November 30, 2005

Politics: Dumbest - Idea - EVER!

Hey, here's an idea:

To frighten terrorists, let's do spontaneous attacks against our own civillians! We'll pick random, public places, surround them, and force everyone inside to produce identification or be arrested!

So, we'll pick, like, such obvious targets as... uh... Hotels! And banks! Yeah, that's exactly where terrorists wouls attack! Not non-public places like water resivoirs or power stations or government buildings or Disney World, or anything like that.

After all, it only stands to reason that terror cells wouldn't actually have any identification, as if they were U.S. citizens or anything like that, right? Nah, that's crazy.

(Hat tip to London Fog, to your right there.)


posted by Thursday at 9:58 pm 2 comments

Science: A Bringer of Light

I just finished reading Leonard Mlodinow's Feynman's Rainbow, and while I don't think it provides much of an insight into Dr. Feynman himself (try Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman for that), it does give a fine view of what a scientist actually is, or at least could be.

Mlodnow first showed up at Caltech, he had Dr. Feynman on one side, and the polar opposite, Dr. Murray Gell-Mann on the other.

A very quick read, and highly recommended.
posted by Thursday at 10:04 am 0 comments

November 28, 2005

Other: The Most Exciting Colour is Grey!

In honour of another fantastic Grey Cup game played on Sunday (with defense dominating the first half, offense the second), here's a little primer of a few of the more memorable years, and some of it's television history.

Weirdest factoid: O.J. Brigance won a Grey Cup playing for the Baltimore Stallions in 1995, then the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001.


posted by Thursday at 10:42 pm 2 comments

November 27, 2005

Politics: "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Bullshit....

...Every where you go!"

Hokay, so we're going to have a so-called "Christmas election". Fine. I've always thought that vitrol, spite, and baked yams should be thrown about in public instead of being the exclusive domain of family dinners. And why not? This season, let's have the red, blue and orange of political party lawn signs as well as the usual red and green of the lights mixing with the red and blue of the Domestic Calls Unit. It'll make it all the more festive!


You can just feel the warm, inner glow of hatred from here, can't you? Well, let's see who has to do what to keep (Lib), to take (Con & NDP), or to bugger off (BQ). Least relevant first:

The Bloc Quebecois aren't going to do much, and Spooky likes it that way. The Conservatives had built up some support in Quebec, then tanked it when they held their convention in Montreal, but couldn't control the, ah, let's call them the "more dedicated regionalists" from showing their utter contempt for the culture they were surrounded by. All Duceppe has to do is keep it low key, and hammer the Conservatives as being primitive yahoos who hate everything not wearing a stetson. You know, the usual Bloc tactic.

The New Democratic Party are in a tight spot, but there is a tactic that may work best for them: call themselves "Liberals, But Without The Corruption!" The '80s Porn Star earned a lot of kudos for actually getting something done in a minority government (the only time any kind of socialist agenda can get through), and he's got to push the thought that no matter who gets elected, if the NDP is strong enough to hold a balance of power, they can force concessions. I know I've mentioned this before, but Layton's got to work Quebec hard. Yes, I know the NDP got 8% there last election, and if it's ignored that number won't get any higher. The left-leaning Federalist vote is up for grabs RIGHT NOW. So why do I say they are in tough? Because the supporting party in a minority government usually gets hammered the following election, so he's got to distance himself from the Liberal corruption, but not their more leftist agenda. Not going to be easy.

The Conservatives have got to SHUT PLASTIC MAN THE HELL UP! Look, don't start talking about the Liberals having deals with "organised crime in Quebec" or anywhere else, okay? Don't rant and rave; don't drool publicly; don't talk about putting abortion to a public vote; don't even mention the evangelicals (remind the Wetsuited Wonder about that). The Liberal party is imploding, and the LAST thing Harper needs is for them to point a finger at him and shout "See? See?! He's scaaaaary... Booga booga!" If he can just get his more enthusiastic MPs muzzled, and try to think about his statements before he says them, the Conservatives should be the next government of Canada. The key here is (you can say it with me now) Quebec. He's got to present himself as a viable alternative to the Bloc, and pound on the message that he wants more power in the hands of the provinces, and less in Ottawa. Oh, and two more things: don't EVER mention the United States while on the campaign trail; and for god's sake when you smile for the camera, try to let it reach your eyes, eh? I don't care how much you hate being in the media, do it if you want to win.

The Liberals have one message, and one alone: the economy is doing great, so why change what works? What? Corruption? Not us, you must be thinking of the old tenants... Mr. Dithers has got to brush past the Gomery questions with "That's a legal matter, the final report is coming out in February, and why was the Opposition afraid to wait until then?" or some similar phrase then move straight into the economy. Money is, after all, something Martin is very good with: at a total worth of $225 million, he is the second richest democratically elected world leader, after all. So, what else can he do? Mostly, he's going to hope that the NDP don't draw too heavily from his numbers. If the Conservatives use attack ads again (and who isn't in this race?), then the scare tactics that put him in good standing last time will work again this time, though to a lesser extent. And if he could get whatever incompetent idiots filmed the Conservative's commercials last election to do it again this time, so much the better... One more thing: let your juniors fight it out in Quebec, but don't forget to speak french often outside of the province. Your sound bites appear in Quebec media to remind them you're from Quebec, while at the same time it imparts a subliminal message that The Rest Of Canada is still, officialy, a bilingual country thanks to the Fed.

In a nutshell: whoever stays calmest during the upcoming mudfest will make the biggest gains. Mostly because you have better aim when you've got a steady hand, but still it will look like you're taking the high ground, relatively speaking. I really don't expect a lot of campaigning over the two weeks ending New Year's. A fast start, a slow down for the bulk of December, then a roaring finish to cap things off.

Wake me when it's January, would you? Thanks.


posted by Thursday at 9:06 pm 0 comments

November 26, 2005

Politics: "We're Gonna Need a Bigger Shovel."

I don't actually know of anyone who thinks that hybrid vehicles are a bad idea, with the occasional exception being members of the Tin Hat Club who think it's the splitting wedge to a totalitarian state where everyone is forced to eat granola and wear hemp clothing. (Then again, you already can't take the bus without an identity card...)

Then, of course, there's the U.S. government.

Individual members of that government are doing fine, of course: I mean the government itself, what with the insane War/Not War they're fighting against Ira- uh, sorry, I mean the Talib- Wait! It's Afghanistan, right? No? You don't expect me to believe it's bin Laden, do you? Anyhow, add to that the enormous tax breaks to the super wealthy individuals and corporations, the ever decreasing U.S. dollar, the mistrust of nations around the world, and of course the horrible natural disasters that struch the south coast, and I can understand why they went from an almost vanishing deficit in 2000 to increasing to $500 billion (give or take a few) now.

Look, the U.S. is broke, the poor dear, and she's just looking for new ways to raise a bit of cash, right? And let's face it, the enviroment is just, well, sitting there...


posted by Thursday at 11:07 pm 0 comments

November 24, 2005

Hockey: East at the Quarter

Off to the East:


The Good: Kovalchuk choosing the NHL over Russia’s Superleague; plus Savard hasn’t been injured yet.
The Bad: NHL goals, with AHL goaltending. Five goaltenders used in first 21 games.
The Weird: I know Shields hasn’t been great, but c’mon he’s better than Berkhoel or Garnett…
The Future: This team could have five players with more than 80 points each by season’s end.
Note: The sooner Dunham or (preferably) Lehtonen come back from injury, the better.


The Good: Joe Thornton.
The Bad: 3-6 since Leetch injured.
The Weird: Only five players have played every game so far.
The Future: Some disarray in the present, Thornton needs some more vocal help in the dressing room – or maybe he’s just not captain material.
Note: A team without an identity right now, there was a huge turnover in the off season.


The Good: Briere and Kotalik are becoming a nice 1-2 punch.
The Bad: Lots of players not living up to expectations (Grier, Connoly, Pyatt, Hecht…)
The Weird: Numminen is not only still playing, but leading the Sabres D in scoring.
The Future: Miller has a solid lead on being the #1 goalie. When he’s not injured.
Note: I know the “new” NHL is supposed to be geared towards skill and speed et al, but these guys need to toughen up. They can’t clear the front of their own net, and can’t crash the opponent’s very well, either.


The Good: What the hell are they feeding Staal this year? Already past last year’s numbers.
The Bad: Wesley and Brind’Amour injured at the same time takes a lot of leadership away.
The Weird: Seriously, what is it? ‘Roids? Amphetamines? Speed? WHAT?
The Future: They seem to be settling back to earlh, but they built a nice big lead for getting into the playoffs.
Note: If it wasn’t so tasteless, I’d say this was a season for strong hurricanes in the South.


The Good: The goaltending has been solid.

The Bad: Does a twelve game winless streak count?
The Weird: That the average ticket price to see this team is $42 US.
The Future: Hoo boy… Give Luongo a bit more rest this year before he snaps.
Note: Hagman and Huselius are taking longer to recover from Keenan’s coaching than I thought.


The Good: Yashin has ignored the “C” on his chest and just plays. So much the better.
The Bad: No unpleasant surprises yet. Um… Sopel’s hair?
The Weird: DiPietro only has 1 assist so far.
The Future: Pretty much as expected, and in a dogfight for the playoffs.
Note: Bates is another Cy Young contender, with 10 goals and 2 assists so far.


The Good: Jagr remembers he’s really, really good at this game.
The Bad: Rucinsky being injured since Nov.3.
The Weird: Leading defenseman scorer is Tyutin, with 7 points.
The Future: The playoffs, certainly. How far in the playoffs depends more on their defense and goaltending than scoring.

Note: Jagr is having an “up” year, dragging Straka along with him (again).


The Good: Ribeiro and Ryder are plugging along…
The Bad: …Though both have much worse +/- stats this year.
The Weird: Kovalev actually looks interested when he’s playing!
The Future: A young team riding a high right now, Theodore can keep them in through rougher patches.
Note: Props to GM Gainey, and Julien has been a better coach than expected, separating the pressures off the rink from those on it.


The Good: Gionta is having a huge year.
The Bad: Losing Stevens and Niedermayer in the same year has been brutal.
The Weird: Seeing Brodeur with a 3.36 Goals Against Average.
The Future: It’s a young team that lost their coach and two of the best defensemen in the game; but Robinson is a good enough coach to get them to the playoffs.
Note: The rule forbidding goalies from going into the corners for the puck may as well have been called the “Fuck Brodeur” rule. It’s hurt this team more than any other.


The Good: Pick one! When you’re getting more than twice as many goals for as against, you’re going to win some games.
The Bad: Redden just got (slightly) injured.
The Weird: Hasek hasn’t broken yet.
The Future: A shoo-in for the playoffs, the only question is where in the top four?
Note: Nothing matters but the playoffs.


The Good: Gagne finishing (20 goals) what Forsberg starts (30 assists) over 20 games.
The Bad: Neither goaltender has been very good.
The Weird: Averaging 3.5 Goals Against, and still having a 12-5-3 record.
The Future: Interesting rumors abound about Florida trading Luongo…
Note: Biggest question is if Esche is going to channel Grant Fuhr in the playoffs: only worry about keeping out one more goal than the opponent.


The Good: Guess who?
The Bad: Koltsov is a damn sight better than 1 assist in 20 games.
The Weird: Ric Jackman, 70 point scoring defenseman?
The Future: Fleury is going to stay in the minors this season even if it kills the Penguins.
Note: Lemieux has offered his place on Team Canada to get Crosby on, if that’s what it takes. Uh, Mario? You’re at a point a game, and Sid’s above that: I wouldn’t worry about it much.


The Good: Graham and Burke have been decent in net.
The Bad: I thought Sydor would be leading the defense, but Boyle insists on screwing up my pool.
The Weird: Could someone trade Paul Ranger to Manhattan, please?
The Future: It will be interesting to see which goalie gets more work come the playoffs.
Note: A plus about a young team is that they generally suffer very few injuries, and that’s been as true this year as last season. The only thing that slows the Lightning down are themselves, with a very up-and-down first quarter.


The Good: So when did Paul Coffey die? McCabe is channeling him.
The Bad: Of all the injury-prone players, they lose… Sundin and Antropov?
The Weird: Quinn has been hit with a puck while behind the bench twice so far this season.
The Future: The usual caveats apply to Toronto: they can do damage in the playoffs if their veterans stay healthy, especially Belfour.
Note: Tellqvist isn’t ready for prime time. If he was, Belfour would have played four or five fewer games.


The Good: See Pittsburgh.
The Bad: Injuries everywhere, and Johnson has been atrocious.
The Weird: Kolzig hasn’t snapped and horribly butchered his defense… yet.
The Future: Lots and lots of young talent here that’s almost NHL ready. Kolzig is the real captain of this team, which is interesting considering how emotionally he used to play.
Note: Tried desperately to get Semin out of Russia ASAP, and it didn’t work. Next year, there’s always next year. Or the year after, in this team’s case.

Okay, that’s it. In closing, let me just say that the shootout still sucks


posted by Thursday at 11:11 pm 0 comments

November 23, 2005

Hockey: West at the Quarter

It’s the quarter-pole for the NHL, so let’s review/bitch!

Western Conference first:


The Good: Giguere is not affected by smaller equipment as badly as feared (.915 SV%)
The Bad: Two road win in nine tries.
The Weird: Fedorov just didn’t work out, so now it’s back to Selanne.
The Future: Todd Marchant is a good pick-up, but it makes you wonder why they didn’t just have him added to the trade for Fedorov. They’re picking up his salary, after all.
Note: Burke is a very good GM, and he’ll make whatever moves he thinks are necessary.


The Good: Iginla, a notorious slow starter, is rolling.
The Bad: Long injuries to Regher and Lombardi.
The Weird: 4-7-1 in their first 12 games, 9-1-1 in the next 11.
The Future: Up, up and away!
Note: Though they’ll push for the division title, Sutter will keep the team focused on the playoffs. A few more home games would be nice in the second season..


The Good: Khabibulin rounding into form after a bloody awful start.
The Bad: Daze has played in one game, Ruutu in seven.
The Weird: Seeing Khabibulin with an .873 SV% after going 4-1.
The Future: The team’s starting to gel, so they’ll have a much stronger finish than they started.
Note: Hopefully, they will be real, real careful with Ruutu’s injury: he’s more valuble than one season of maybe making the playoffs.


The Good: Rookie Marek Svatos.
The Bad: The #1 goalie has a 3.49 goals against average…
The Weird: Turgeon is looking to double last year’s production.
The Future: Should make the playoffs, but it will be a fight.
Note: It will be a couple of years before they’ll have room under the new salary cap to really play on the free agent market.


The Good: Berard is living up to his billing.
The Bad: Unfortunately, so is everyone else. (Goals… goals… Those are those things scored against us, right?)
The Weird: On a goal-starved team, what is Andy Delmore doing in the minors?
The Future: Nash is the future, but Brule is sticking with the team this year.
Note: Unless Fedorov suddenly clicks with Zherdev, the playoffs are a ways away.


The Good: A road record of 8-2.
The Bad: Turco taking a while to remember his game.
The Weird: Phillippe Boucher has 14 points so far? What’s in his Wheeties?
The Future: Playoff bound. A little more scoring from the D would be nice, but otherwise a solid team.
Note: Modano is back to his point-a-game pace, making last year an aberration.


The Good: Legace is doing yeoman’s work, while the offence is near 4 goals a game.
The Bad: Jiri Fischer had a seizure – apparently doing fine now, but…
The Weird: Their top 3 scorers are 27 or younger, the next three 35 and up.
The Future: Fischer has had heart problems, and he may have to retire.
Note: Weren’t these guys supposed to be rebuilding this year?


The Good: The discovery of Morrison when Conklin was injured.
The Bad: Chris Pronger’s been disappointing, but not as much as Peca.
The Weird: Torres is going for the Cy Young Award again – 10G, 5A.
The Future: If Morrison proves to be a capable backup, does Markkanen or Conklin go?
Note: The only thing to keep Smyth off of Team Canada this Olympics is an injury.


The Good: Several young players having career years.
The Bad: Bure hasn’t played yet, and Roenick is struggling.
The Weird: I knew LaBarbara was good, but I didn’t think he’d have 8 wins in 11 games.
The Future: Solid playoff team, if their young goalies can keep pace.
Note: Visnovsky is pushing Norris Trophy numbers.


The Good: Um… Great fans?
The Bad: Losing Gaborik for all but three games this year.
The Weird: Roloson has a .929 SV%, and a 3-6 recond.
The Future: Getting Gaborik back will help immeasurably.
Note: .500 isn’t going to get a playoff spot in the West.


The Good: 27 points in 18 games!
The Bad: Losing Scott Walker for most of the season.
The Weird: Fan favorite Tootoo couldn’t stick with the team, even with the gritty Walker gone.
The Future: They’ll go as far a Vokun can carry them.
Note: Even if they slip back to playing .500 hockey, they’ve built enough of a pad to make the playoffs again.


The Good: Back to .500 after a very shaky start.
The Bad: Hull hanging them up after five games.
The Weird: Huge turnover in players can make for an unsettled team.
The Future: If they can average one half goal per game more than they do now, this would be a very dangerous team.
Note: Curtis Joseph is the best bargain in the league: $900,000, 17 of 24 games started and a .926 SV%.


The Good: Goalie Sanford was named “Defensive Player of the Week” on November 21.
The Bad: Everything else. Tkachuk has played 2 games, the defence shouldn’t be this bad, and fans are staying away in droves.
The Weird: This defence is much more talented than the numbers suggest.
The Future: What future? The owners are biding their time until contracts start to expire.
Note: The parts seem to be much greater than the whole, here.


The Good: Rookie Schaefer outplaying veteran Nabokov.
The Bad: Rookie Schaefer outplaying veteran Nabokov.
The Weird: Niko Dimitrakos is from Somersville, Massachusetts.
The Future: Another young team on the bubble: if Coach Wilson can keep them calm, they’ll improve. If panic sets in, they’re tanked.
Note: Marleau is having a career year, like a lot of the faster players this year. Now if only the rest of the team could…


The Good: Allen is fitting in well, and Baumgartner has been far better than I expected.
The Bad: NHLPA troubles have wreaked havoc with Linden’s game.
The Weird: Salo is headed for a 70 point season at the pace he’s setting.
The Future: Auld reminds me of Kirk MacLean – ice water in the veins.
Note: There have been a lot of games the Canucks haven’t looked ready for – lots of slow starts. Time for Coach Crawford to go.

Eastern Conference tomorrow.


posted by Thursday at 11:42 am 2 comments

November 20, 2005

Other: Polite Invasion

For the past week, we've had a friend at our house who underwent major surgery: she lives a ways North of here, so we want her to be close(r) to the hospital in case of complications. She'll stay until we are certain there won't be any problems with her driving herself home. She also has two dogs that have to be watched (and fed) durning the time.

Square footage of house: 600, plus small porch.
Total humans: 3 adults, average size.
Total dogs: 1 adult Rottweiler cross, 1 Jack Russel cross, 1 micro-puppy of unknown breed.
Total square feet/mammal: 100, plus small porch
Total mammals, impression: 73

Well, it's a good deed that should buy me a few years in Purgatory, if I make it that far.


posted by Thursday at 9:57 pm 0 comments

Sex: Decorum in a Leather Thong

One of the really surprising things about attending an S&M party thrown by Sagacity: there's a lot of giggling involved.

I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me, as sex is a whole lot of fun; but I still had a preconceived notion that the rooms would be darker, the people grimmer, and the music would be Death Metal. Wrong on all three counts, as it ends up: the two parties I have been to have been in the nicely lit conference rooms of the downtown Traveller's Inn; the people have been enthusiastic and happy, and the music was... Hmm, I don't seem to remember the music, but it certainly didn't include Rammstein.

The first party was Hallowe'en, and the second wasn't, but frankly it was a little hard to tell which was which. More people dressed as angels at the first, I suppose. The Hallowe'en party was my first with these folks, so much of my time was spent talking to another newcomer who had such a fascinating story that I've asked her permission to reproduce here (she hasn't gotten back to me yet, and I'm not going to let people know she was at the party until she gives her permission).

The second was a series of workshops as well as an anniversary bash, so it was quite educational. One workshop I attended was a mostly improvised affair hosted by a gentleman named Elwood (or El Wood, as his name tag read). He opened with a comment that "there is no such thing as pain, only 'strong sensation' which can be translated in various ways." It's an oft-repeated maxim, which I imagine can be quite useful to keep in mind when you're face down in front of him and hear him fire up a blowtorch, as his test subject did, but I personally think statement is bogus. "Pain" is too useful a term to be tossed away: your opinion of pain can be varied, from "No pain, no gain" through "It's a good hurt" to inarticulate grunts and moans or even "YEEEOUCH! FUCK! RIGHT! OFF!" In any case, being able to tell someone you're actually in pain, or that it feels like damage is being done, is a good ability to have, and I'm not about to give that up.

I still don't know anyone well enough to actively play with, so the wife went to her pre-arranged assignation while I was kicked out of the room to wander about the party. Fair enough: the lovely young woman in question was gay, and not comfortable being sexual with men about. Plus, hey it was their first time and I thought they could use a bit of privacy.

So I visited bunch of folks who didn't have any need for privacy at all.

The way the parties work, is that Sagacity rents the space and brings some of the larger toys for all to use (for a limited time), and all can use them. No penetration of any kind allowed (law dodging 101), clean up after yourselves, don't damage the devices and there's a 45 minute limit. Oh, and no blood, please. There were a couple of classic clothing racks (they look like wide, useless ladders), a double-T rack (hands up, feet on the ground), a suspension rack (like a gymnastic bar, only much stronger), a bench with stocks (this, but kneeling), a standard table and a medical exam table. All told, quite a variety, though I was a little surprised a St. Andrew's Cross wasn't among the impliments. Not complaining, you understand: they were being very generous with their toys, after all.

I did see a full suspension get performed, and one fascinating device called a "Violet wand" which I've never seen in use before: quite effective, judging by the madcap giggling issuing from the sub during the scene. It was invented quite some while back as part of the massive "It's new and you don't understand it so it will cure you!" quackery that went on in the first two or three decades of last century (quite unlike today, then). This proves the theory that anything invented will be of some use to someone, somewhere if they're perverse enough.

Perhaps next time I'll find a playmate or two. Or not: it's still a fun bunch to hang about with.

I seem to be continuing my record of lesbians who like me, too: I've known a number of gay women (but only a few men, oddly), and far from being the stereotypical "hairy man-haters" of cartoon fame, they seem to get the urge to take me home and feed me.

No complaints there, then.

Totally Unrelated Side Note

I've studied, seen, or done a fair number of things involving sexuality; I'd say that I haven't been surprised by anything I've heard for more than ten years. Then, thanks to Dan Savage, I encountered this.

Not, not, not work safe.

Now I know, intellectually, that transgendered people exist in either state, male-to-female or female-to-male, and I know that the breasts are the first change made during the surgery. I also know there's a whole lot of porn involving Chicks With Dicks (MTF transsexuals), and someone who has just such a lover. So I also know, intellectually, that the opposite is true as well: women who are half way through their sex change to becoming male. It's just that I've never seen one, or even read about them; and now I find a self-styled Porn Star who is just that. Go fig.
posted by Thursday at 7:43 pm 1 comments

Politics: Future Intense

The Tao that can be named is not the real Tao. The real name of the Tao is Taostein, but nobody talks about it.

-Zen Judaism

Ever wonder who might be the first Jewish President of the United States? Given the sheer number of Tin Hatters who are ready to blame the Jews for everything from Personally Killing Jesus to 9/11, it's going to be a while. And please don't think Lieberman is the only Democratic Jew going.

Now, I've always been of the opinion that the first minority to reach power in any Democracy is invariably right-wing, politically speaking, because that will fool enough of said minority into believing they will be striking a blow for freedom and equality and all that. Since the left usually has the minority vote, a minoity opponent usually has to be opposed by another minority to get some of those votes back. The right can only use this tactic every few elections before the lefty minority clues in, but they can score political points for years to follow, even if they get hammered in the following election.

That being said, I wouldn't bet against this fellow: Jake Zimmerman. He's a startlingly intelligent man that I know from the Heinous BBS (that's a Bulliten Board System for the young pups).

Just so when he runs in 20 years (or so) I can brag that I knew him way back when.


posted by Thursday at 7:17 pm 0 comments

November 10, 2005

Science: Pennsylvania 8, Kansas 0

Mao Tse Tung (or however it's fashionable to spell that now) needed to reform his country's feudal agrarian society, so he carefully studied the greatest minds in Communist philosophy, and came up with the Great Leap Forward. Mostly, it involved stopping people from growing food, and having them mine and smelt iron in little backyard smelters instead. Lo and behold, within three years, 30 million Chinese people died, mostly from starvation. The Chinese government, being what it was, declared it a Great Success (And We're Never Going To Mention This Again, Right?). One lesson that could be learned from that delightful time could be about trying to make reality conform to a philosophy, instead of using philosophy to explore the nature of reality.

Apropos of nothing, I'd like to mention here that on Tuesday, the Kansas School Board voted 6-4 in favour of creationism being taught as science. Balloon Juice has a lively little conversation about it going right now. This marks the second time in ten years they've tried this. Last time (1999), voters replaced the anti-science members of the board...

Speaking of Pennsylvania, ALL EIGHT school board seats that were up for election in Dover (where a certain court case is going on) have new members. The new members were all against creationism being taught in science classrooms, and the old memberswere in favour of it.

God, of course, promptly removed His protection from Dover, PA. Who knows what God's going to do if the court case Kitzmiller et al v. Dover School Board goes against Him? Well, I suppose Pat Robertson does, but I mean normal people...

"Sixty four percent of Americans think Der Monkey is doing a bad job,
The other 34 percent think Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to Church."

That was from a commentator on Bartcop, and you can understand why I had to steal it.


posted by Thursday at 10:54 pm 0 comments

November 09, 2005

Other: DOOMed!

Been away far too long, so a bit of fluff to return...


Have I ever mentioned the time Britney Spears disappointed me? Shocking, I know, but true. Oh, I hid my mortification well for a while. But sooner or later, it all comes spilling out for the world to see.

Lucky you.

What happened was this: I had heard mention of this fluffly little pop tart making the rounds named Britney Spears. Not listening to the radio much (for the aforementioned reason), I didn't give it much thought. I ended up visiting my wife at her work before hearing any of Ms. Spears' work: it was standard a pop tune, vocally heavily modified to impersonate depth of a sort. Catchy, but not immortal.

The name came up in a later conversation: "(Hit Me) Baby One More Time". It was a revelation. It was something like eating a piece of bubble gum only to find it as flavourful and nutritious as a porterhouse steak. I felt an instant surge of respect and admiration for this performer, this entertainment Q-ship that was storming the pop culture seas! Here she was, deliberately crafting a radio-friendly tune that had as its subject not only spousal abuse, but from the point of view of the victim with a desceptive hook as its title - astoundingly courageous work for a first album!

The disappointment was soon to follow.

This leads, as you may have guessed, to movie reviews. I have maintained a sliding scale of expectations when seeing a film for the first time; what I expect from one genre will be different from another. An historical drama will have to have good acting, accurate costumes and sets, and good dialogue for me to consider it a worthy expense of my time. A horror needs to have an imaginative storyline, internally consistent physics, and good special effects. Budget has its place, too: from Primer, I want creative ideas well executed; from The Fifth Element, special effects are more important. Good acting is to be preferred.

Then, ah, then there's DOOM.

It's hard to say just how horribly, horribly wrong the concept of turning video games into full length feature films is. Street Fighter ring any bells? No? How about Bob Hoskins in Super Mario Brothers? Double Dragon? Anyone? There was a short period of time when it was considered the coming thing to use live actors in video games, and not just for voices or cut scenes. Time Traveller, for instance, showed up in arcades for about a year before vanishing, or the second Gabriel Knight mystery for PCs. Then designers realized that amateurs were crap actors, real actors were expensive, and processing power wasn't really up to making smooth actions out of random input, so let's get back to animation, shall we? Then they decided to try it the other way, movies from games, which gave us the ... awkward ... results above.

The real question is just what can be expected of such a hybrid? You would think that having essentially no story would free the unfortunate writers to go in whatever direction they pleased, but they do get reminded about certain things that must be included, as a sop to the game's fans, like the excerable Street Fighter movie including all the game characters, and trying to make them all heroes. And make sure they all did their "signature moves". And find a reason for them to be together and not beating the tar out of each other. (They did miss one, but his limbs stretched, and that would have been too expensive to include.) Which is another minor detail: these movies are usually funded, at least in part, by computer game companies. That is to say, by a bunch of folks who are big, big fans, but not very wealthy in movie making terms, so a lot of stuff that their animated character could do, live stuntmen would read and say: "Er..."

So little chance of a decent script, and they have to play in the (mostly) real world, rather than a CGI playground like the game has. And don't expect a lot of name actors to be drawn to a project like this (Bob says he was "thinking of his grandkids" when he did Super Mario Brothers). This narrows down my criteria for enjoying a Game Film considerably:

1) Does it get the look right;
2) Does it include Icons (sound bites, special moves, specific weapons);
3) Um. Nope, that's pretty much it.

In DOOMs case, that means metal walls with streaks running down them, monsters that look like the beasties in the game, and a chainsaw. As an added bonus, if it could look like a First Person Shooter, that being what DOOM is most famous for, it would kick ass.

And may I say, it passed all these rigorous tests with flying colours. There was even a BFG for good measure. The acting was passable (the script is NOT the actors fault!), special effects were fine, and the writing was utterly horrific. A 24th chromosome turning people into supermen? Water-filled sewers on Mars? A super duper marine unit with massive, massive discipline problems? And my favorite bit: the revelation that as of 2046, ten percent of the human genome had not been mapped! Try telling that to these folks, then. First sentence: "completed in 2003, the Human Genome Project (HGP)..." Fifteen of the 23 chromosomes were sequenced as of April 2005, for crying out loud!

On the plus side, they did get an arterial wound right. Right place on the leg; bright, foamy blood; death soon to follow from massive external haemorrhaging. And there was a few minutes of First Person Shooter perspective, though no where near as much as the commercials lead you to believe. Plus, there was a chainsaw. So over all, I think I can say that this is very likely the best movie to be made from a computer game ever, and it's certainly the best I've seen.

It just pays to lower your expectation every now and then, and you'll find much of the world more enjoyable. See how neatly Britney Spears fits in?


posted by Thursday at 10:36 pm 2 comments