Friday, January 28, 2005

Method - Madness

I don't know if anyone has noticed, (or if they have, if they have cared a whit) but my posts have been coming in blocks every few days. The posts from a particular day, however, tend to all have times about a minute apart. The reason for this is that I'm typing them up and then posting them all at once from the library because I don't have any internet at home currently. I whinged about this before, but I won't link back since whining once was probably too much. I've decided that, for the time being, internet access is too dear. So, FYI, if you check in and there's nothing new, check back in a couple days and you might find several posts all at once. So you might have to scroll a bit to find everything that's new.

Do Space Cowboys sing the blues?

Cowboy Bebop says yes.

Watched the second DVD of episodes. I don't think the episodes were quite as strong as on the first DVD. A couple felt kind of rushed, as if they just didn't have enough time to fit in what they wanted for the episodes. A couple were pretty odd, even for a show about futuristic bounty hunters searching for criminals in different parts of the solar system. I finished that DVD off today and started on the third one. Still, this is a great anime. If your only experience with anime has been Speed Racer and Pokemon, you really ought to check this out. It's light-years ahead of those other two. Be warned, however, some of this stuff is weird.

Friends. Romans. Countrymen. Lend me your ears.

It's odd, writing a blog. Especially a blog without any real stated or defined purpose. A blog like this one, in fact. I don't have any real goal in mind for the things that I post. The focus and general content has shifted over time and will quite likely continue to do so. I started out commenting on politics and have shifted through different phases where I critiqued books, commented on cultural issues, discussed sports and my personal experiences to different degrees.

But there's never been any central theme or message. And I don't know that I need one. I don't have any ambitions for this blog. I'm not trying to influence people, I'm not trying to build a readership, nor am I trying particularly hard to be informative about anything. (Heck, this post isn't really going anywhere important, and I didn't have a particular point in mind when I started!)

I was just thinking about how it's odd to consider the various people who I know read my blog from time to time. I know Arevanye has been stopping by fairly regularly, at least lately. Steve comes by from time to time. I think my wife reads the blog every couple days, but I'm not certain. I'm pretty sure my brother-in-law has subscribed to the RSS feed (and he's started blogging again, by the bye). And Mo was coming by fairly often. Other people I know come by now and again, and there are the strangers who stumble across this blog in their meanderings across the internet. Obviously, these people have found my blog (or a mention of it somewhere) interesting enough to read, at least once or perhaps even periodically. Does one then tailor one's approach to continue to hold their interest? I would have said not, but after thinking about it for a bit, perhaps I am. I've started watching Cowboy Bebop on the recommendation of Steve, I've picked up the Earth-sea books on the suggestion of Arevanye, and after starting both series, I've posted my thoughts. To a degree, then, I've taken my readership (if such a small number can be referred to that way) into account when deciding what to post. I do enjoy the discussion and interaction that can occur in the comments and (like just about everybody, I'm sure) wish that there were more. But the number of people reading this has already exceeded my expectations, especially the number of people I didn't know when I started. Anyway, thank you all. Just some musings.

Social (In)Security

Found a interesting little toy via the Corner. It allows one to calculate what the likely differences between Social Security and a Personal Retirement Account might be. Of course, it's all rather speculative, but I don't see that it's any more speculative than positing some way for Social Security to turn out fine without this kind of reform. Here's what happened when I put in my info. The only things I changed from the default were my yearly earnings and my zip code.
You can expect to pay $457,838 in Social Security taxes over your working life for retirement and survivors benefits. For those taxes, you can expect to receive $2,805 a month in Social Security retirement benefits. Your rate of return under today's Social Security is 0.12%.

However, if you had been able to invest your Social Security taxes in a Personal Retirement Account (PRA), you would have had a total of $1,294,360 when you retired. Your monthly benefits would have been $10,544. You lost $7,738 a month.
I put a link to it up on the left.

Peanuts Madness!

My library got in the most recent book collection of Peanuts comic strips, 1953-54. This is one of those things that, had I a six-figure income, I would be snapping up at once. Peanuts is mostly known in the form it had over the last twenty years or so. But the content, characters and drawing style from the 50's and 60's is my favourite. The punchlines are better, the content is fresher and more varied. Schulz went downhill after his strip became an institution. I wouldn't say that he just began to phone it in, but the quality wasn't there like it was the first few decades.

In these two years, Lucy and Schroeder start to come into their own and Linus begins appearing with greater frequency. Pig Pen is introduced as well as the little-known Charlotte Braun. (No, I did not make that up.)

Random trivia note: Schulz had the title Peanuts imposed on him by his syndicate and always hated it. The reason you could never figure out the connection to his strip? There wasn't one. Presumably, he didn't have enough clout to change the title at first, and after becoming famous he couldn't change the title and risk confusing people.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Yet More Books

Finished another Agatha Christie, The Patriotic Murders. It was okay. It wasn't one of the best, but it was one that clearly illustrated why Poirot is my favourite of the Christie detectives. The book is, primarily, about solving the murder of Poirot's dentist. And it talks about communists and the overthrow of existing society and conservatives and all kinds of social things in a peripheral way. Without giving away who the murderer is, Poirot comes across at the end as being, no solely, but primarily interested in finding the Truth and serving Justice. (And I'm not being slyly sarcastic with those capitals.)

In all of the Poirot novels, I can sympathise easily with his desire to catch murderers, people who have usurped Authority and committed a grave injustice. A devotion to Truth is admirable and exemplary of the way in which I would want to live my life. I can connect with him as a character. Most of Christie's other detectives I can similarly identify with to varying degrees. There is one exception, however. Miss Jane Marple. I just can't stomach her. She always strikes me as simply being an elderly woman with odd "progressive" views. I could be wrong, she's probably Christie's crowning literary creation, but I just can't make myself sympathise with her character and I find myself bored with any book that features her.

I've finished with the third Earth-Sea book: The Farthest Shore. It wasn't bad, it was about like the first two. It was a good book, but it wasn't a great book. I'm not sorry I read it. I'm glad I've read them all so far, but the lack of depth in LeGuin's world keeps her from being on a par with Tolkien and Lewis.

Arevanye (check out her C.S. Lewis blog) speculates that the books might appeal more to women than men, and that's certainly possible. I don't know enough people who have read them to form much of an opinion on that. She also notes that LeGuin's plots impress her a great deal. I'm not so enamoured with her plots, really. They're fine, but they don't enthrall me.

What really bugs me is the whole idea of balance that runs through her books. What's so great about balance? Not everything needs to be given equal time, equal weight. Truth doesn't need to be balanced with falsehood. Beauty doesn't need to be balanced with ugliness. It's a kind of dualism that seems related to the philosophy found in the Eddings books. (LeGuin is clearly a superior writer to the Eddings, though!) I know that one side is wrong and the other is right when I read their books, but if I was to subsume myself into their philosophical viewpoint, I'd probably end up siding with the "bad" guys.

For example, in The Farthest Shore the bad guy is essentially trying to kill everyone and send them to the land of the dead. Okay, why is that bad? Talk about your ultimate equilibrium! Nothing ever changes, everyone is the same and equal. If Balance is what Everyone Should Want, why are we rooting for the guys that are trying to prevent this? Her philosophising doesn't convince me.

Lastly, I ended up not reading the other book on Groucho Marx. It was written by someone who spent time with him only in the latter part of his life and thus dealt pretty much only with the depressing years of his decline. I decided that I didn't particularly want to cover only those years again.

Friday, January 21, 2005

I don't know, why a duck?

Finished reading a biography of Groucho Marx. Interesting stuff. I think I'd read part of it before, but pretty much the whole second half seemed new to me. It's called My Life With Groucho and it was written by his son, Arthur Marx. I never realised that Groucho's last years were full of such scandal. A girlfriend several decades his junior took over his life and tried to make off with his money. And partially succeeded. I've got another book on Groucho out from the library now and I'm interested to see if they jibe.

One of the funniest lines was Harpo's comment to Groucho during Chico's funeral. He offered to bet Groucho who would die first, himself or Groucho. He said he'd give him three to one and take either corner. Well. I laughed. Bye the bye, Groucho turned him down. Said he didn't trust their other brother Zeppo to hold the money.

Too Funny

It seems that Michael Moore, he of the anti-gun Bowling for Columbine fame, his bodyguard was arrested for carrying a firearm without a license. Oops.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Books

I've finished another couple books. The first was a Hercule Poirot story by Agatha Christie, Murder in Three Acts. (It's also apparently sometimes titled Three Act Tragedy. I really hate it when books have two different titles, one under which they were published in England and another for the US.) It wasn't bad, though I think I had read it before. I have to say, I enjoy the Poirot novels of hers more than any of the others. It's unfortunate that she liked him least of her invented detectives. I figured out the story ahead of most of the characters in the book, but I'm not certain if it was because I'm just that clever, or if I was dimly recalling my previous reading. Neh.

The other book was The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin. It wasn't bad, about on a par with the first book, A Wizard of Earth-Sea. Like the first, it's only about 180 pages and only took a couple hours to get through. I can see now, however, why the fans of this series were so put out about the mini-series on the Sci-Fi channel. This story was changed almost beyond recognition when they tried to mash it together with the first book. I'm still not terribly impressed. It's not on a par with either Narnia or Middle-Earth. The stories don't have the same depth and the characters aren't fleshed out as well. Perhaps the next two books will improve my opinion.

Mr Ripley, please call your office.

This is definitely the sort of story that one would expect to see on Ripley's Believe It Or Not!. I'm not certain I buy it, but I'm willing to grant it is at least possible, if only barely. It's 10% of her body weight for crying out loud. That first link has pictures, this has more details.

Well, it turns out it is true. This was linked from the second post. I just hadn't spotted it yet.

Book and Women in the Military

Finished reading Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. (Once Going Postal arrives from being on hold at the library in a month or two, I'll be all caught up with the Discworld series.) It is actually the first book in the series that I have disliked. It's well-written and quite amusing in places, but the entire plot revolves around a small group of women that join the army, fight in the war and save the day. Okay, it's fantasy. There's a troll, a vampire and "Igorina" to go along with the humans, but Pratchett deliberately makes much of his writing "applicable" to the real world. He uses Discworld as a foil to comment on our world. And the message here? Women can be soldiers just as effectively as men, if not more so.

Which is ridiculous. All the evidence indicates otherwise. Brian Mitchell wrote a good book about this. Don't believe me? Well, let's look at what Colonel Patrick Toffler, Director of West Point's Office of Institutional Research (at the time of his testimony, this was his rank and position) had to say. (I have referred to this article from The Heritage Foundation for the information, but you can find his actual testimony in "Testimony, United States of America vs. Virginia Military Institute et al., U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Roanoke Division, April 8, 1991".)
Under cross- examination by VMI's attorney, Toffler acknowledged that separate physical requirements indeed exist for men and women at West Point, and that some physical activities for both sexes have been made easier or eliminated so that women would not suffer what Toffler delicately called "adverse impact." ( Ibid., p. 608.)...
Under oath, Toffler also admitted that West Point has identified 120 physical differences between men and women, plus psychological differences. This, testified Toffler, has prompted West Point to make its physical training easier to accommodate women. According to Toffler:

Cadets no longer train in combat boots because women were suffering higher rates of injury; cadets now wear jogging shoes.

Women cadets take "comparable" or "equivalent" training when they cannot meet standards in some events. In practice this means that West Point males must do pull-ups while females merely do "flex-arm hangs."

The famed and valuable "recondo" endurance week during which cadets used to march with full backpacks and undergo other strenuous activities has been eliminated, as have upper-body strength events in the obstacle course.

Running with heavy weapons has been eliminated because it is "unrealistic and therefore unappropriate" to expect women to do it.

Where men and women are required to perform the same exercises, women's scores are adjusted to give them more weight.

Today's West Point males are not increasing their cardio-vascular efficiency as much as their predecessors did because they are insufficiently challenged by physical training standards geared to include women.

In load-bearing tasks (carrying and lifting), 50 percent of the women score below the bottom 5 percent of the men.

Peer ratings have been eliminated because women were scoring too low.
Read the whole article. The strongest arguments for having women serve in the military are ideological ones relating to equality of opportunity. When the argument is on the grounds of effectiveness, it's clear what the answer should be.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Book and a Movie

Read Wodehouse in His Own Words over the last few days. It wasn't bad. It tells the outline of his life and uses quotations from a lot of his books, plays and letters as the majority of the text. It's not that comprehensive or informative, but it is pleasant to read and does give one at least the outline of his life.

Also, got The Shop Around the Corner from the library and watched that with my wife last night. It wasn't bad. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan starred. It wasn't great, there were a few plot holes, but an enjoyable movie. More people have probably seen the most recent re-make if anything, which was You've Got Mail. The films follow a similar arc, where two people who loathe each other unknowingly correspond with one another and fall in love via their written communications. The more recent movie simply having been brought up to date by having the two stars correspond by e-mail.

Medal of Honor?

Rich Lowry writes on National Review Online today about a Marine who sacrificed his life to save his fellow Marines. From what I read, Sergeant Rafael Peralta sounds like a candidate for the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is the highest award given by the United States to honour valour in combat.

Further, I agree with Lowry that it is reprehensible that Sgt. Peralta's story is not better known. Why have our media not brought us this story? Why have we heard no other tales of bravery and heroism? Why is the "hero" that our media fawns upon a soldier whose great deed is a question asked in a press conference?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Two Towers: Extended Edition

Where to start. First, let's end the suspense. I think this movie was the worst of the trilogy. Jackson, Boyens and whoever else mangled this script, I understand things had to be cut. That's okay. I understand the stories needed to be intercut. That's okay. If pressed, I could probably get past having elves show up where they're not supposed to be. I managed to stomach Liv Tyler elbowing out Glorfindel, one of the most impressive elves in all of Tolkien's legendarium. But to me, there were three key changes that were unnecessary and particularly egregious. These were changes in character. Théoden, Faramir and Treebeard were altered substantially.

What I mean by this is, while Haldir the elf most certainly did not show up at Helm's Deep in the book, when the screenwriters placed him there, his behaviour (other than a momentary lapse into being a Vulcan) once there was consistent with his character as it was drawn in the book. So while I didn't like him being there, I could tolerate it.

Théoden, on the other hand, while he did go to Helm's Deep as in the book, didn't do it in the same way. Book-Théoden rode out knowing he was likely going to his own death and the destruction of his people, but did it gladly anyway because it was the right and honourable thing to do. In the movie, Gandalf counsels Théoden to ride to Dunharrow and safety with his people because of his advanced age. But book-Théoden replies
Nay, Gandalf! You do not know your own skill in healing. It shall not be so. I myself will go to war, to fall in the front of the battle, if it must be. Thus shall I sleep better.
Right! That's the Théoden we want! Once more into the breach, dear friends! But what do we get? Movie-Théoden.
I will not risk open war.
Um, hello? You have an enemy army rampaging across your countryside. And then Théoden decides it's best to retreat to Helm's Deep. Without touching on the idiocy of this based on geography, Théoden is running like a little girl. Ridiculous.

Next up to be butchered, Faramir. And it seems from the DVD extras, this probably got the most complaints, because they all spend a fair bit of time trying to justify turning Faramir into a pale copy of Boromir. Book-Faramir, when confronted by Frodo and the Ring refrains from trying to take it for himself. He is tempted, as everyone is, but his wisdom overrules his desire. He has a moment where is tempted similarly to Galadriel. Both talk about what might be, what might one do, but both come to themselves and do not succumb. Galadriel:
And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!... I pass the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.
And Faramir:
But fear no more! I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway... So that is the answer to all the riddles! The One Ring that was thought to have perished from the world. And Boromir tried to take it by force? And you escaped? And ran all the way--to me! And here in the wild I have you: two halflings, and a host of men at my call, and the Ring of Rings. A pretty stroke of fortune! A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality! Ha!... Alas for Boromir! It was too sore a trial!... But I am not such a man. Or I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee.
Good man! Worthy pupil of Gandalf, and stronger in will, if not in body, than his brother Boromir. Movie-Faramir says at least one line almost exactly
And here in the wild I have you: two halflings, and a host of men at my call, and the Ring of Rings. A pretty stroke of fortune! A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality!
But the upshot is that he bundles Frodo off to Osgiliath and intends to take the Ring to his father. And the screen-writers tell us that it has to be so, it wouldn't be believable for him to resist such a powerful ring, yada yada yada. Then why have we had Aragorn, Gandalf, Galadriel, etc all resist taking the Ring? Why pick on Faramir? The justifications don't hold up.

Lastly, Treebeard. Here, the worst butchering of all took place. The other changes, bad as they were, would at least not be noticed by someone who had never read the books. Without a knowledge of these characters as they were written, they wouldn't know they had been changed so dramatically. But Treebeard fails to even make sense within the world presented by the movie. Ents are presented as slow, deliberate, patient, thoughtful creatures. And so they were written. But at the Entmoot, the decision the Ents reach was not the decision reached in the book. Book-Treebeard:
Hoom, hom! Here we come with a boom, here we come at last!... Come join the Moot! We are off. We are off for Isengard!
Movie-Treebeard:
This is not our war.
Which is bad enough. But then, what is it that reverses Treebeard's decision? Seeing the trees that Saruman has clear-cut. Now, is Treebeard really paying attention to his forest? Can the trees really communicate with him and others if he hasn't heard about it? If Ents are slow and deliberate, why does he (and the rest of them) change their minds in about 10 seconds after seeing some tree-stumps? And, when he yells, every Ent in Fangorn just happens to have been following the exact same route that Treebeard was and can dash out of the forest in a matter of seconds? Puh-leeze. That's just awful. It's a plot-hole an oliphaunt could walk through.

If the first and last movies hadn't been better than this installment, if this had been the class of the group, then these movies would have been right there with Bakshi's.

Books, Movies and TV

A well-rounded weekend of entertainment. Finished A Wizard of Earth-sea, read Summer Moonshine, watched the first DVD of Cowboy Bebop episodes (or "sessions", as they are called) and watched The Two Towers extended cut all the way through for the first time (along with a bunch of the extras).

I'll be brief about Summer Moonshine, except to say that it had a couple aspects that were very unusual for Wodehouse. The villain only appears in the final few pages and she does not get her comeuppance. As well, when the hero and heroine finally have all obstacles to their love swept away, Wodehouse ends the book just before their re-uniting. Very out of the ordinary for him. Good book, though.

A Wizard of Earth-Sea was pretty good. At first, I kept thinking that the mini-series I watched had done a pretty good job of following the book. Then I realised that there was more to the mini-series than was in the book. And then it finally dawned on me (two-thirds of the way through the book) that the mini-series had tried to cram all of the Earth-Sea books into a two-part mini-series. And while the book wasn't bad, it was awfully short. It seemed a bit much, on the basis of just this book, to have such fulsome praise for it. The back had something like "Often compared to Tolkien's Middle-earth or Lewis' Narnia" or some such. It wasn't a bad little fantasy novel, but it wasn't Tolkien. And it probably wasn't even Lewis. But I think it will be worth reading the next book.

I think I'm hooked on Cowboy Bebop. The soundtracks are wonderful though incongruous. The characters and fun and interesting, and (for a sci-fi anime set in space) believable. So far, interesting back-stories have been hinted at for our heroes and there's usually a twist somewhere. The twists aren't David Mamet, but they're not bad. I found myself pricing the complete DVD set last night. Thanks, Steve!

And finally, The Two Towers. That will have to be a separate post.

New Year Disappointment

Not for me, but for some anonymous young man. My wife related this story to me, so you're getting it second-hand. A couple days after New Year's, the phone rings. My wife answers it and the following conversation ensues:

"Hello?"
(A young man, very enthusiastic)"Hello, Sara*?!"
"No, I'm sorry. You have the wrong number. There's no one by that name here."
(Young man, crushed to earth)"You mean there's no Miss Quisenby there?"
"I'm afraid not."
"Oh. Well, thank you."
"Good-bye."
(click)

My interpretation? Someone got some digits at a New Year's Eve party and found, to his chagrin, that the girl he found so alluring had not found him equally so and given him a bogus number instead of putting him off then and there.

*Name changed

Caffeine Buzz

Reading Greg's post about his love for the drug, I was reminded of a National Geographic article that I read over Christmas. Unfortunately, the whole thing isn't available online and I don't remember as much as I would like. But I do recall being particularly struck by 3 images showing brain activity in different people. One person was not caffeine-dependent, one showed a caffeine-dependent person on their daily dose of caffeine and the third showed the dependent person deprived of their caffeine. To the naked and untrained eye (mine), the first two looked the same. But the third showed a huge decrease in brain activity. From that illustration, it appeared that there wasn't much difference between someone on caffeine and not, but once you're hooked, you're in trouble if you can't get your caffeine.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Books

Finished A Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse. It was pretty good. It wasn't uproariously funny, but it was a pleasant book and had the novelty of not using any of his more well-known characters. None of them have appeared in any of the other books by him that I have read. At least, no so far as I recall. The plot was the standard Wodehouse plot. Several people were busily trying to get married to one they loved whilst avoiding marriage with someone they didn't. And, like all Wodehouse novels, it worked out just fine in the end. The virtuous are rewarded, the evil punished. The fun, as always, is seeing how it is done, rather than wondering whether or not our hero will succeed.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Katz v. Sullivan

No, that's not an obscure court decision. It's about an article in the Dec 31 issue of NRODT (available online only by subscription) in which Justin Katz picks Andrew Sullivan's position(s) on homosexual marriage apart piece by piece. Over three and a half pages Katz carefully shows how Sullivan's ever-shifting positions and arguments culminate simply in being nothing more than advocacy for the imposition of acceptance of homosexual behaviour by any means available. Sullivan's hypocrisy on this issue is what causes me not to have interest or trust in his arguments on other issues. If he cuts corners here, why not elsewhere? If he can't be consistent and honest with himself and others on this, why on anything else?

Grieving and Not

I read something once in a book (it was a long time ago and I don't remember the book) that mentioned that someone had studied some Holocaust survivors and found that those who didn't talk about their experience, who didn't go through counseling adjusted better to their lives later on. It seemed odd to me, but it also rang true. While I certainly have never experienced anything remotely as terrible as the Holocaust, I do recall not expressing large amounts of grief at the deaths of family members. I was sad, but I didn't bawl, I didn't feel depressed and inconsolable. It was sad, it was unfortunate, but life went on.

Recently, I ran across this article (I think it was linked at NRO) that piqued my interest because it touched peripherally on the topic I recalled reading about (see above). For example,
Forced ventilation makes little sense for those whose ordinary coping style is to remain calm, maybe too calm for some people's taste...
So I did some searching on the web for things about one of the researchers mentioned in that article, Dr George A Bonanno.

I found this interview with him. Some interesting excerpts.
We followed a group of people in Michigan over six years in a bereavement study where we knew a lot about the people before the loss occurred. We showed that about half the sample showed no symptoms at any point in the study. They just were not depressed before or after the loss, and we found that they were healthy people. They had fine relationships. The interviewers did not find them cold or aloof, and they did not score high on a measure we had of avoidant attachment. That doesn't mean that a healthy person won't grief [sic] also, but it seemed that they [a person who feels no grief] might feel sad, they might miss the person, but they keep functioning. We know that the people who don't show grief, it's fair to say, are healthy people.
And also interesting was this excerpt.
[W]e found in our research is that there is acute grief ? people who are grieving so severely initially. Ten years ago we may have thought that they're grieving terribly, but they'll get over it. We know now that when people grieve very acutely that does not bode well for their getting better, because it's really hard to recover from that. I've been arguing recently that people who cannot get it off their minds at all, those are the people who are not likely to do well.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Jokes

John Derbyshire provided some math jokes in NRO's Corner. Why? I have no idea. Anyway, my favourite was this excuse for not turning one's math homework. "I have the proof, but there isn't room to write it in this margin." Which is actually a math joke that I can get. Unlike the one about Noah and the adders.

And coincidentally (is it some tradition of which I am not aware to tell jokes at the New Year?) I found some chess jokes at a chess blog I read on occasion. My favourite of those:
1972, in a gulag, people follow the Spassky-Fischer match through the radio, but one day a guard breaks it. So when a new prisoner comes in, they ask him : "What happened in the world championship?" - "I lost".

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Disparate Movies

That's what I watched yesterday and today. Two very disparate movies. Last night my wife and I finally got out to see The Incredibles, which was, well, incredible. I myself agree with Steve that it was the best of the Pixar films to date. They have only made five films (Toy Story 1&2, Finding Nemo, A Bug's Life and Monster's Inc.) prior to The Incredibles, but what films! I have to say, I think the James Bond franchise might ought to look into doing an animated feature. It's becoming more and more accepted here for animated films to be for adults as well as children (as it is in Japan) and seeing how wonderfully all the gadgets and stunts were brought to life in The Incredibles means spectacular events (even if beyond the realm of the physically possible) on a smaller budget. Or perhaps a combination of digital and animated effects with live action, a la Star Wars.

Speaking of Star Wars, the trailer for Revenge of the Sith was shown before the feature Saturday night. And while I will go see it, (Darn you, Lucas!) it looks to be tripe piled on top of the tripe already presented. Could Lucas do worse than he already has in turning his loyal fans against him? I don't see how, but then I didn't see how he could make a movie largely without Jar Jar Binks and still have be just as bad. I'm constantly amazed at the depths to which he sinks.

Finally, before the bile wells up too much and overwhelms me, I turn to the movie I watched this afternoon. Zatoichi: On the Road. It seems to be the fifth one in the series, but there were dozens movies made about this character, and I have no idea whether or not all or most have the same actor in the title role, nor whether they are all even considered part of the same series as the James Bond films are (for the most part).

Zatoichi is a blind man who has taught himself to use a sword and uses his senses other than sight to be a fierce fighter. The movies I've seen have been pretty formulaic: he wanders around trying to find peace and is constantly being caught up by people scheming to get him to do their dirty work for them. He outwits them and saves the innocent girl/old man/priest/etc who has been caught in the middle and then wanders off into the sunset. It's not Kurosawa, but they are entertaining.

I've started to look for some anime films; I've been interested in several manga stories in book form, but haven't seen much to interest me on film. If anyone has any good recommendations, I'd enjoy hearing about it.