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.