Archive for December, 2005

Advantage… Me!

December 27, 2005

Time Magazine, Virginia Postrel, and the Blogfaddah have all finally discovered BSG.

Of course, those of us who’ve been plugging the show since, er, before it actually aired in America, can only say, “Hey, about frackin’ time!”

Happy Festivus!

December 23, 2005

It’s December 23, which, of course, is Festivus. Here’s the pole, 100% free of tinsel.

Festivus.jpg

Comments are open; let the Airing of Grievances begin! Feel free to continue with the Feats of Strength at your own local celebrations…

I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This

December 21, 2005

Just for the record, I’ve got nothing at all against the new Pope.

But I dare you to look at this picture and not imagine him saying, “Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side!”

A Resounding Thud

December 18, 2005

Quick review of Peter Jackson’s new King Kong movie: for God’s sake, somebody introduce this guy to a competent film editor and screenwriter.

Longer version (although not nearly as long as the movie): It’s not very good. Jackson is an incredibly gifted production designer and producer; he has to be to get movies of this scope made at all, but the sad truth is, he’s not a great director. The images are beautiful, but the story, which was stretched thin in the original’s 100 minutes, just can’t hold up to the three-hour torture test.

This “King Kong” is a monument to self-indulgence on Jackson’s part. He and his creative partners weren’t able to ruin “The Lord Of The Rings” with sophomoric screenwriting (although they gave it a hell of a try), but lacking Tolkien to fall back on, every story seam shows in “King Kong.” Making things worse, Jackson falls back on the lazy director’s crutch of slow motion about two dozen too many times in this badly-paced film. There are plenty of sequences to increase the heart rate in “Kong,” but the ‘serious’ scenes are deadly dull, and extended to painful lengths.

Remember the end of “Return of the King,” when it didn’t seem like the damn movie would ever be over? It’s ten times worse here. Not far from me in the theater, somebody said (quietly), “Just fall off the damn building already,” and the big ape lasted another ten minutes after that. I’m not exaggerating by saying that you could cut out an hour from the 180 minute marathon of “King Kong,” and not only wouldn’t the audience miss it, you’d make the movie immensely more entertaining.

Much of the acting is bad (yes, Jack Black, I’m talking to you), and while the big set-piece effects sequences are indeed eye-popping, we’ve already seen most of them before in various “Jurassic Park” features. Certainly, the monsters and scenery are tremendous visually. Jackson’s digital artists are at the top of their game… but like those employed by George Lucas, they’re laboring to pretty up a script written by hacks, and for a director to whom nobody has the power (or nerve) to say, “This is a really weak scene.”

Eh, that’s enough. There’s no point in going on for hundreds of words here. Like I said, it’s just not a very good movie. Rent it for the pretty pictures, but get ready to use that “skip” button early and often.

Hasta La Vista, Tookie

December 12, 2005

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has denied clemency for convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams, who co-founded the Crips street gang.

Since they probably won’t be mentioned in any of the media hysteria tonight and tomorrow, these four people are the reasons why Williams will assume room temperature this evening:

Albert Owens
Thsai-Shai Yang
Yen-I Yang
Yee Chen Lin

And this is what he did to them.

Fair warning: the pictures are gruesome… but so were Williams’ crimes. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

December 7, 2005

The Blogfaddah has posted possibly the most impressive bit of blog Google-bait ever. And he even disguised it as a link to a legal story.

Mere mortals can but look on in awe.

It’s Friggin’ Huge!!!

December 5, 2005

As I confessed a while back, I was infected with Flat Panel Flu from the first moment I laid eyes on a large HDTV screen, about five years ago. Back then, a big plasma cost as much as a quality used car, and a “large” LCD was about 21 inches across. Ever since, I’ve been lusting after those brilliant, enormous, oh-so-thin screens, and watching the prices creep down into something like a normal human’s range.

About a month ago, I finally took the plunge, and got a Panasonic TH-50PHD8UK plasma screen. And it rocks. I mean, you ought to see last month’s Auburn-Alabama game in HD (recorded on a DirecTV HD Tivo). You could step into the screen and sack Brodie Croyle from your living room.

I picked this one out after (literally) a couple of years of shopping around and comparing pictures. The final contenders came down to Panasonic and Pioneer plasma screens. The Pioneers have a slight edge in colors (just amazingly brilliant), but Panasonic took the trophy for the sharpest picture–and besides which, Pioneer screens are still premium-priced, and I’m cheap, even when I’m buying something really expensive.

For all you LCD and DLP folks, as Steve Den Beste would say, please, don’t send emails. This is very subjective stuff, and if you’re buying a TV, you should buy what your eyes like the best. For myself, I just don’t like projection screens (of any technology), and flat LCDs are too small and/or too expensive.

Speaking of which, and apropos of the Blogfaddah’s ongoing HDTV seminar, here’s my advice on buying a big TV. It’s similar to what I tell people who’re buying a new computer: Get the one with the features (and in this case, picture) you like the most, and buy as much power (or screen size) as you can afford. Then quit reading reviews, quit checking prices, and just enjoy the damn thing–because there’s probably going to be a better one, selling for cheaper than you just paid, next month.

Oh, and don’t get ripped off on cables. Buy them here.

Och! Zombies! Really Stupid Media Zombies!

December 3, 2005

This Grady Hendrix review in Slate, of a schlocky Joe Dante flick that hardly anybody will actually watch, contains possibly the most ignorant and offensive collection of sentences that I’ve read in the last decade:

Today, zombies are the perfect metaphor for our soldiers in Iraq: They’re shell-shocked, anonymous, and aren’t asked to make very many decisions. Unless you personally know a soldier, the war in Iraq has been a zombie war, fought by an uncomplaining, faceless mass wrapped in desert camo and called “our boys.” We talk about them all the time

Challenging Stage

December 2, 2005

Here’s an interesting little blurb about a talk by Nolan Bushnell, who founded Atari and basically intented video games back in the 1970’s. This bit in particular caught my eye:

In 1982, he tells us, there were 44 million gamers. Today, there are 18 million. Where’d they all go? “Complexity lost the casual gamer,” he says.

I think he’s right. When I was a kid, during the early “golden age” of videogames, you’d have needed a cattle prod to get me out of the arcade, or away from a friend’s Atari or my own ColecoVision at home. Today though, I don’t own a Playstation or XBox, and have no particular intention of buying one. I don’t as a rule enjoy current computer games, either. Doom3, as marvelous as it looks, only held my attention for a couple of days. I get much more enjoyment out of a quick game of Galaga courtesy of MAME, or Asteroids Deluxe on a full-sized cabinet I weaseled off of a dealer a few years back.

Sure, today’s games look great, and they’re far more complex than anything we ever dreamed of 25 years ago, but what the heck–I don’t have the time for all that. I want to get in, blow up some stuff for five or ten minutes, then get back to my life. I don’t have 40 hours to blow trying to work my way to the “end” of a game. And besides which, 99 times out of 100 (well, okay, more like 19 times out of 20, since that’s about as many modern games as I’ve ever tried), the gameplay isn’t enough to compel me into spending more time in the first place.

That was the real genius of the 70’s and 80’s games, I think. When you only had 4K or 16K of memory to get the whole thing written in, you had to concentrate on great gameplay first, and then cram in as many bells and whistles as you had room left for (which wasn’t much). Two and a half decades later, the best of the 80’s games are still more fun–and that’s from the first 30 seconds–than anything that takes millions of dollars to produce, and arrives by the gigabyte on a DVD-ROM.