Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Posting

Probably won't be any more until next Tuesday; my parents are visiting until about then. Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and stay safe on New Year's Eve.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Innocent Ghosts

Watched the second Ghost in the Shell movie, Innocence, today. It was okay, I suppose. It was a bit better than the first one, but the ending was still disappointing. The main character in this one was Batou, who is pretty cool, and the major supporting character was Togusa, also not bad. This movie, like the first, is a lot more driven by philosophising about the nature of humanity and what separates humans from machines than it is by the story or the characters themselves. The television series is much more interesting to me and a lot more watchable because all the philosophising it does (which is a lot less) comes out of the stories and the characters. Still, this movie was a bit better than the first, I'd say, simply because having seen the first movie and watched the first season of shows, I know the characters better and can understand a bit more about them and their motivations, which makes their constant musing on the meaning of life a bit more tolerable. I suppose I'd recommend this to a fan of the series, but otherwise I think most people would just be bored. The TV shows are the way to go with this anime.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A felicitous phrase.

It is painful to me to think, that while I was carrying on this Work, several of those to whom it would have been most interesting have died. Such melancholy disappointments we know to be incident to humanity; but we do not feel them the less.

~James Boswell, Life of Johnson (Advertisement to the First Edition)

Fun With Words

An interesting site called The Phrontistery which I ran across in my search of Scrabble dominance. My primary interest was in this page, which lists all the valid two- and three-letter Scrabble words, but I branched out and there is much else to interest. There is a collection of 400 of the rarest words on the internet and other obscure word lists. I haven't looked at the whole site, but I'd say it deserves a look-see for those fond of English.

Batman Returns to Mediocrity

HERE BE SPOILERS!

It was a decent movie, as comic book movies go. I don't generally have high expectations for them. Daredevil was awful. The preceding Batman movie was awful. X-Men was okay (only saw the first film). And I didn't really think any of the Superman movies were much to write home about. I like Batman, but the only time Batman has been taken off the page and worked well is in Batman: The Animated Series. So okay, I can handle some silliness and a few plot holes in my comic book movie. Which is good, because the former abounded and the latter was not in short supply.

All in all, the movie was pretty good. Batman had great toys, relied on his will, intellect, determination and a body trained to the utmost in order to defeat his enemies. He's not some pretty-boy from another planet who was lucky enough to be indestructible and able to fly. He's not some genetic freak-of-nature which endowed him with special powers. He's rich, yes, but that's as far as it goes. For an excellent summation of why Batman is the greatest superhero of all, go read what Steve wrote. The movie showed Batman having some struggles as he gets started, he makes some mistakes and he's not as savvy and self-confident as the Batman we all know and love. But that was okay. It is called "Batman Begins" for a reason.

But the downers. Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne's girlfriend and Alfred all know Batman's secret identity? That's just stupid. Katie Holmes apparently couldn't act her way out of a paper bag and Michael Caine's accent is too lower class to be Alfred. Ra's al-Ghul is in the movie: good. But he goes out like a punk: bad. (In fact, he shouldn't go out at all. He is Batman's nemesis, on a par with the Joker.) Jim Gordon is in the movie: good. But he's flat and one-dimensional: bad.

And the plot hole. Remember the microwave weapon? What does it do? Turns water into water vapor, aka: steam. Okay, fine. Makes sense, microwave ovens heat things up, sure. But wait! Aren't humans mostly water? Especially our blood? So how is it that while this thing can vaporize the water in pipes underground for miles around within seconds, humans can walk all around it without their blood boiling and exploding out of their bodies?

On the whole, the movie was mediocre. I won't buy it, and unless it was the consensus pick when I was with friends, I wouldn't watch it again.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Crybaby Italians

Lance Armstrong has been ordered to stand trial in Italy for defamation of Filippo Simeoni because Armstrong said Simeoni was a "liar". I'm not a huge Armstrong fan, nor am I completely uncritical of him. But this is ridiculous.

Apparently Simeoni is so thin-skinned and weak that reading about what Armstrong said has caused him to curl up in a little ball and cry for his mommy. Okay, I admit I made up that part. Actually it's Italians everywhere who are hiding under their beds and whining about the big, bad American being too successful. And that's a metaphor, and not literally true.

Even though Armstrong's comments were published in a French newspaper, an Italian judge has decided that Armstrong needs to stand trial in Simeoni's hometown and if he's convicted could be sentenced to up to six years in jail.

So what's this really about? Upset that Armstrong couldn't be beaten on the road, his detractors have taken to trying to beat him in court. Armstrong was even investigated for "private violence" when he chased down a Simeoni breakaway in the Tour de France. What a bunch of pathetic losers.

Béisbol and Politics

Turns out that the inaugural World Baseball Classic will not feature a team from Cuba. The US Treasury Department has decided that since there is an embargo against Cuba the permit necessary for a Cuban baseball team to come and play cannot be issued. Which is the right decision. Even if you think the embargo against Cuba is ill-advised, the necessary change is to remove the embargo, not to try to persuade the government to ignore the law because you don't like this particular effect.

And Rep. Jose Serrano (D. New York) is a moron if he thinks that it is possible to "leave the politics out of this". Does he really think that Castro wouldn't try to make political hay out of the Cuban team's performance should they beat the US? And it isn't about the US having a "grudge" against Cuba, but an "embargo". It's depressing to think that such a man is responsible for helping craft our nation's laws when he thinks it's acceptable to ignore laws when they interfere with his desire to watch a baseball game.

Don't be a blockhead.

An interesting article about the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Apparently a bunch of the people who worked on it thought it would bomb because it didn't use a laugh track, ended with Linus quoting Scripture, used real kids for the voices and other unconventional things. Wrong. It's still a great Christmas show.

Have at thee!

Jonah Goldberg notes in the Corner the latest development in home security. Er, or at least he notes that home security is returning to its roots.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Wildebeest on the Left

The analogy isn't a perfect one, but it is a striking one, however. Mark Helprin writes about the differences in collectivist and individualist thinking and attitudes to the War on Terrorism here. From this month's favourite site, The Claremont Review of Books.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Movies

I watched part of a movie this weekend. I don't normally write about the parts of movies I see. Why should I note that I watched a little bit of Ocean's Eleven for the twentieth time? I don't think anyone will find that particularly edifying or interesting.

But I think that rule should only apply to movies I haven't seen before. So I'll note that I watched part of Meet the Parents last night. It started out fairly well, but it lost its funniness fairly quickly. It just built up to be too much after a while, and the movie couldn't seem to choose between outright farce and realism with a comedic touch. It ended up in that muddled middle ground and I couldn't finish it.

New Books! (Sorta.)

I didn't get any new books, but I realised the other day that I hadn't actually read all of my PG Wodehouse books. I had two that had been sitting on my shelf for I-don't-know-how-long that I had not read. It wasn't that I looked at the titles and thought, "Oh, yeah. I've read that book." But rather that I just looked past them when I looked at that shelf. And then, a few days ago, I was looking at my shelf in greater detail for some reason and it dawned on me that I hadn't actually read Laughing Gas or Spring Fever. So I did.

Laughing Gas pretty funny, but it had a ridiculous and outlandish premise. That is to say, far more ridiculous and outlandish than even most Wodehouse books. In it, an English Earl and child actor switch bodies while under the influence of anaesthetic at the dentist's office. Madcap adventures ensue. Funny, but it doesn't stand out among the Wodehouse canon.

Spring Fever receives the same verdict. It was funny, one laughed a bit, smiled a lot and generally had a good time, but once it was over there weren't any parts that were especially memorable. The book suffered a bit, I think from not having a real protagonist. Was it Stan Cobbold? Or was it perhaps Mike Cardinal? Or Lord Shortlands? Or Teresa Cobbold? I have no difficulty in recommending both books to anyone who has enjoyed Wodehouse, but not as an introduction to his work.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ladies and gentlemen, your Olympic host country!

The AP is reporting that the reaction of the Chinese government to a demonstration a southern Chinese town was to shoot the demonstrators, seal the town, search for the organizers of the demonstration and deny to the rest of the world that anything was going on.

And these folks are the ones who get to host the Olympics in 2008. Even if you don't like the Olympics yourself (I'm not real keen on them myself) I think we can agree that it is viewed as an honour by most people in the world. And the Chinese governement is one that is of the least deserving.

Anyway, enough of my talking. A picture is worth a thousand words. (Credit for the image is to "Andre from Forumosa.com"."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Some Sunday reading

An appropriate article for a Sunday, I do think. Lots of good stuff over at the Claremont Review of Books in general, too. Do note, that though the current issue only has a few articles available online (at least, for non-subscribers) the previous issues seem to be available in their entirety.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Books

Read a couple books in the last couple weeks; both books were mysteries. The first was A Murder is Announced, a Miss Marple mystery by Agatha Christie. It wasn't too bad, though Miss Marple is not one of Christie's more engaging detectives I find. The book played fair, the clues were there for all to see, and while I didn't catch them all, enough were obvious that I picked the murderer out before I'd gotten halfway through. I think Dame Christie made a mistake by spending so much time writing murder mysteries. In order to keep them fresh and new she had to make some of them ridiculously outlandish. This wasn't as bad as some, but it was rather odd. If she had written more mysteries of other kinds, she may not have had to resort to the realm of the barely possible for her plots.

The other mystery was Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon. I'd seen people rave about how good Hammett was, and while I enjoyed the book, I don't know that I'd say it was one of the best mysteries I've ever read. This may be skewed, however, by the fact that I've seen the movie several times and was already pretty well familiar with the plot. Surprisingly, it turns out that Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade is extremely faithful to the book. That whole movie, in fact, was faithful to the point of lifting large sections of the book to use as dialogue and it is close to identical in other respects. It's not a very long book, so little had to be left out for pacing and length and a few things probably had to be cut to get the film past the censors, but all in all the movie seemed to be almost using the book as a script. If you aren't familiar with the tale, do yourself a favour and either read the book or watch the movie. Or both.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

If I had a million dollars...

While I would buy a house, I would also be inclined to buy something like this. Anyone who is looking to spend $8,000 on me this Christmas, please take note. I also see that it comes with free shipping. So there you go.

Army and Navy

I'm confused by this article. Not because it is unclear in any way. I'm just not sure if I should be pleased that my nation's Army cadets can successfully infiltrate a military facility and remove a 170 pound object without being noticed or disappointed because my nation's Naval midshipmen cannot keep their own academy secure from a bunch of Army cadets.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Better late than never

I'm a little slow to getting around to reading this article, and I had meant to read it sooner since some other blog I read (don't remember which now) had linked to it and commented on it as well.

It's an interesting survey of religion and "spirituality" (how I hate that term!) on the internet. It is primarily from a Catholic perspective, but then this is from a Catholic magazine. The first half is an interesting overview of what it is and the latter half is analysis and commentary on that. His conclusions? Not terribly good.
"The world is breaking up,"? the mad poet Robert Bly once intoned, "into small communities of the saved." These communities have resulted in the rise of what is known on the web as "Saint Blog's Parish,"a ring of 758 websites where compatible Catholic bloggers can join forces to establish their own small group. Nearly every blogger links to similar bloggers, who link on to other bloggers, who all link back to the first site, until the circle closes and something emerges that does, in fact, look like a community. And yet, it is a community based on like-mindedness and tied together by remote interaction--which makes for a very strange community, indeed.
Which, I flatter myself, is similar to what I said here. Jonathan Last goes on to note,
Beliefnet's Waldman thinks that this distancing of the self from the religious act can be helpful. "The anonymity of the Internet is what makes it work so well for religion," he says. "It's the flip side of why porn spreads. The same phenomenon that has led to pornography spreading, a variant of that has made religion one of the most popular topics online. It's that you can explore religious matters in the privacy of your own home; ask questions you might be embarrassed to ask; have conversations with people with some anonymity; and do it anytime day or night."This "anonymity combined with intimacy,"Waldman says, makes people "more inclined to open up,"since they aren't revealing themselves totally.

To which one wants to say: Doesn't that metaphor give you pause? Is a technique that has made pornography into the Internet'?s number-one business really a good idea for religion, the Internet's number-two business?
And his rousing conclusion is "Shut off your computer. Take a deep breath. Go to church." Good advice.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Movie

I'm not sure why it was called Century of the Dragon, but it was a half-way decent movie. Or perhaps 2/3. The movie was about an hour and a half and the first hour was actually pretty good. Our hero is an undercover cop who is assigned to get close to a Hong Kong triad leader so that he can be arrested and convicted for his nefarious activities. Unfortunately for the investigation, the triad boss "retires" into legitimate business just about the time the cop is slipped into the triad. The cop is kept in with the expectation that the triad boss will backslide, but now the cop has a dilemma. Should he make an effort to prevent his boss from slipping back into crime or should he just watch and nail him when he does? And then the situation becomes further complicated when a young up-and-comer in the triad makes a play to eliminate the old boss to cement himself at the top of triad. Very well done, and interesting. But then the climactic 3rd reel left many loose ends, and didn't seem very consistent with the earlier portrayals of the characters. So much promise, so little fulfillment.

My Library

I noted a couple days ago that I had run across Library Thing, an online book cataloguing tool. I've now reached the limit of 200 books for a free account. I'm not going to spend for a lifetime membership just yet, but that will probably be soon. For now, you can see a 200 book sample of my collection here.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Books

Finished reading a couple books in the last few days. One was J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull. It wasn't too bad. I'm not very interested in art criticism, really, so the text wasn't all terribly interesting, but it had about 200 colour and black and white plates of Tolkien's drawings, paintings and sketches, and all of those were most interesting. He really was a good visual artist as well as being talented with the written word. I'd strongly recommend anyone interested in Tolkien to at least find it at their library to see the pictures. There are quite a few very beautiful and interesting pictures that I don't believe one can see anywhere else.

The other book was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I finally broke down and read it, and while Mark Twain's remark that any library is a good library even if all it has is a lack of Jane Austen's books is still funny, I don't think it's accurate. It's an interesting novel and she does a nice job of drawing the characters in a very believable way. They are not all carbon copies of one another, nor are they flat and two-dimensional. And Mr Bennet is quite funny. Forget Mr Darcy, Elizabeth and the others, he was my favourite character by a clear margin. Even though it is a novel about relationships and falling in love, it's too well written to simply class it as "chick-lit". I didn't think I'd say this, but I'd recommend it.

It's a Library, uh, Thing.

Mmmm... home-made apple pie. (Eating as I post.)

I found an interesting book-cataloguing tool on the web. Someone had it linked, but I don't remember who it was. (Sorry about that whoever you are!) It is called, as you might have guessed, "Library Thing". What makes this device cool is both the various ways in which one can organise one's collection of books and how easy it makes it to input one's library into the catalogue itself. Most books are quickly found through Amazon, which allows one to have a thumbnail picture of the cover along with the other information. But even if it isn't at Amazon, the search function allows one to find it via a number of university libraries or through the Library of Congress. There are other neat features, but I'll leave it for you to discover them yourself.

When you first visit the page, you can sign up for an account simply by picking a user-name and a password. It is really and truly that simple. The free account doesn't expire, but it does only allow you to enter 200 books into your catalogue. For $10 you can enter unlimited books for a year. (After it expires, your books aren't removed, but you can't add any new books.) Or for $25 you can get a lifetime account.

I've only got a little over 100 books entered, so the widget for displaying a random selection of books from one's catalogue is a bit limited for me. I have a selection of five in the sidebar to the left. I haven't purchased a lifetime account, but I think I will if I have some Christmas money this year.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Book Excerpt

I had intended to blog this while I was actually reading Dreadnought, but I never got around to it. Still, I found it interesting enough that I'm going to put it up now.

In reaching out to Germany, [Joseph] Chamberlain ignored a centuries-old precept of English history: to survive and prosper, England must always ally herself with the weaker power or powers in Europe. Otherwise, allied to the strongest power, England finds herself in a subordinate role, her interests and independence subject to the dictates of the strongest power. Only by rallying the weaker states into a coalition to oppose the strongest power can England prevent Continental hegemony and preserve her own security. This was the lesson taught when England created alliances against Philip II of Spain, Louis XIV of France, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Cinema

Watched a few movies this weekend. All starred Jackie Chan, but two were good and the other was not. The first movie was the one that wasn't any good. City Hunter is about a private eye who ends up fighting terrorists on a cruise ship after tailing the girl he was supposed to find on board. Sounds like your average action/martial arts film, yes? The difference was that this movie was awful. So awful that let us never speak of it again.

Second was a somewhat early Jackie Chan movie, The Young Master. It wasn't too bad. The fighting was very stylised, like most kung-fu movies of that period and very dissimilar from his later roles. There aren't really any spectacular stunts like he worked into his later movies, but the fighting is impressive and it's obvious that he had a great deal more flexibility and agility at this younger age compared to his more recent outings. (No surprise, he was a mere 26 in this film, compared to 49 when his last American hit, Shanghai Knights, was released.)

Finally, I watched The Legend of Drunken Master, which was, I believe, the second of about four in a series. This was the only one of which I am aware that was released to theaters in the US. It's got some good fights, a few neat stunts and the plot isn't abysmally awful, though there are several moments of preachiness about how China has to defend itself from those evil foreigners who want only to degrade and hold back China. All in all, not a bad Jackie Chan flick.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Words, words, words.

Finished a book yesterday (first new book in a while). Dreadnought by Robert K. Massie, which was a pretty good book. Very informative, but not as much about battleships as one might have thought from the title. In large part the book was about the people and the circumstances that led to the creation of the battleship and how that in turn helped lead to the First World War. (Of course, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was the spark, but this book talks about how the conditions that provided tinder for the spark.) A great deal of the book dealt with the various people in Germany and England in the years before the war that were influential in their respective governments. I learned a great deal more about people of which I had heard, Bismarck, Tirpitz, Kaiser William, Jacky Fisher, Lloyd George and others, and I learned a great deal about people whose names were new to me, such as von Bulow, Holstein, Eulenberg, Lord Lansdowne, Charles Beresford, and Edward Grey to name a few.

It's a decent-sized book, about 900 pages, but it goes pretty quickly once one is started and away. The author does a good job of bringing the characters to life and making the time period come alive, which is no mean feat for a time both similar and yet so different. The book does feel a bit long when one reads it, mostly, I think, because he covers so many different people in depth. There is a lot of moving back and forth and re-covering points in time from different points of view that much of the book feels a bit redundant. It doesn't stop it all from being interesting, but if one is primarily interested in the politics of the situation instead of the personalities, this book could probably be edited down to 600 pages or less. Still, I'd recommend it to anyone interested in the period or in history in general.

Geometric Puzzle

Neat little puzzle game linked in the Corner today. I think these are called tangrams. (Yes, they are. Thank you, Google.) Score on my first try (because after you've done all the puzzles it would just become how well you can remember and how fast you move the mouse) was 909. EDIT: It seems that it reloads a random set of 7 puzzles each time, not just the same 7 over and over.

Friday, November 18, 2005

World Cup

I'm not a fan of soccer. (Much like Twain's famous remark about idiots and members of Congress, I would say that "Women's Soccer" is a redundancy.) But I do agree with the sentiments expressed here. I'm all for giving the Israelis a fair shake and finding ways to put pressure on the Iranian government. Surely this is something at which even the Europeans wouldn't balk? On the other hand, one should never underestimate the ability of Europeans to be foolishly soft and outrageously anti-Semitic.

Hah!

Seen floating about the internet...

The British are feeling the pinch in relation to recent bombings and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved." Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross." Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorised from "Tiresome" to a "Bloody Nuisance." The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the great fire of 1666.

Also, the French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate." The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.

It's not only the English and French that are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "shout loudly and excitedly" to "elaborate military posturing". Two more levels remain, "ineffective combat operations" and "change sides".

The Germans also increased their alert state from "disdainful arrogance" to "dress in uniform and sing marching songs". They also have two higher levels: "invade a neighbour" and "lose".

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual and the only threat they worry about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Continuing our theme....

Next on the list of home-made weapons is... your very own portable flame-thrower! Seriously, I would not recommend actually building this one, but he does include the details on how he did it. Heck, it's probably illegal most places, but the pictures are kinda neat.

As Seen in Half-Life!

Now you can build your own sentry gun that will automatically track and shoot intruders! Not only is the idea cool, and it is even cooler that he details how it was done so you can do it yourself, he includes videos of testing it on his younger brother. That's just awesome.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I feel the need.

The need for speed. That movie was awful, but this movie is awesome. Seen it linked about a bit, but didn't see it myself until this morning, and Steve had the first link I saw. Oh. My. Goodness. That was amazing.

Technology Breakthrough!

Bibliophile that I am, I was entertained by this. Which was the second item in this post.

B.O.O.K.

Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device—trade-named: BOOK.

BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It’s so easy to use, even a child can operate it.

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere—even sitting in an armchair by the fire—yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM.

Here’s how it works: BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of recyclable paper, each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density; for now, BOOKs with more information simply use more pages. Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet.

BOOK may be taken up at any time and used merely by opening it.

BOOK never crashes or requires rebooting, though, like other devices, it can become damaged if coffee is spilled on it and it becomes unusable if dropped too many times on a hard surface. The “browse” feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an “index” feature, which pin-points the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval.

An optional “BOOKmark” accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session—even if the BOOK has been closed. BOOKmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single BOOKmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous BOOK markers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK. You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with optional programming tools, Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Styli (PENCILS).

Portable, durable, and affordable, BOOK is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. BOOK’s appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking to invest. Look for a flood of new titles soon.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Cinema

Since I'm talking about movies, this weekend, I got a couple movies from the library which were dramatically different from one another. Both ended up being okay, but I don't think I'd recommend either one really.

First up was The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. This was, without a doubt, one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen in my life. Right up there with Novocaine. What made this movie so weird was that it was, in places, obviously a comedy. In other places, it wasn't obvious. It's not that it just wasn't funny, like all comedies are in places, but that at times it didn't even seem to be trying to be funny. And it didn't seem to go anywhere. The movie was like a treadmill. There was a lot of running, but when it was all over we were exactly where we started. Some parts were great; the interns, Jeff Goldblum and Anjelica Huston, and Willem Dafoe were hilarious. Others were not so great, most notably Owen Wilson and Cate Blanchett and about half of Bill Murray's scenes, which was unfortunate since he was in just about every scene.

The other movie I watched was a Hong Kong police/crime/action/comedy movie, Curry and Pepper. One of the stars was Steven Chow, he of Kung-fu Hustle fame (which I liked). This movie was less a movie than a gigantic mish-mash of cliches put on film. It had everything from the scarred super-villain to the beautiful news reporter to the Odd-Couple-esque detective partners to the Police Chief who threatens our heroes with suspension for their maverick tactics. When an actor (Steven Chow in this case) makes 11 movies in a year, it's probably a safe bet that most of them won't be fantastic.

Wasabi

Luc Besson is an odd duck. This is the man who brought us Leon, (aka The Professional) an excellent film. He is also the man who brought us The Fifth Element, a less than stellar film. Besides directing these, he has been involved with a large number of other films, some good and some that are not so good.

Recently, I watched a film that he produced, Wasabi, which has been called "Quite Possibly The Greatest French-Language, English-Subtitled, Japanese Action-Comedy Of All Time." Seeing as it is the only movie of which I am aware that fits into such a lengthily titled category, I'd be inclined to agree. And it isn't a bad movie. It's certainly not one to take seriously, and if you think about it too hard, the plot comes apart like a Lego™ construction that has been tossed up into a ceiling fan set on high. (Which is fun, but you should never do this when your mother is home.) And, as my wife pointed out, despite the ludicrous premise, the movie itself is rather straightforward with a distinct lack of twists. I'd recommend it.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Fakin' It

An interesting little test which measures one's ability to detect fake smiles. According to the information at the end, most people have difficulty in picking out fake smiles. I managed 15 out of 20, which seems pretty good to me, though they don't have statistics on what the average person manages.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

WOW, or Why I Stopped Blogging for Ten Days.

Blogging has suffered as of late because I've been very taken up with something else that is fairly time-intensive. A friend of mine gave me a ten day trial of World of Warcraft, that MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game) that all the cool kids are playing. I've gotten to know all kinds of leet-speak, excuse me, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leet. I know what it means to "pwn" or why I don't want to be a "n00b". Yes, you should now "ph34r" my "m4d sk1llz".

On a more serious note, WOW is the first MMORPG (they really need a more wieldy acronym) I've played, and maybe they're all this cool, I don't know. But this is, without a doubt, the most enjoyable game I've ever played. I'm not sure what all the reasons for this are. I'll speculate a bit, and maybe I'll figure it out a bit better by writing this down. First of all, the game is both simple and complex. The movement is the classic WASD with which any PC gamer (as opposed to console gamers; not trying to slight you Steve!) is familiar. (For those not in the know, W moves forward, S backward and A and D left and right.) Interacting with the world is done in large part with simple left and right clicking on the mouse, and with a minimum of reading in the manual, one can sort out how to do various other moderately more complex tasks. Complexity enters in when one considers the vast number of things that one can do. Indeed, there are many more things than any one character can do. Not only can you fight and kill monsters, but you can prepare and consume some of the animals you can hunt. You can skin them and use the leather to make objects. You can create various magical items using arcane combinations of items. You can find plants with which to make healing potions or deadly poisons. You can mine metals and minerals and fashion tools and weapons. But you cannot do them all with a single character. So now you have to trade, barter, sell and buy with other players. You can also buy things from computer operated vendors (NPCs, Non-Player Characters), but to get the good stuff, you need to deal with other players.

The characters themselves are amazing too. There are 8 playable "races", with the standard Humans, Dwarves, Elves and Orcs, but also with the Undead, Gnomes and Trolls and the unique Tauren (large, anthropomorphic bovines and yes, it is cooler than that sounds). Within these, one can choose from a number of "classes" Warrior, Shaman, Warlock, Druid, Mage, Priest, Paladin, Rogue and Hunter. Not every race can be every class. Taurens, for example, can only be Druids, Hunters, Shamans, and Warriors. There are 9 Primary Professions, of which each character can learn only 2. These are things like Herbalism, Alchemy, Leatherworking, Mining and Engineering. It is suggested that one choose two complementary professions, Mining and Blacksmithing perhaps, that allow one to both gather raw materials and then use them to manufacture items.

Right. So there's a bunch to do. How easy is it to do it all? Not very. I've been playing like a madman trying to get as much done as I can in the limited time that I have, and I've gotten one character about 18 levels of experience out of a maximum of 60 in a matter of about 6 days. And each level takes longer than the one before. The first 10 levels only took about two days. The next 8 took about 4 days. And the world itself is big. I mean, big. Really, really big. There are two continents with roughly 20 "provinces" on each. And it's taken me days to partially explore two. The variety of monsters is astounding. I'm sure that most places differ in a similar way, and there are probably hundreds of different kinds of monsters to find.

The only bad news is that I don't really have the $15 a month the game costs in my current budget. So, I've only got about 4 more days of playing left. But really, this is the greatest computer game I've ever played.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Babel, indeed.

Fun little internet toy called "Lost in Translation" which "Babelizes" anywords you care to enter. I made sure to check the box to include Chinese, Japenese and Korean. Then I entered the sentence "I am the very model of a modern Major General."

My result was:
The design of the device of the trowel of the beginning has taste of
conductors in the morning I today.
Quite. As it says on the site
As of September 2003, translation software is almost good enough to turn grammatically correct, slang-free text from one language into grammatically incorrect, barely readable approximations in another. But the software is not equipped for 10 consecutive translations of the same piece of text.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Link! He come to town!

Come to save/the Princess Zelda!

No, actually, just links over there (to your left if you're facing the monitor) that I have added. One to my youngest brother and the other to my brother-in-law.

Because I can.

The whole post wasn't one of his best, but this line amused me particularly. "...[S]aid an unnamed associate of Mr. Fitzgerald who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he could." I've often had the feeling that people insist on being anonymous simply because they can and not always because it's necessary for any reason.

Wodehouse and God

Or, as they have titled the article themselves, God & Bertie Wooster. Though considering the scope of the article, that's a bit of a misnomer. Worth a read for any fan of Wodehouse. It's from the October issue of First Things, which is now available to non-subscribers.

Better than I expected.


My blog is worth $1,129.08.
How much is your blog worth?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Books and Things

I'm thinking that it may make more sense for me to just have a weekly book update rather than a post at odd times when it occurs to me to write about what I've been reading lately. So I will (try to) make this a Wednesday convention on my blog.

Finally finished Our Idea of God, the last chapter had me bogged down for quite a while. Quite an interesting book. Essentially, Thomas Morris tries to show that the ideas we hold about God are pretty consistent with logic and also, therefore, philosophy. I admit I was surprised by how much he relied upon Anselm and his idea of a Being, greater than which none can be imagined. I'd never read much about Anselm, but the times I'd seen him mentioned in passing he seemed to be regarded as having been superseded. All in all, quite a good book which provokes thought about the consistency of one's beliefs.

I've also read a couple books criticising (perhaps "analysing" would be more apt) Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The first was Defending Middle Earth by Patrick Curry. I couldn't stand it. It was mostly left-wing Green propaganda and clap-trap with a few quotations from Tolkien to dress it up. He is explicitly post-modern (his own term) and draws connections that are somewhat reasonable, but then assigns them strength that is unwarranted. (The Shire is humanity, surrounded by Middle Earth as nature and that encompassed by the Sea for spirituality. And what a loathsome word "spirituality" is! Redolent of soft-headed and muddled thinking. People who are interested in "spirituality" are often, it seems to me, the people who tell you, "it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you believe something earnestly." Rubbish.)

Better was Bradley J. Birzer's J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth. Birzer, being Catholic, was better able, I think to understand what it was that Tolkien may have intended by what he wrote. While he did take proper note of Tolkien's love of things green and natural, he didn't go too far and speculate that Tolkien would have supported the radical ideas of the eco-terrorists like Earth First!, Greenpeace and others. On the whole, a more level headed assessment.

The most recently completed book is The Dark Tower and Other Stories, by CS Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper. I didn't realise that the reason there is so little of Lewis' writing published posthumously (unlike Tolkien, whose son Christopher has published 12 volumes of his father's writing and hasn't even published it all) was because Jack Lewis' brother Warren essentially made a great big bonfire of his brother's papers after he died. According to Hooper it "burned steadily for three days." One cannot but wonder what was lost. The actual story of The Dark Tower I found to be rather creepy. It was interesting, but I don't know that I would have wanted to read the entire book. All the stories were interesting, but what I liked best was a fragment at the end. I'm not going to say what it was about, because I think my enjoyment of it would not have been half so great had I known what it was about from the first. The slow realisation of what is going on really engages the reader's interest. Unfortunately, just as it is starting to get really interesting, the fragment breaks off.

While looking for the link above, I ran across Stephen King's Dark Tower series. Does anyone know if it is at all related to Lewis' story?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Movies

What are the greatest movies of all time? Well, not so long ago AFI published a list, and so did Time. For funsies, here are the movies of each list and I've bolded the titles that I have seen.

A few notes about the lists first. Time lumped movies that were part of a series together as one entry, while AFI split them up. Time did not, however, hesitate to list only one or two movies from a series if they didn't think the others belonged on the list. (Note the absence of Godfather III from both lists.) Time did not bother to rank the movies against each other. (The list is alphabetical.) AFI only included American movies to the year 1996, Time's list goes to the present and includes foreign films.

Some glaring omissions are the Marx Brothers A Night at the Opera, Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, Star Wars instead of The Empire Strikes Back, and Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. I daresay you could think of a few others.

EDIT: Corrected the second list as noted in the comments.
SECOND EDIT: My lovely (and observant) wife noted that since she has seen me watching my own copy of Ben-Hur, I should probably include that below as well.

Time Magazine

1. Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1972)
2. The Apu Trilogy (1955, 1956, 1959)
3. The Awful Truth (1937)
4. Baby Face (1933)
5. Bande à part (1964)
6. Barry Lyndon (1975)
7. Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)
8. Blade Runner (1982)
9. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
10. Brazil (1985)
11. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
12. Camille (1936)
13. Casablanca (1942)
14. Charade (1963)
15. Children of Paradise (1945)
16. Chinatown (1974)
17. Chungking Express (1994)
18. Citizen Kane (1941)
19. City Lights (1931)
20. City of God (2002)
21. Closely Watched Trains (1966)
22. The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936)
23. The Crowd (1928)
24. Day for Night (1973)
25. The Decalogue (1989)
26. Detour (1945)
27. The Discreet Charm of the 28. Bourgeoisie (1972)
28. Dodsworth (1936)
29. Double Indemnity (1944)
30. Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
31. Drunken Master II (1994)
32. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
33. 8 1/2 (1963)
34. The 400 Blows (1959)
35. Farewell My Concubine (1993)
36. Finding Nemo (2003)
37. The Fly (1986)
38. The Godfather, Parts I and II (1972, 1974)
39. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
40. Goodfellas (1990)
41. A Hard Day's Night (1964)
42. His Girl Friday (1940)
43 Ikiru (1952)
44. In A Lonely Place (1950)
45. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
46. It's A Gift (1934)
47. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
48. Kandahar (2001)
49. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
50. King Kong (1933)
51. The Lady Eve (1941)
52. The Last Command (1928)
53. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
54. Léolo (1992)
55. The Lord of the Rings (2001-03)
56. The Man With a Camera (1929)
57. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
58. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
59. Metropolis (1927)
60. Miller's Crossing (1990)
61. Mon oncle d'Amérique (1980)
62. Mouchette (1967)
63. Nayakan (1987)
64. Ninotchka (1939)
65. Notorious (1946)
66. Olympia, Parts 1 and 2 (1938)
67. On the Waterfront (1954)
68. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
69. Out of the Past (1947)
70. Persona (1966)
71. Pinocchio (1940)
72. Psycho (1960)
73. Pulp Fiction (1994)
74. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
75. Pyaasa (1957)
76. Raging Bull (1980)
77. Schindler's List (1993)
78. The Searchers (1956)
79. Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
80. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
81. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
82. The Singing Detective (1986)
83. Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)
84. Some Like It Hot (1959)
85. Star Wars (1977)
86. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
87. Sunrise (1927)
88. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
89. Swing Time (1936)
90. Talk to Her (2002)
91. Taxi Driver (1976)
92. Tokyo Story (1953)
93. A Touch of Zen (1971)
94. Ugetsu (1953)
95. Ulysses' Gaze (1995)
96. Umberto D (1952)
97. Unforgiven (1992)
98. White Heat (1949)
99. Wings of Desire (1987)
100. Yojimbo (1961)

AFI

1. CITIZEN KANE (1941)
2. CASABLANCA (1942)
3. THE GODFATHER (1972)
4. GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
5. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962)
6. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
7. THE GRADUATE (1967)
8. ON THE WATERFRONT (1954)
9. SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993)
10. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952)
11. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
12. SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)
13. THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957)
14. SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)
15. STAR WARS (1977)
16. ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
17. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951)
18. PSYCHO (1960)
19. CHINATOWN (1974)
20. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975)
21. THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940)
22. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
23. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)
24. RAGING BULL (1980)
25. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982)
26. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964)
27. BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967)
28. APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)
29. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939)
30. THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)
31. ANNIE HALL (1977)
32. THE GODFATHER PART II (1974)
33. HIGH NOON (1952)
34. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
35. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934)
36. MIDNIGHT COWBOY (1969)
37. THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946)
38. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)
39. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965)
40. NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)
41. WEST SIDE STORY (1961)
42. REAR WINDOW (1954)
43. KING KONG (1933)
44. THE BIRTH OF A NATION (1915)
45. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951)
46. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)
47. TAXI DRIVER (1976)
48. JAWS (1975)X
49. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)
50. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)
51. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940)
52. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953)
53. AMADEUS (1984)
54. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930)
55. THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)
56. M*A*S*H (1970)
57. THE THIRD MAN (1949)
58. FANTASIA (1940)
59. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955)
60. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981)
61. VERTIGO (1958)
62. TOOTSIE (1982)
63. STAGECOACH (1939)
64. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977)
65. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)
66. NETWORK (1976)
67. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962)
68. AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951)
69. SHANE (1953)
70. THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971)
71. FORREST GUMP (1994)
72. BEN-HUR (1959)
73. WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1939)
74. THE GOLD RUSH (1925)
75. DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990)
76. CITY LIGHTS (1931)
77. AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973)
78. ROCKY (1976)
79. THE DEER HUNTER (1978)
80. THE WILD BUNCH (1969)
81. MODERN TIMES (1936)
82. GIANT (1956)
83. PLATOON (1986)
84. FARGO (1996)
85. DUCK SOUP (1933)
86. MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935)
87. FRANKENSTEIN (1931)
88. EASY RIDER (1969)
89. PATTON (1970)
90. THE JAZZ SINGER (1927)
91. MY FAIR LADY (1964)
92. A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)
93. THE APARTMENT (1960)
94. GOODFELLAS (1990)
95. PULP FICTION (1994)
96. THE SEARCHERS (1956)
97. BRINGING UP BABY (1938)
98. UNFORGIVEN (1992)
99. GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (1967)
100. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942)

Copyright, Copyleft and Copy???

There's copyright, which is
1. The exclusive right given by law for a certain term of years to an author, composer, designer, etc. (or his assignee), to print, publish, and sell copies of his original work.
according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

And there is copyleft.

But I am at a loss for a felicitous term to describe this notice on my brother-in-law's blog.
This'un 'hole hur intra-web site done been copywrit by me.
Iffun you'n want to use anything from this hur site, you cain't...Lessen you git a written okee dokee from me furst.
Suggestions welcome.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The problem with Discworld

Speaking of books, I got Thud! from the library last week and finished it the same day. It was pretty good, but it wasn't as good as his earlier work. I've been thinking about it on and off ever since and I think I might know why it is that his later work fails to appeal like his early work did. There are a couple reasons.

Firstly, Pratchett has gotten preachy. Monstrous Regiment, The Truth, and any story featuring Granny Weatherwax spend a great deal of time with Pratchett informing the reader in a heavy-handed way exactly the way he thinks the world ought to be. And while I agree with a great deal of what he has to say, I don't read his books for their socio-political prescriptions for healing the ills of the world.

Secondly, since Pratchett can't fix up our world, he's decided to transform his into a kind of utopia. He keeps patching things up. The Unseen University, formerly a hotbed of intrigue and assassination has become pedestrian and staid. The Night Watch, vastly outnumbered and surviving a criminal city by their wits has ballooned into a City Watch with legions of officers and actually keeps peace, directs traffic and otherwise actually works. The Trolls and the Dwarves keep getting along better and better. Dwarves have experienced Women's Liberation. And no one of consequence dies any longer. The world used to be dysfunctional, dangerous, light-hearted and played for laughs. It's now rapidly becoming organised, utopian, depressing and stolid.

Finally, Pratchett is beating characters into the ground. He had the good sense to stop writing about Rincewind once he'd sent him all the way around the world, but he still dwelt on him too long and spoiled the effect. He's now done that as well with Granny Weatherwax, Sam Vimes, Carrot Ironfounderson, and the rest of the City Watch. Sure, they're popular, but his stories about them are getting stale because he has gone past the point where he's supposed to stop. You know, "and they lived happily ever after"? He needs to invent someone new (as in Going Postal, or The Truth) or go back and find a character from previous book who could be revisited.

What is ultimately the cause of all these problems (but for which there really isn't any fix) is the fact that Pratchett has now become so popular that he's simply turned Discworld into a cash cow and is just trying to generate as much stuff as possible for his rabid fans to buy up simply because it says "Pratchett" or "Discworld" on it somewhere.

Secret Societies

I've read a few Agatha Christie novels in the last week or so, and they weren't any good at all. I'm starting to think that she produced a lot more dross than gold. She seems to have a fetish with secret societies, both for good and ill. More than ever I'm convinced that a mundane criminal committing a novel crime is the best formula for a good mystery.

Soccer and the sexes

This is not surprising. It is a girl's game, after all. Also, John Derbyshire wrote an interesting article about soccer back in July 2000.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Xanderland

My brother-in-law has a new blog and gotten rid of his old one. And it has comments. And archives. And permalinks. And, so far, he's actually posting on a regular basis. All to the good. But his native taciturnity makes some of his posts difficult to decipher. In the preceding link, what exactly is he bidding on at Ebay?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

On the Square

First Things has a blog called On the Square. Why was I not informed of this immediately?! Oh, well, I suppose I have been remiss about reading First Things as often as I should. Anyway, another feed to add to my ever-growing list.

I tell you what, (tangent) I thought at first that a news aggregator like Feed Reader, would be more effort than it was worth, but I think it has actually saved me quite a bit of time. I don't have to click through my bookmark list looking for blogs that have updates, and now that I have nearly 30 blogs that I want to keep up with, that amounts to a considerable savings of time.

A revealing slip

Jonah Goldberg comments in his syndicated column a few liberals had a strange revelatory moment in what may well have been Freudian slips while commenting on William Bennett's remarks that have generated so much heat.
My first objection is more of a delicious irony. Notice how so many righteously offended liberals keep referring to fetuses as people. In the New York Times, Bob Herbert proclaims that Bennett considers "exterminating blacks would be a most effective crime-fighting tool." Schultz and McAuliffe say Bennett wants to exterminate "babies."

Funny, I thought the bedrock faith of pro-abortion liberals is that fetuses aren't babies. Isn't it interesting how this lynchpin of liberal morality evaporates the moment an opportunity to call Bennett a racist presents itself? Talk about utilitarianism.
NARAL and Planned Parenthood need to get in touch with these fellows since they seem to have forgotten their talking points.

Goldberg concludes by pointing out that the truth about Bennett's remarks is plain if one takes the time to read them in context.
The former philosophy professor picked a hypothetical that he thought would make the horror of such utilitarianism obvious to everybody. Murder a whole generation just to lower the crime rate? Disgusting!

Bennett's real mistake was in thinking people would be mature enough to get it.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Reading

Got through the last of the Marsh books I had out from the library. (So many that it's kind of a relief not to have any more to read for a while.) A couple were okay and a couple were not as good. The not so good ones were A Wreath for Rivera and Spinsters in Jeopardy. The first wasn't so good because of the attempt at transcribing the jazz/swing scene of the first half of the 20th century. I've never seen this done well even when someone isn't mocking it. It always comes across as being ridiculous. The mystery itself was pretty good, though I figured it out right quick. If one picks up on the crucial bit of evidence, it's impossible not to get it. Spinsters in Jeopardy wasn't so good because it was a bit far-fetched. All mysteries are, to a degree, of course, but this one was a bit above the odds. Bizarre cults mixed up with drug smuggling and the benign kidnapping of the detective's son all combined to make the mixture a bit too rich.

Photo Finish and Light Thickens were not too bad. The first had one fantastical element (which I can overlook) which, if I tell you what it is might spoil the plot, but the solution was honest and yet had me fooled. The latter book was actually Marsh's last and it returns to the Dolphin Theater where another book was set (Killer Dolphin) and it uses a few of the earlier characters. I felt after reading this that I should have pegged the solution right away, but I didn't. I'll blame it on being tired when I read it. When considered, there is really only one option and the problem is to figure out how the murderer did it.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Three DVDs

Watched three DVDs this weekend. Watched The Recruit which wasn't very good. Colin Farrell and Al Pacino star in a formulaic and utterly predictable "thriller" which fails to, well, thrill. The bad guy should be obvious a few minutes into the movie, his sinister plan shouldn't remain shrouded in mystery and so when the "twist" comes, you've been expecting it so long it's almost a relief. The problem? A bad script.

I also watched the 6th and 7th volumes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex episodes, which were quite good. I won't say too much about them so as not to spoil the ending, but I will say that it didn't end quite the way I thought it would, though having seen the first GitS movie, I had some inkling. In a way, the ending seemed a bit weak. The action was good, the suspense was well-managed, and it pulled you along right to the last few minutes where it was all wrapped up, but the final explanation didn't seem quite grand enough to me. They also seemed to leave it open for another season, which I didn't think they would do, but apparently it's already been done. Now I have to decide if I want to wait for my library to get those DVDs.

Four Books

Since I last wrote about the books I'd been reading, I've read Death in a White Tie, Death in Ecstasy, Grave Mistake, and Letters to an American Lady. The first three are by Ngaio Marsh and the last is by CS Lewis.

Death in a White Tie wasn't too bad, but I pegged the murderer with an intuitive guess pretty early on. I'm not sure what it was about him that tipped me off; I suppose he was too much like the typical Agatha Christie villain not to be the one. The clues were commendably in evidence: Marsh played fair.

Death in Ecstasy was not as good. It was an earlier book, before she got rid of Nigel Bathgate, who is an abomination. Marsh was still in her early phase where her debt to Sayers is more clearly seen, though she was breaking out of it a bit in this one. I made an educated guess (successfully) at the murderer based a couple clues I had seen along with Alleyn, but I didn't pick up on them all.

Grave Mistake was the most troubling of the three. I really didn't enjoy it all that much. I didn't like who was picked to be the murderer and it is set in the late 50's or early 60's, which is very annoying. Edwardian England is enchanting. England of the middle part of the century is simply depressing and vulgar. I didn't pick up on hardly any of the clues, mostly, I think, because I really wanted the murderer to be someone else.

Letters to an American Lady was quite interesting. CS Lewis wrote letters to this woman at intervals, but fairly regularly, for about 13 years. I do think (though one doesn't have any of the woman's letters) that she probably had a bit of a crush on him, at least at first, though, as Lewis points out in one of his letters, she was one of the few women who continued to write him regularly after he married. The letters are almost all very short, so a 13 year correspondence only takes up about 125 small pages. There is quite a bit of Lewis' wisdom contained within them and I found it interesting to see how very blunt he could be when he perceived error.

Guest Blogging

I'm filling in for Arevanye again over at the Window in the Garden Wall for the rest of the week while she's away. I've said it before and I'll say it again. That's the one blog I read every day. And you should too. And not just because she allows me to blog there every once in a while. Go. Go now and read it. GO!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Adventure Gaming

That Bone game I talked about a couple posts down is pretty good. The demo is rather short, but it is long enough to give one an idea of how the game works. It's an adventure game in the mould of the Monkey Island games. (The first two games are very hard to find, which is rather unfortunate since I think they are, in some ways, the best of the four.) I may have to buy the game at some point.

I noticed on the Monkey Island page (first of the three links above) that Telltale Games is picking up the license to another old LucasArts game, Sam and Max. Here's hoping that they eventually make some more MI games too.

Comic-book Religion

There was a post over at ThinkChristian.net that linked to a page which listed the religious beliefs of a large number of comic-book characters. I didn't realise that so many had such things mentioned in their comics. I don't know how accurate the list is and I haven't even heard of all these characters, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Bone Game

Based on the comic. I just finished downloading the game, or the demo, actually. The full game can be unlocked if one gives them $20. Once I've played it, I'll let you know how it is.

I haven't even seen the movie.

And this is still really funny. Read through the 04/09/05 strip for the full joke. I discovered this comic a couple days ago and I've read through 3+ years of it in the last couple days. Some of them are really funny. Most of them are at least pretty good.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

If you can catch us, we'll stop infringing on your rights.

It seems Google (who owns Blogger, where this blog is hosted) has decided that they'll just start infringing on copyrights and authors will have to catch them at it and ask Google to stop. But they have to say "pretty please with a cherry on top".

Okay, I made up that last bit.
[A] lawsuit [was] filed in federal court in New York last week against Google and its Google Print Project. Brought by the 8,000- member Authors Guild, the suit seeks damages and an injunction to halt Google's project, claiming it violates copyright because authors have not first given permission to use their works.

100

Below is a list of the last hundred books that I read, in more or less the order I read them. I keep a list of the books I have read, and for the last hundred books or so, I've been keeping track of the order in which they are entered on my list. It's not the exact order which I read them, necessarily, since I sometimes enter several books at once without paying close attention to which was read before the other. But in broad terms, this is the correct order. There are a few books on the list that I had read before (the ones by Scott Corbett, for example) but I hadn't yet put them on my list. This list goes back (I used my blog to figure this out) to December 1st, 2004. So it's been about 100 books in about 10 months. 10 books a month isn't too bad, neh?
EDIT: The list is supposed to be a numbered list, but Blogger can't seem to manage that for some reason.
  1. Lewis, C.S. Grief Observed, A
  2. O'Brian, Patrick Yellow Admiral, The
  3. O'Brian, Patrick Hundred Days, The
  4. O'Brian, Patrick Blue at the Mizzen
  5. Wodehouse, P.G. Quick Service
  6. O'Brian, Patrick 21
  7. Corbett, Scott Disappearing Dog Trick, The
  8. Corbett, Scott Home Run Trick, The
  9. Corbett, Scott Baseball Trick, The
  10. Corbett, Scott Ever Ride A Dinosaur?
  11. Pratchett, Terry Last Hero, The
  12. Stout, Rex Father Hunt, The
  13. Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity
  14. Pratchett, Terry Truth, The
  15. Pratchett, Terry Thief of Time
  16. Pratchett, Terry Night Watch
  17. Corbett, Scott Black Mask Trick, The
  18. Corbett, Scott Hairy Horror Trick, The
  19. Wodehouse, P.G. Damsel in Distress, A
  20. LeGuin, Ursula Wizard of Earth-sea, A
  21. Wodehouse, P.G. Summer Moonshine
  22. Wodehouse, P.G. In His Own Words
  23. Pratchett, Terry Monstrous Regiment
  24. Christie, Agatha Murder In Three Acts
  25. LeGuin, Ursula Tombs of Atuan, The
  26. Marx, Arthur My Life With Groucho
  27. LeGuin, Ursula Farthest Shore, The
  28. Schulz, Charles Complete Peanuts: 1953-1954, The
  29. Sakai, Stan Space Usagi
  30. Stout, Rex Please Pass the Guilt
  31. Stout, Rex A Family Affair
  32. Pratchett, Terry Art of Discworld, The
  33. O'Rourke, P.J. Peace Kills
  34. Kagan, Donald Peloponnesian War, The
  35. Christie, Agatha Destination Unknown
  36. Garrett, Randall Lord Darcy
  37. Silverstein, Ken Radioactive Boy Scout, The
  38. LeGuin, Ursula Tales From Earth-sea
  39. LeGuin, Ursula Tehanu
  40. Stout, Rex Trio For Blunt Instruments
  41. Isaacs, Neil D. (Ed.) Tolkien and the Critics
  42. Smith, Jeff Crown of Horns
  43. Christie, Agatha Secret Adversary, The
  44. LeGuin, Ursula Other Wind, The
  45. Isaacs, Neil D. (Ed.) Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism
  46. Christie, Agatha Man in the Brown Suit, The
  47. Pratchett, Terry Going Postal
  48. Stoye, John Siege of Vienna, The
  49. Christie, Agatha Mystery of the Blue Train
  50. Christie, Agatha Poirot Investigates
  51. Christie, Agatha Death in the Clouds
  52. McCrum, Robert Wodehouse: A Life
  53. Grant, Ulysses S Personal Memoirs
  54. Christie, Agatha Hercule Poirot's Christmas
  55. Christie, Agatha Sad Cypress
  56. Christie, Agatha Dumb Witness
  57. Marsh, Ngaio Colour Scheme
  58. Christie, Agatha Regatta Mystery and other Stories, The
  59. Marsh, Ngaio Death of a Fool
  60. Hibbs, Thomas Shows About Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture from Seinfeld to the Exorcist
  61. Marsh, Ngaio Night at the Vulcan
  62. Marsh, Ngaio When In Rome
  63. Stout, Rex Over My Dead Body
  64. Marsh, Ngaio Last Ditch
  65. Marsh, Ngaio Killer Dolphin
  66. Marsh, Ngaio Tied Up in Tinsel
  67. Lewis, C.S. Miracles
  68. Wodehouse, P.G. Heavy Weather
  69. Wodehouse, P.G. Hot Water
  70. Wodehouse, P.G. Uneasy Money
  71. Wodehouse, P.G. Cocktail Time
  72. Wodehouse, P.G. Piccadilly Jim
  73. Marsh, Ngaio Black As He's Painted
  74. Marsh, Ngaio Artists In Crime
  75. Marsh, Ngaio Clutch of Constables, A
  76. Marsh, Ngaio Alleyn and Others: The Collected Short Fiction of Ngaio Marsh
  77. Marsh, Ngaio Death at the Bar
  78. Marsh, Ngaio Enter a Murderer
  79. Sakai, Stan Fathers and Sons
  80. Marsh, Ngaio Hand in Glove
  81. Marsh, Ngaio Singing in the Shrouds
  82. Marsh, Ngaio Final Curtain
  83. Shirow, Masamune Ghost in the Shell
  84. Shirow, Masamune Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface
  85. Marsh, Ngaio Nursing Home Murder, The
  86. Marsh, Ngaio Death and the Dancing Footman
  87. Sibley, Brian Land of Narnia, The
  88. Christie, Agatha Secret of Chimneys, The
  89. Christie, Agatha Passenger to Frankfurt
  90. Christie, Agatha Golden Ball and Other Stories, The
  91. Christie, Agatha Body in the Library, The
  92. Marsh, Ngaio Man Lay Dead, A
  93. Marsh, Ngaio Death of a Peer
  94. Marsh, Ngaio Vintage Murder
  95. Marsh, Ngaio False Scent
  96. Marsh, Ngaio Died in the Wool
  97. Marsh, Ngaio Scales of Justice
  98. Marsh, Ngaio Death in a White Tie
  99. Marsh, Ngaio Grave Mistake
  100. Marsh, Ngaio Death in Ecstasy