried quail, Chistmas sweets all washed down with more coffee, good orange juice (or mimosas for those inclined). There were variations from year to year but these things stand out in memory. Then, as a gift to mom, there was a mass involvement in the clean-up (well, mostly) and any hunger through the rest of the day was dealt with on an ad hoc basis from the leftovers.
Really, a very civilized tradition.
Now, being bereft of parents and away from sibs, I ask the compact but pure-quality readership of PoW for suggestions as to what would be good edibles for me to prepare for my Christmas meal. Some things are a given: I will have a bottle of good champagne (don't laugh: Costco carries very good bubbly at the best prices), eggs (I love eggs), biscuits (I'm even going to build them from scratch), coffee, good orange juice. I'd like to have some apple cider on hand but if I have the OJ, I don't really need that. I could make the wild mushroom flans again but really, no. Not for just me. I'd like to have a spot of caviar as a real indulgence but again, just for me? I'm unconvinced.
What good brunch food is reasonable for a Christmas brunch for one? Calories, for this day, are no object. Quality is a necessity. I'd really like a breakfast meat of some sort but find the usuals to be too ... usual. Bacon - tasty but I hate the cooking spatter. Patty sausage - not after my food poisoning. Link sausage - possible. A ham steak - that actually sounds pretty good.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I Await My Royalty Checks
You read it here first. Someone else seems to have done it. I still demand credit.
Bon Voyage
PoW would like to wish the XMBD the best of times in her journey as the NMSE. May your new world be everything you hope it can be.
Me So Clever!
I Googled a phrase I used in my panda post and can honestly say that the sole instance of the words "mimetic neoteny" on the Interweb can be found right here. I have done coined a phrase. Please feel free to find instances in your life to use the phrase.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

No Love At All
So I'll just talk to myself some more.

How gay am I? I just realized that a married, male friend and I have "a song." It's "Build Me Up Buttercup" by the Foundations. No, I have no explanation for that. But it appears to be true.

Latest movie rental was "Crash." There was a bit too much contrivance but all in all it holds together remarkably well. And I never realized that Jennifer Esposito has such delightful, pebbly ... unnh, points in her favor. Don Cheadle was restrained and just devastatingly note-perfect in his portrayal of the burdened LAPD detective. I give this one four stars. Out of five.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Movie I Liked
I just rented the new Willy Wonka movie. Really, really enjoyed it. Johnny Depp really makes this movie. The ads featured a quick clip of him bluindering into the glass elevator and it's one of those small touches that works so well: He sells it big time. Not just bumping into it but thumping into it and falling down.
I've never read the source material but I'd guess that this version might be truer to it that the Gene Wilder version. Though I liked the Oompa Loompa songs in the first one better. Which reminds me, the use of Deep Roy for all the Oompa Loompas is inspired and exceedingly well done. As are the nut-sorting squirrels.
The kid who plays Charlie Bucket is such a sweet, delightful kid. I hope he gets more work. And I very much like the fact that in this version, Charlie gets the prize without having screwed up as he did in the first version. I want Charlie to be as good as he is, not good enough by default.
If you haven't seen this one, please do. No rush.
And The Trashing of "Stealth" Continues
Where was I? Ah yes- tired of slagging the flick. But there's so much more to slag! Let's get right to it.
Let me say this first though: Jessica Biel is a very pretty woman. Beautiful teeth. I like great teeth (I'm still waiting for that call from Elizabeth Hurley). Yet Ms. Biel is remarkably uninterestingly pretty. And I just can't buy her as an action heroine. Which is probably my failing so I'll let that one go. I will use her a starting point for today's bashing though.
After a successful mission to Rangoon, the team is given an R&R break in Thailand. There is a completely uneeded scene where Josh Lucas and Jessica Biel go swiming at a rural waterfall. What's the point? We already know that they're really in love with each other - we saw that in the fact that while Lucas had a bimbo in the sushi bar/club scenes, Jessica didn't have a date but she insulted his. So then is it to allow us to see them in swim suits? Yawn. Softest core pr0n in major motion picture is boring. And Jamie Foxx is similarly wasted. His horndoggery scares up a Thai woman who is ... I was about to be unkind. Let me say instead that she's no great beauty.
On the plus side, the Thai countryside in which they film really is gorgeous. too bad this isn't a travel movie. I am actually willing to accept a lot of nonsense in pursuit of a good movie ("Jurassic Park" is the prime example) but this flick has the three pilots talking about the most sensitive tech and what must be a highly classified mission with the Thai bim sitting at their table and in public where anyone could be listening. Can we say "loss of clearance?" Sure. I knew we could. But the film makers can't.
Thailand was just an interlude. The next bit of business is a mission into Tadjikistan where a "warlord" has gotten his hands on "SCUD carcasses" and nuclear warheads. Umm. And you're sending in fighter planes to blow up nukes? If anyone ever did this in the real world, they would have to be clinically insane. First, a nuclear device is triggered by being blown up. Blown up in a very specific way but if you're using missiles on a nuke, how can you be sure you're not going to set it off? And even if you don't, the release of radioactivity from the precritical mass is a dead certainty. And I mean dead. Might I suggest that you send in the fighters to blow up the headless missiles that might deliver the warheads? Then you send in a team to grab the nukes and get them in to friendly hands.
But no. They send Roboplane and the Three Pilot Stooges. At this point, it must be noted that Roboplane has been struck by lightning and is now the functional equivalent of a sentient being. Wasn't this already a cliché? I was waiting for the plane to say, "Number Five is alive!" And, in Hollywood logic, the sentient Roboplane is farking nuts. Roboplane goes off on his own and blows up the nukes which Larry, Curly and Moette would not. Naturally, a valley full of "innocent farmers" is then blown over with a dust cloud full of toxic radioactive particles. This decision is from an AI that on the previous mission came up with the mechanism wherby collateral damage was eliminated. Not just minimized: eliminated. Oh fer bullsnort.
OK, so now the Stooges have to take out Roboplane. Say bye-bye to Jamie Foxx after just one hour of the flick. And the slo-mo crash of his Talon into a mountain is agonizingly bad movie making. Never in the entire movie did the miniature look more like a minature. Just show us the plane bashing itself to pieces in real time. And, of course, a fragment of flying debris cripples Moette's plane so she has to bug out as fast as possible.
Which brings up another one of those movie maker stupidities that just needn't be. Moette says that "starboard canard" is "frozen." The plane does have a canard wing (the small wing located ahead of the main wing) but never in the movie is the canard shown as changing its position. I believe canard wings are always fixed anyway. Their usual effect on aircraft is to change the flight characteristics so that stalling is made vastly more difficult. The trouble is in the swing wing of the palne. Again: wing, not canard. Does "canard" just sound cooler than "wing" so the scriptmangler uses the wrong word? (sigh.)
Anyway, Moette's plane done blows itself up over North Korea and she punches out. I have one question also about the eject sequence. Don't modern fighters have Rogallo wing chutes which allow for control of the descent? Not the Talon. It has the old, traditional balloon chute which means Moette will have to land in hostile territory. Well, that adds to the drama.
Curly doesn't kill Roboplane (this is after the refueling episode in the previous post) but saves it after Roboplane saves him in a dogfight with ... it doesn't matter who the dogfight was with. What matters is they bond again. Roboplane saves Curly, takes some damage and is saved in turn when Curly bombs a lake throwing up a gout of water which quenches the fire on Roboplane. Do I need to say I have a problem with this as well? Remember the thing about the jetwash? All Curly has to do is put his Talon right down to the surface of the water and a spume of water will be kicked up sufficient to put out the fire. Stupid screenwriter.
Don't despair gentle reader, we are nearly done. Just a few final details.
When all the fecal matter begins hitting the air movement device, the Sam Sheppard character is hung out to dry by his shadowy compatriot in Washington (big surprise there, right?). The aircraft carrier captain comes to arrest him and he's sitting in the Roboplane control room inside the carrier wearing sunglasses. What?! What possible reason would anyone have for wearing sunglasses inside an aircraft carrier? I still can't figure that one out.
Meanwhile, back in the North Korean DMZ, Moette has managed to get nearly to the border and Curly has taken Roboplane in to rescue her. That's so sweet. Awww! But there is the North Korean sniper who earlier put a slug into Moette's shoulder. He acquires Curly as a target as Curly runs from Roboplane. Then he hears Moette and swings his sight off Curly. Umm. Could anyone point to an instance where a sniper who had already acquired a target turned off it for someone else who is unlikely to be of threat to him? ... Waiting ... Thought not.
In any event, Roboplane saves the day when a North Korean helicopter arrives on the scene. No, not by just shooting the damn thing down, by firing its guns, then rising to face the chopper and flying into it. Damn dumb Roboplane. If you have ammunition, you lift off, turn and then shoot the bad guy. But that wouldn't be Hollywood, would it?

Whew. I'm done. And, despite my massive bitch-fest here, I really hate doing this. I want to see good movies. I wanted to like this one and it turned out to be impossible. Yet making this into a good movie would have, I think, cost no more money. It just would have taken more thought.

We Interrupt This Rant
To be just a wee bit Christmas-y. I try every year to add either a string of lights or some ornaments to my Christmas decoration set. It's not a collection. I have, in the past, collected ornaments but those have taken the long, slow dive down into oblivion. So now I just try to add something nice, something quality (to those of us who are fans of Robert Pirsig) to the tree or wreath or other holidy accoutrement decoration set. This year, I was quite taken with a set of miniature Egyptian glass ornaments from the good, albeit pricey folks at the NatGeoSoc. Click on over and take a look. They're quite lovely.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Review
I had to watch "Stealth" twice: once with my brain turned off to enjoy it and once with the mental gears engaged to properly review it. And, having watched it first for pleasure, let me get my lavish praise out of thew way first: Ooohhh! Look at all the pretty pictures!
I suppose enough time has passed that a capsule of the action is in order. Three hotest shot pilots fly the newest stealth aircraft as America's newest anti-terror weapon. A plane flown by an AI pilot is added to their wing. A lightning strike scrambles the AI making Roboplane go off on his own and generally disobey orders until it becomes necessary for the story for Roboplane to follow the orders of the lead actor.
Now for the scorn. Actually, I should say a couple of things before the scorn begins in earnest. The planes, called "Talons" in the movie, are just exceedingly cool. This is what every guy (and by "guy" I mean "guy") in creation wants to fly. Just sexy as hell. And the Roboplane is a difference design but also just way cool. The set design is all cool blue (cool as lighting temp, not style) lighting and multiple giant plasma screens, as I said, very pretty.
When the pilots are told that they're getting "a wingman," there is round of just stupid dialog about there being three of them and 'the number three.' Please. If these pilots were so stupid as to come up with the nonsensical words these actors are speaking.... I don't want to finish that sentence. I have more respect for Naval aviators to imagine that a scriptwriter would make them sound so (insert profanity here) stupid. Bad writer! (Smack!) Don't write again!
The Sam Sheppard character always has a bowl of Granny Smith apples around, two bowls in one scene. Why? I don't know. It must mean something to someone, like the color red in "The Sixth Sense." It's unusal for me to see Sam Sheppard as the bad guy (oh right, like anyone can't figure out that the commander who sends the heroes on thier mission is not going to be the bad guy!) I want him to always be Chuck Yeager from "The Right Stuff." But that's my problem.
The opening sequence in which the three humans are flying their Talons to take out some "terrorist" locations is good stuff - "Top Gun" but a little more clear as to what's actually happening. And it ends with the launch of a "Blue Ferret" missile which flies right up a mineshaft to blow up a weapons cache. Neat. But why are there manequins standing around in the cache? It looks like the film makers are showing us animatics instead of finished film. Or, they just don't give us enough information to understand why we're being shown the Blue Man Group frozen in a terrorist weapon bunker. Oh well.
After the initial mission, there's a segement that's supposed to humanize the pilots (I suppose). They are all in dress whites at a sushi bar where Jamie Foxx's date is a skeeve with big boobs in a low-cut dress and Josh Lucas's date is braless while wearing a handkerchief. And how do they act? Jamie Foxx is supposed to be bug-eyed at the breasts while Josh Lucas is going for gape-mouthed tonsil hockey. Oh yeah. Real class. And then they all go to a club where they're still in first-class unis! Bullcrap.
Here's a minor point but one that really sticks out for an old English major like me: language screw-ups. At one point John Lucas calls Lake Baikal "Lake Bakail." Then late in the movie he calls anti-radar chaff "chafe." And finally, there is a mission that's sent to the nation of Myanmar and the city of Rangoon. Oh please! If you are going use the name "Myanmar," the city is called "Yangon." If you are going to use the name "Rangoon," the nation is "Burma." It's called a stylebook. Use it.
Earlier I said that the planes were great but why oh why don't the moviemakers pay attention to detail? there is a scene where the Roboplane is flying into North Korea under the radar. This flight deck is supposed to be 15 feet. So at one point the plane comes bucketing along over a town and the jetwash behind the plane tears roofing tiles off the houses it passes over. That's good. In fact, I think that's precisely what would happen. But throughout the movie, the planes are blasting along over water and desert yet kick up no water or sand. If you do one, you have to do the other or thinking film-goers will call bullshit.
Other tech stuff that struck me: the engines look cool but I'm left to wonder at all the times we're shown the trapezoidal "nozzles" surrounded by little round nozzles. Could we have an explanation of what this is supposed to be? No. Better let this one slide. I'll give them the weird engines. But I won't give them any slack on the flight helmets. Again, they look cool. But at one point, Josh Lucas bangs his Talon down while wearing his full-head helmet and emerges with a cut over eye. Jeez Louise! A helmet is designed to protect against this very thing! And he's wearing his. Think people. Think for a change.
More tech problems. The Roboplane is said to run on "catalyzed methane." What the hell is catalyzed methane? And then Roboplane goes to a high-atmosphere flying refueling station to gas up. I can say gas up because it's methane, see? In a pretty cool sequence, the Roboplane's access code to refuel is denied so it just shoots the drouge off the line and plugs into the line which is now streaming fuel. later, a Talon goes to the same refueling station to gas up. If the Talons and Roboplane use the same fuel, why was it necessary to tell the humans what kind of fuel Roboplane runs on? Because it sounds cool? To quote Howard Stern's father: Don't be stupid ya moron!
I mentioned the mission to Rangoon and that's where a lot of problems arise. Foremost, the three humans and Roboplane are sent on their very first flight together and it's changed to a mission to bomb a terrorist gethering. I'm sorry but could you tell me any branch of the service would change a shake-down flight into a super-sensitive mission to bomb a single building in the middle of a city and that the bombing necessarily had to have zero collateral damage? Pish tush. Twaddle. I am going to run out of polite terms for bullshit in this piece.
Unfortunately, that mission into Rangoon is the source of much nonsense. The idea to take out a building where terrorists are meeting (info from humint on site we are supposed to believe) is a good one. And the execution of the out-taking is very well done. But. Really, really big but so much is foolish and needless. First, the bullshittery of magic sensors. We are told that Roboplane can tap directly into data from spy satellites. OK but it would take a satellite launched from Hogwarts to do what we're shown: voice recognition, retinal scanning and fingerprint identification. From space! Then it's Roboplane that comes up with a way to blast the building without collateral damage: a "Truncheon" missile can penetrate the 14' thick reinforced concrete roof of the building if the plane delivering it accelerates to "2070 knots" straight down imparting that kinetic energy to the missile. I admit - that's a clever idea. However a plane travelling at "2070 knots" is going 2,383.605 miles per hour which is Mach 3.14. I don't care how good a pilot you are, you can't pull out of a 3+ Mach power dive in the space shown. And there's no indication of a sonic boom which would tear up most of the city as the Talon is shown streaking down a city street as it pulls out of the dive.
In fact, I think no one on the movie crew ever bothered to think about speed. After the Talons' first mission, they fold in their wings (so cool) and hump up to (via voice over) Mach 4. Well, in the first mission, the planes are attacked by SAM missiles. Any plane capable of Mach 4 can simply outrun a SAM. The SR-71 Blackbird has never been shot down because it can fly faster than any missile shot at it.
But the speed issues don't end there! Oh no! Not with this movie. After the second mission, the remaining Talon pilot says to control, "We're going hypersonic." Well, hypersonic defined as over Mach 5. Yes, it sounds cool. There is even mention of "scramjets" but why is it necessary to introduce a unneeded concept when such a concept is beyond the physical capability of any fighter plane. And the Talons are, after all, fighters.

Oh man. I can't go on. There's plenty more to dissect in this sorry but pretty flick. But I'm going to leave it for my very first review sequel. Coming soon to this blog near you. Very near you - on your computer screen in fact.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Movie Dog Is Late
My tear-down of "Stealth" is due today, after saying I'd have it yesterday. I decided to watch it again (mostly on fast forwrd) and do an extensive rip on it. I'll have here in a couple of hours.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Today's Random Jotting
•Another great daily posting from Joe Sherlock at The View Through The Windshield. Not a surprise. He deserves your visit every weekday.
•Later today - my review of the dick flick "Stealth." There will be many, many spoilers.
•It's December in NoVa (well, everywhere, really) so the weather has finally decided to stop playing games. It's actually cold. November had some of the ugliest warm winter days I can recall. Humid, muggy actually. Left me feeling uncomfortable and ill. The honestly cold weather, even when it gets to the bone, is preferable.
•The Christmas card list gets put together today. If you're on it, you should see your card in about a week or so. (Stamps? not Christmas - flag, enh, I can live with that, postage scale? check.)
•Greatest invention for making Christmas shopping easy and an assurance that you're getting what the recipient wants? The Amazon wish list. Invented by Guiness scientists: Brilliant!
•Bon mots. Sometimes you get off just such a good line and it's so specific to the situation that you will never be able to use it again unless, of course you describe the situation and retell it. Which makes it vastly less funny. Nevertheless: I was visiting with friends in western Maryland recently. They mentioned seeing a deer take the fatal leap into a car and wondered what to do with the deer carcass. The first suggestion was to push into into the local creek where it would flow into the Potomac, then down river to Washington so it could make a political statement. I said, "What kind of political statement? The buck stops here?"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bling Bling The Panda Is A Chick Magnet
Yes, I know his name is "Tai Shan." But the more we hear about the bamboo-scarfing superstar of Washington's National Zoo, the more I think he should be renamed "Bling Bling." And The Washington Times informs us further:
Meet Tai Shan -- the ultimate chick magnet.
The National Zoo's new giant panda cub, who made his first appearance before the international press yesterday, has women all over the Washington area swooning over the cute and cuddly ball of fur -- and more than a few guys scratching their heads.
"He's just not that cute," said Richard Wertheim, 32, of Arlington -- drawing a fork to the leg from his panda-loving female lunch mate.
"He is too cute, say he is," quipped Aqsa Khan, 24, of Woodbridge, Va., to Mr. Wertheim. "The panda is cute, tell me he's cute. He's adorable."
Tai Shan's power over women has not gone unnoticed by local date seekers.
Let's leave aside the obivous that men will use anything in their pursuit of ... women. (I considered a cruder term but I'm just not that type of guy. Unless you're female and would like to visit the National Zoo.) The issue remains why does Bling Bling make the estrogen percolate like coffeepot on a hot stove? Here's a snip from the story that suggests a possibilty:
"During Tai Shan's press debut, most of the female reporters oohed and ahhed as the 21-pound cub climbed rocky ledges in his enclosure, pulling himself up with his front legs and wobbling his back paws up and over, while the male reporters focused primarily on shooting pictures and scribbling notes.
It might be maternal instinct that draws the female fans to Tai Shan, said Janice McGurick of the District."
And the constant theme of the article is that the cub is "cute." Cute. Oh, for sure. But I think we need a bit more analysis. Pandas, after all, are about as close as you can come to a sentient teddy bear, a sentient, shambling, bamboo-munching, monochromatic teddy bear that in reality has the claws and the strength to split you from um-to-um (cranium to rectum, if you must know) and check to see if there's any bamboo in there. So the reality of the panda's existence is not where the cute is.
It's the image. The panda is the matinee idol of cute-itude. We can't dismiss the designer aspect of the panda: the simple black and white is classic. Consider the Hampshire hog. Ain't that black and white great? But the Hampshire is, as far as I know, not known for giving the ladies the steamin' undies. So the panda has something more than its color scheme.

I offer, for no other reason than my consideration, that the essence of the panda's babe-magnetism is related to that color scheme but based on the curious neoteny of the breed. One of the most visible aspects of a baby animal is that the eyes are much larger in proportion to the head than for the same animal in adulthood. And pandas have those black eye patches around their black eyes which I propose is a kind of mimetic neoteny. Feel free to use that phrase.
Sociobiology, in which I hold great but not ultimate credence, tells us that the female is genetically hard-wired to take care of babies. So here, in Bling Bling, we have the current incarnation of the actual baby stage of an animal that evidences a salient baby characteristic throughtout its life. It is like taking the concept "baby" and boiling it down to a hyper-concentrate of baby-ness. The baby panda is the demi-glace of babydom and thus has the effect of being a hormone-stimulant in those women who are open to their maternal instincts. So I think Janice McGurick of the District is indeed right. She just doesn't get into the whys.

Men have been known to take advantage of such situations, even if they don't understand why. And let's face it, it's not like they're going to spend the effort to figure it out either.