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halloween 2003 roundup (coming soon)
halloween 2002 roundup
the future of online gaming
star wars cereal review
japanese culture link of the day (12/6/2002)
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anime term of the day (fan service, 02/17/2003)
retro gaming link of the day (battletech)
20 favorite movies since 1980
second japanese culture link of the day (11/20/2003)
 

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  xFriday, July 12, 2002

killer mom update


Remember the woman who left her kids to die in a hot car while she visited the beauty salon? Here are some updates courtesy of The Detroit News:

A last thought: According to the picture that emerges from her court appearances, this woman seems to have been devastated by what she did. But the fact that she feels bad about it does not excuse her actions, nor should her remorse be construed to be sufficient by itself.




  x

i'll take two


Great googly moogly! A new pill evidently shuts off the urge to sleep, enabling those who take it to stay up for 40 straight hours, recovering refreshed after an eight-hour snooze ready to do it all over again.

Here's an interesting factoid from the story:
Caffeine -- the globe's most widely used drug -- today is a bigger food additive in dollar terms than salt. The U.S. soft drink industry alone sold 10 billion 192-ounce cases of bubbly last year, most of it caffeinated.

(via FARK)





  x

citizen held as combatant denied lawyer


A Federal appeals court has overruled a previous decision that Yaser Esam Hamdi, a Taliban fighter who claimed US citizenship, is entitled to a lawyer. Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a district court's decision to let Hamdi meet with a public defender was flawed and remanded the case back to the lower court with instructions to consider a broader range of implications.
In the face of ongoing hostilities, the district court issued an order that failed to address the many serious questions raised by Hamdi's case. The June 11 order does not consider what effect petitioners unmonitored access to counsel might have upon the government's ongoing gathering of intelligence. The order does not ask to what extent federal courts are permitted to review military judgements of combatant status.

However, Wilkinson refused to dismiss the case, brought by Hamdi's father. He also didn't endorse the concept the claim of U.S. officials that the president has the absolute right to decide who was an unlawful combatant with no court review. In declining, he cited a concern I've raised before.
With no meaningful judicial review, any American citizen alleged to be an enemy combatant could be detained indefinitely without charges or counsel on the government's say-so," he wrote. "Given the interlocutory nature of this appeal, a remand rather than an outright dismissal is appropriate."

So it seems the issue is far from decided. The appeals court has indicated that the executive branch deserves the deference of the courts, but did not rule out a role for the judiciary in determining the validity of a designation of enemy combatant.

One thing I remain curious about is the notion that combatants are not entitled to lawyers. As I've noted, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of (non-citizen) enemy combatants in Ex Parte Quirin. Presumably, the Germans involved in that case had legal counsel, and they were non-citizens from a country with which the US was in a declared war.




  x

labels to webcasters: drop dead


That's a paraphrase of the headline of this commentary by Newsweek's Steven Levy, who marvels at the efforts of record labels to kill Internet radio, when it would seem that the medium fulfills a promotional function.
So why are the record labels taking such a hard line? My guess is that itís all about protecting their Internet-challenged business model. Their profit comes from blockbuster artists. If the industry moved to a more varied ecology, independent labels and artists would thriveóto the detriment of the labels, which would have trouble rustling up the rubes to root for the next Britney.


(via Lisa Rein)






  x

making the cut


Props to Susanna for the recognition at Cut on the Bias.




  x

hiv-positive muppet to debut in south africa


The South African version of Sesame Street plans to introduce an HIV-positive Muppet character, who may eventually appear on the US version of the show.

A spokesperson at the international AIDS conference said the character will be introduced in South Africa, where one in nine people are HIV positive, as a way of expanding awareness of the infection among children and "de-stigmatizing" the disease.

I grew up with Sesame Street, and I think it fulfills a very positive function in portraying people of different ethnic backgrounds--white, black, Hispanic, monster, enormous yellow bird--getting along without making a big deal of their differences. My girls love the show, too, and watching it with them I'm amazed at how clever it is in many ways--presenting lots of short snippets about counting or letters, for example, and alternating live actors, Muppets and animation, all of which is perfect for short attention spans.

But I think the show is taking the wrong approach. A Muppet is just too unrealistic. Inasmuch as the show feels it will benefit children to be aware of HIV, I think introducing a live character would be much more effective. Although I didn't see the episode, I understand that when the actor who played store owner Mr. Hooper died, the character died on the show, and it apparently handled the subject of death from a child's perspective very well. (My almost-three-year old knows that one of our cats died; we had to tell her when she noticed Nicholas didn't come with us to the new house.) Muppets don't bleed...if the show wants to send a message about how the infection spreads (aside from sex--that topic does not seem to be contemplated), a person would be a much better model.

By the way...Ernie and Bert are not gay. Frankly, I've lately perceived their relationship as being more like a parent and child. I think the mischevious Ernie is designed to appeal to kids as he contstantly gets the better of the boring Bert (who like paper clips, pigeons, and the color beige), often by taking Bert's statements literally. My oldest daughter Cecilia is entering that stage right now--obeying the letter of the law while doing what she wants, if she can, regardless of her parents' intentions.

(via Cut on the Bias)




  x

9/11 sparked horror revival


Horror fiction enjoyed renewed popularity and creative energies after the atrocities of Sept. 11, according to Neil Gaiman (one of my favorite writers) in a Village Voice article.

(via Blog of a Bookslut)




  x

salon: legal threats against schools not uncommon


Faithful readers (all three of you) will recall my rant about parents who threatened to sue their daughter's teacher when the kid flunked English. Today's edition of Salon.com reported that such threats are becoming increasingly common. Most telling to me is the portrayal of administrators' evident eagerness to undercut their teachers' authority by caving to such threats. Swell.




  x

snakehead in the grass


The mystery of how a voracious Chinese fish got into a Maryland pond has been solved: a Hong Kong native ordered the fish to prepare a soup that was a traditional remedy for his ailing sister. She recovered prior to the fish's arrival, so he kept them in an aquarium. When they began eating too many goldfish, he dumped them in the pond, where they bred. Despite being able to drag themselves a limited distance on land, the fish and their offspring have apparently not spread to nearby waterways, and authorities are considering ways to eliminate the population.

Update: 99 baby snakehead caught in the same pond.




  x

interesting


Scientists create active polio virus from chemical components. Really, this is only a matter of time, and with immunization, polio isn't much of a threat, but since I'm thinking of terrorism this story made me go hmmmm....




  x

more air security opinion


On the heels of the "trusted traveler" program story, I read that government lawyers are urging a district judge to limit the discovery process for wrongful-death lawsuits filed against the airlines whose planes were hijacked on Sept. 11, citing security concerns. (The documents could become part of the public record as part of the trial.)

I hate to break it to you, but al Qaeda already sussed out the security flaws in the US passenger airline system. I see two basic implications of this request, neither one particularly assuring. One is that this request is merely an attrempt to shield the airlines from liability; if the plaintiffs can't examine the airline's security system or lack thereof, they can't prove the procedures were inadequate or were not followed.

The other possibility is more disturbing to contemplate: Whatever flaws existed in the pre-Sept. 11 system, weren't those supposed to have been fixed? I don't see any more harm in examining the pre-Sept. 11 security apparatus as studying WWII coastal defense procedures--they just wouldn't be operational today. Indeed, it'd be beneficial if any terrorist was dumb enough to try to exploit a perceived flaw, when such a hole didn't really exist; such a foolish endeavor would likely result in the terrorist's capture.

I'm on about this because of a post at Cut on the Bias that cited another blog post speculating that the administration is assuming that al Qaeda's next attack won't use hijacking as its MO. I have no way at all if knowing if that speculation is true, but if it is, that'd be a monumentally dumb assumption. I'm operating from a few assumptions of my own; for example, I take it for granted that al Qaeda would love to get its bloody hands on a weapon of mass destruction, but that if they had one they'd have used it. That leads me to postulate that WMDs are relatively hard for terrorists to obtain, and given that, it seems that an airliner packs as much destructive potential in terms of the kinetic energy it represents as just about anything this side of a liquified gas tanker (and those are slow and can only attack coastal cities). Given all that, I'd hope airport security is tighter than the stories I've cited in these two posts seem to indicate.




  x

dumb idea of the day


Today's edition of CNN carries a pair of disturbing developments on the airline security front. Topping the list is a plan by the beleagured airline industry--still struggling despite a $15 billion bailout package--to institute a "trusted traveler" program that would let holders of a special card skip the long lines created by security checks. Government officials and frequent flyers who pass a background check could receive a special card that would let them skip the security screenings.

I'm no highly-paid airline executive, just an amatuer aviation enthusiast, and the flaw in this plan is obvious to me. The Sept. 11 gang didn't just decide to grab some airliners on the spur of the moment. They planned for months, including making several "dry runs." Given that al Qaeda has established a pattern of preparing its ops well in advance, it's elementary that they'd take advantage of an opportunity to establish frequent-flyer bona fides if it'd give them an opportunity to slip a terrorist onto a plane when it counted. This notion is especially disturbing given the still-shaky state of security at airports.

I also have a populist problem with the notion of government officials and frequent flyers--which means business travelers--getting to skip the lines the Great Unwashed have to endure. The flying public was asked to put up with the inconveneince--and I've experienced it; it is an inconvenience--in the name of greater security. It stinks to contemplate declaring a certain class of people too privileged to have to endure the plebian lines.




  x

sitter kills toddler over soiled pants


In today's Child Abusing Idiot Watch is the sad story of a creep who killed a two-year-old boy he and his girlfriend were sitting for with five hard punches in the face after the boy soiled his pants. The Florida couple then wrapped the body in a blanket and dumped it by an Interstate before high-tailing it to Utah, where they were nabbed and await extradition.




  x

house update


w00t! We have an accepted offer on our old house. We got the offer on Sunday, and after a little back-and-forth negotiating, the buyer has accepted our latest proposal. We need to do some work on the roof (as we expected), but we are scheduled to close by the end of the month!

In addition to removing a second mortgage payment from our budget, the sale of the house will mean I can buy movies again! Again I say w00t!





  xThursday, July 11, 2002

proposed copyright amendment to limit fair use


Draft copyright legislation would sharply limit the right to record and swap TV programs and music, even on imperfect analog equipment,

One provision of the draft legislation would be to exempt the temporary copies of music needed for Webcasting. But critics of the bill pointed out that royalty fees recently adopted by the Librarian of Congress would rended the issue moot by shutting down many Webcasters.

The article speculates that the legislation is designed to preempt other bills designed to loosen copyright restrictions in force under the odious Digital Millenium Copyright Act (PDF). Among its provisions is that the Copyright Office and the Commerce Department report on how effective key provision have been. Only the Copyright Office suggested amending the DMCA in did in its report, which it released last August.

(CNet News' version of this story has a number of useful links.)





  x

interesting


Writing Monday in the WaPo, Howard Kurtz related the story of an Arkansas politician who, unhappy with the coverage of his re-election campaign he was receiving in a local newspaper, appealed to a friend whose company just happened to own the paper. The paper was ordered to endorse the politician, prompting its editor to resign.

What's amazing to me is not so much the fact that the politician tried to influence the paper's position as how brazen he was about it. Kurtz quoted the Congressman's email that claimed the paper was biased against him and proposed a remedy:
Among other things, the Republican candidate asked in an e-mail that the Commercial endorse him "and have coverage that will complement such endorsement, not look contradictory. Somehow devise a plan that will allow the pendulum to swing my way for a considerable period of time until a balance is achieved."

What's more, [candidate] Dickey told the paper that he should be asked for comment on all news releases by his opponent, Democratic Rep. Mike Ross, "and don't ask him on mine all the time." Dickey also asked the Commercial to stop running letters by a local critic of his and "publish our favorable letters."


It's no secret that newpapers often take an adversarial role with politicians. And I don't know; Dickey may have even had a point that the paper was biased against him or not submitting his opponents to equal scrutiny. But it raises a warning flag when a politician solicits favorable coverage from a newspaper's owner. Readers deserve to trust that their paper's coverage, good or bad, is not the result of a backroom deal.




  x

michelangelo discovered in museum collection


Here's a cool piece I first heard yesterday on NPR...a rare sketch by Renaissance master Michaelangelo was discovered by a Scottish scholar among a collection of light fixture designs at a New York museum. The sketch, a design of an elaborate candelabra, is worth an estimated US$10 million. The museum purchased the collection containing the sketch in 1972 for about 60 bucks.




  x

interesting...


Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi told CNN that his country rejects terrorism. That he'd make such a claim to the US news media is none too surprising; more interesting is his rejection of terrorism as contrary to Islamic law:
We term them heretics, actually. They are non-Muslims. They are outside Islam.

The more people like Gadhafi, who can by no means be construed as a US ally, take this position, the more marginalized the yo-yos who spread the fruitless doctrine of terrorism will become. Gadhafi is actually a good person to issue this message; his country did embrace terrorism and realized in no uncertain terms the futility of walking that path.




  x

new permalink


I've been reading Demosthenes' blog Shadow of the Hegemon a lot recently, and I just added a permalink. The blogger manages many lengthy, seriously considered posts on a number of topics, and defends them adroitly in the active comments forums. I also dug that his thought exercise on missile defense included a reference to one of my favorite video games, Metal Gear Solid.




  x

speaking of lego


Lego and Miramax Films announce an upcoming computer-animated movie based on the Bionicle product line.




  x

sw33t!


lego macross mecha
FoundryDX is a spiffy site that features mecha--those big anime robots--created out of Lego. Models range from the impressive to the incredible, sporting multiple points of articulation as well as amazing fidelity to the anime versions that inspired the models. The individual who creates the models and maintains the site estimates a collection of more than 30,000 pieces from some 250 sets. For those without quite that many pieces, custom kits are available with detailed instructions for building your own Lego mecha.

(via Destroy All Monsters forums)




  xWednesday, July 10, 2002

really boss news


bruce springsteen
My buddy Joe emailed me with a list of dates for a tour Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are launching later this summer. The tour will span the US and Europe, with the band playing Conseco Fieldhouse here in Indy on Nov. 10.

A bit of trivia: Springsteen and the E Street Band played the first rock concert at the then-new Conseco Fieldhouse. Unfortunately, the arena was custom-designed as a basketball venue, and proved less than ideal for a rock show. I haven't been to a concert there since (though I saw Springsteen later on that tour at Louisville's Freedom Hall--where I got a poster autographed by E Stree Band members Nils Lofgren, Clarence Clemons and "Miami" Steve Van Zandt--and the sound was excellent), but I understand they've since worked out some of the bugs.




  x

boo-boos


United States Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson was scheduled to give a speech on advances in preventing the spread of AIDS between mothers and children at an internation AIDS conference when he was booed off the stage by protestors dissatisfied with the money the US contributes to a global fund to combat the disease. While the protestors may (and I want to emphasize may--all I'm saying is I'm not well-informed enough on the issue to declare a categorical endorsement or rejection) have a point that--despite being the single biggest contributor--the US's portion of the kitty is smaller than it ought to be, and certainly enjoyed the opportunity to make that point, they lost a lot of crediblity with me when, having garnered the notice they no doubt craved, they prevented Thompson's speech from being heard. The secretary also declined to appear at a scheduled Q&A session. These actions transformed the group from protesters to obstructionists, from dissenters to people with nothing to offer but obnoxiousness. Frankly, if I were an AIDS activist, I'd be incensed at the black eye these yo-yos gave the movement.

A couple of things struck me about this incident. One is, while I can't say whether the US contribution to the Global Fund is adequate, I'm sure that US$250 million does not represent the entirety of this country's effort in combating AIDS--there's money the US government is spending on its own (not as part of the global fund) and funds various non-government research groups are spending as well. I think it's significant that the anti-HIV drugs people kvetch are too costly seem to have been developed in or by the US, no doubt at monstrous cost. While I'd condemn drug companies for price-gouging, they are entitled for a returns on their investment (more on that thought later).

Second, given that Thompson's speech was on advances made in preventing the spread of HIV from mother to child, I can't help but wonder if there isn't some dispute over how the money is allocated; that is, who the research is intended to benefit. But after digesting the news from this conference that HIV infection is increasing again in the US, half the cases of infection in the US are undiagnosed, and that three-quarters of a population surveyed were unaware they carried HIV despite indulging in risky behavior, I have absolutely no problem with the focus being on preventing the spread of disease to infants.

That goes back to the return-on-investment question. Charges that AIDS drugs are overpriced--or that their cost is beyond the reach of many AIDS sufferrers, which is not the same thing--have become a common part of the AIDS debate. Yet as the studies I've cited indicate, a good chunk of the vulnerable or infected population is not doing what it should to prevent the spread of the virus. I have a philisophical problem with any group that advocates that taxpayers and drug companies make a financial sacrifice while apparently giving a free pass to a vulnerable segment of the population for indulging in risky behaviour without simple, common-sense precautions--condoms and testing--that could hold the virus in check.

The bottom line is, AIDS is already a highly politicized disease, but the protestors did not help their cause as far as I'm concerned. Voicing their dissent or disagreement is one thing; denying someone else the opportunity to speak under the guise of protest is quite another.

...

In other boo-ing news, baseball commissioner Bud Selig was booed by fans when he declared the All-Star game a 7-7 tie in the 11th inning. Columnist Tom Verducci maintains that the game, not the ending, is the true fiasco.




  x

release date announced for matrix sequel


w00t! Warner Brothers has announced the release date for the eagerly anticipated sequel to the 1999 hit The Matrix (which was originally conceived as a trilogy): May 15, 2003. The date, a Thursday, is one day earlier than expected. The third installement in the trilogy is slated for a late-2003 release. You can see the teaser trailer here.




  x

excellent


"Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz was denied parole yesterday. A two-member parole board rejected the serial killer's first parole petition, which came after the killer served 25 years of his six consecutive life sentences. Among other things, the parole board cited a letter Berkowitz himself wrote to New York Governor George Pataki that said he (Berkowitz) deserved lifetime incarceration.




  x

boy beaten unconcious for misbehaving


Speaking of child abuse, a Texas pastor and his brother face felony charges after beating an 11-year-old boy unconcious with a tree branch. In response to the lad's misbehavior in a Bible class, the pair allegedly administered a 90-minute beating--with at least one restroom break for the boy--that resulted in massive bruising and kidney damage.

Let me make something perfectly clear: It's a common tactic in the blogosphere and elsewhere to cite an individual's extreme action or statement and imply that such is representative of a group. This post is in no way intended to reflect upon the beliefs of the majority of Christians or educators. I'm sure that most would agree that it's reprehensible to beat an 11-year-old senseless in the name of discipline.




  x

goodies from fark


Drew Curtis took recent note of these items:

In a story that's becoming all too familiar, some bonehead left his 3-year-old boy and 4-year old girl alone in his car on a scorching summer day--while he went shopping in a porno store. The day's high was about 92, and temperatures inside the car reached about 97 degrees within 20 minutes.

Fortunately, passersby broke the car's windows and rescued the children, who showed no ill effects when examined by paramedics at the scene. The father now faces criminal neglect charges.






According to a British tabloid, tennis pin-up Anna Kournikova disturbed fellow hotel guests with her late-night, um, vocalizing. A writer speculated that the tennis player's late night may have set the stage for her Wimbledon doubles defeat.anna kournikova at wimbledon





  x

jet set


Some groovy info on the high-tech aviation front: Japanese scientists plan to test-fly a model of a rocket-powered aircraft that could fly twice as fast as the supersonic Concorde but carry three times the people, and make half the noise to boot. Successful testing of the computer-designed scale model could lead to a 2012 production target. (via FARK) Meanwhile, Boeing is developing a bat-winged next-generation jet that could carry 480 people with greatly improved fuel efficiency. A full-scale prototype is planned for 2006.

boeing 747
On a sadder note, Everette Webb, who co-designed the Boeing 747, one of the most beautiful passenger jets of all time, died July 2 of congestive heart failure. He was 80. The 747, with its unmistakable double-deck forward section, was introduced in 1968 as a "luxury liner of the sky," but its cost-efficiency made it an enduring workhorse in the passenger airplane market.




  x

groovy tuesday


Sorry about yesterday's silence...mondo busy day at work and afterward. It rained torrentially as I was leaving for and returning from work. Between putting the girls in the car and having to geto ut to pump gas, I got soaking wet, a fact Cecilia commented on the whole time I was making dinner. Omi fell asleep in the car after drinking her bottle, and despite the downpour I managed to get her inside withoutwaking her, so Cecilia and I spent time in the kitchen together as I fixed dinner. I told her that since it was raining, I'd play "The Rain Song," and put on Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, which she really likes (go Cecilia!). After I read the sursery rhyme "Tom Tom the Piper's Son" ("and all the songs that he could play/was over the hills and far away") I'd been having a hankering to listen to that album. So when "Over the Hills and Far Away" came on, I reminded Cecilia about the nursery rhyme (although I don't think Mother Goose meant that Tom played Zeppelin...).

Yesterday I made my usual pilgrimage to Video Update for its two-for-99-cent Tuesday nights. I rented Kiki's Delivery Service again, and noted that the store also stocks the Miyazaki anime My Neighbor Totoro, which I'll probably grab next week. I got a little more than usual this week:

  • Local Hero

  • The Name of the Rose

  • Genocyber Vol. 1

  • Gatchaman (1994) Vol. 1

  • Kiki's Delivery Service (redux)


I've begun recording the flicks I rent on a new page, where I plan to add commentary on these and other movies I see, terse and otherwise.

I watched Gatchaman last night. It's a mid-'90s update of a series that was chopped up and re-dubbed for broadcast on American TV (including my childhood friend WDRB-TV41 in Louisville) as Battle of the Planets. It follows the efforts of the Science Ninja Team, made up of five young people, as they battle mecha unleashed by the evil Galactor. Gatchaman is credited with influencing team-based anime programs by establishing basic roles...the Hero, the darker-and-cooler-but-more-impulsive Second Banana, the Chick, the Big Slow Guy and the Kid/Odious Comic Relief. The original Gatchaman anime series began in 1972 and arrived in America as BotP in 1978 or so. Unfortunately, BotP suffered from a couple of glaring flaws:

  1. Changes--including the title "Battle of the Planets"--obviously intended to appeal to the popularity of Star Wars. Not that "Science Ninja Team" would have been any better a title, but then you had the annoying 7-Zark-7, a badly animated R2D2-esque robot who served as the show's narrator.

  2. Obvious edits to tone down the level of violence. I used to say that any time someone got boinked or killed in the show, 7-Zark-7 would show up instead to provide some non sequitir exposition.

  3. The kid, Kiyop, had some incredibly annoying speech mannerisms, which fortunately were dropped by the '90s update. What on Earth were they thinking?


On the other hand, the robots the bad guys kept making to be blown up each week were cool...
I was thinking just the other day that although my exposure to anime by the early '80s had barely gone beyond Speed Racer, I was able to spot these warts even then (I may not have thought BotP was kinda L4m3, but I still watched it). I hope that, growing up with better stuff like Kiki's Delivery Service (Sailor Moon doesn't count), Cecilia and Naomi will develop a taste for good anime as well.




  xMonday, July 08, 2002

monitor turret to be raised


The NOAA and the U.S. Navy are planning a six-week effort to recover the USS Monitor's innovative revolving gun turret and two 11-inch Dahlgren cannons. The famed Civil War ironclad, best known for its battle with the Confederate ironclad Virginia in Hampton Roads, Va., on March 9, 1862, was lost at sea on Dec. 31 of that year.

Since the wreck's discovery in 1974, parts of the ship have already been recovered, and a museum in Newport News, Virginia, houses more than 100 artifacts from the famed ironclad.

Although the Virginia (often called the Merrimac after the Union ship whose scuttled hull became the Confederate ironclad's casemate) had destroyed two heavy wooden-hulled warships the day before, the Monitor fought the Confederate ship to a standstill and protected a disabled Union ship from destruction. The clash of ironclads heralded the era of modern naval warfare.

(via FARK)




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john frankenheimer r.i.p.


Film director John Frankenheimer, who helmed the classic thrillers The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May, died Saturday of a stroke. He was 72.

Frankenheimer also directed the 1979 horror film Prophecy. Although watching it again last Halloween, I realized it fell short in the scare department, back in my Boy Scout days, it was the film's camper-eating mutant bear and not ghost stories we used to scare each other.





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Actually, Prophecy isn't a bad movie, it just isn't a very scary one. There are strong performances by Richard Dysart and Armand Assante (who, improbably, plays a Native American), and genuine dramatic tension between the loggers and Indian activists the two actors represent. The drama is heightened when members of both groups, who strongly distrust each other, are forced to rely on each other to survive. Although the film's environmental theme is unmistakable, it doesn't make the Dysart's character, the head logger, a caricature. Frankenheimer was obviously right at home directing the more political aspects of this "thriller," and the film would have been stronger had he stayed in that territory, because as a horror film it frequently falls flat.

The film is rife with weaknesses, including unconvincing special effects (remember the exploding sleeping bag?) and wooden lead characters. Star Robert Foxworth, an inner-city doctor sent from New York City to mediate the logging dispute (huh?) because "people relate to him" (huh?) almost immediately sympathizes with the Indians and proves generally skeptical, combative and condescending, and co-star Talia Shire delivers a nigh-comatose, Judith O'Dea-style performance.

// spoiler alert //


It also contains one of the most egregious examples of what Ken at Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension would call the Hero's Battle Death Exemption: despite the fact that the mutant bear is consistently shown to kill with a single blow, Foxworth's character is able to survive combat with it long enough to stab it to death with an arrow. Indeed, Ken uses this very movie as the example to define the term.

Watching it last Halloween, I told my wife (the fact that we were watching it together should tell you how non-scary it was) that rather than running with the mutant bear angle, the film would have benefited from a Scooby-Doo ending: having the "mutant bear" wind up being a hoax perpetrated by either the loggers or the Indians to scare the other side out of the forest. That would have capitalized on Frankenheimer's strengths in directing a politically concious thriller, and made the "surprise" appearance of another mutant bear at the film's closing much more shocking.

Shoot...I didn't really mean to make this obit of Frankenheimer into a rant against one of his lesser offerings. He was a fine director, and The Manchurian Candidate is one of my favorite films. Check it out some time.




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saudi newspaper declares bin laden "dead"


An analysis in the English-language Saudi newspaper The Arab News speculates that Osama bin Laden is indeed dead, noting that a person of his evident ego would not likely remain silent so long.

More interesting is the article's dismissal of bin Laden's influence; the piece declared the al Qaeda leader dead politically if not in fact:
Even if he were still alive physically, Bin Laden is dead politically. He may live some more years in the hide-outs of the tribal zone in Pakistan just as some Nazi fugitives survived in the remote areas of Argentina and Paraguay.

Bin Laden is the known face of a particular brand of politics that committed suicide in New York and Washington on Sept.11, 2001, killing thousands of innocent people in the process.

The article goes on to describe six unique conditions the writer contends no longer exist in the post-Sept. 11 world, including a perception of American unwillingness to fight, easy access to finances, and European allies looking the other way.
Bin Laden could survive and prosper only in a world in which the six elements just mentioned remained in force. That world no longer exists: thus Osama Bin Laden no longer exists.

His ghost may continue to linger on, partly because Washington and Islamabad, among others, find it useful to keep it in the headlines for a while. Bush still has an election to win next November and Musharraf is keen to keep his country in the limelight as long as possible. But the truth is that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Remember you first read it here.


(via Ipse Dixit)




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deep linking dealt setback by danish court


A Danish court has ruled that a newspaper's Web site is entitled to ban hyperlinks to its content by an Internet news service. According to Wired News, the ruling's substance seems to be about the news site's specific practice and not the concept of linking itself.
According to court transcripts, an injunction against Newsbooster forbidding the service to deep link to any association-owned content was granted because Judge Michael Kistrup found that Newsbooster service was in direct competition with the newspapers to whose content the service linked, a violation of the Danish Copyright Act and the Danish Marketing Act, which forbids profiting by use of other companies' products and/or services.

The injunction is likely to be challenged to a higher court; as a member of the European Union, Denmark's laws reflect EU standards, so the ultimate ruling could influence practices across Europe. The court holds no jurisdiction in the US, where linking practices have also been the subject of litigation or threats thereof.

Experts quoted in the Wired story scoffed at the term "deep linking," noting that hyperlinks do not have specific levels.




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songwriter speaks out on music downloads


Singer-songwriter Janis Ian has placed an article on her Web site in which she discusses the MP3 phenomenon and the record industry's resistance to same. She gives permission to quote the entire thing (thanx, Janis!), but I'll settle for a couple of excerpts. It's well thought out and gives the perspective of one performer, in whose name the RIAA is ostensibly acting.
I have no objection to [NARAS president Michael] Greene et al trying to protect the record labels, who are the ones fomenting this hysteria. RIAA is funded by them. NARAS is supported by them. However, I object violently to the pretense that they are in any way doing this for our benefit (emphasis hers).

...in the hysteria of the moment, everyone is forgetting the main way an artist becomes successful - exposure. Without exposure, no one comes to shows, no one buys CDs, no one enables you to earn a living doing what you love. Again, from personal experience: in 37 years as a recording artist, I've created 25+ albums for major labels, and I've never once received a royalty check that didn't show I owed them money. So I make the bulk of my living from live touring, playing for 80-1500 people a night, doing my own show. I spend hours each week doing press, writing articles, making sure my website tour information is up to date. Why? Because all of that gives me exposure to an audience that might not come otherwise.

I highly recommend you read the whole thing--speaking from her own perspective, she debunks many of the recording industry's claims about the damage music downloading causes to sales, linking the hysteria to industry reaction to most new technologies (remember reel-to-reel tape?). She also notes the many restrictions the recording industry places on performers.

(via Mac Hall)




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monday morning


We've subscribed to the Sunday edition of our local paper, The Indianapolis Star, for some time. It's a pleasure to be able to peruse the paper with my morning coffee. This morning, the Star started sending us a free trial subscription to the daily edition. I wasn't able to read the paper today, due in part to a blackout that knocked out power to 15,000 customers, including us. But I hope to wake up 15 minutes earlier so I can enjoy the paper on the porch swing in the mornings.

Speaking of newspapers, while I was visiting Louisville I found an article on the arcade game Dance Dance Revolution in the Courier-Journal. I was unable to locate an online version of the story either at the C-J or the Stamford Advocate, where it originally ran (though I found one at Salon.com), but my search of the Advocate led me to this story about a magician who performed one of Harry Houdini's escapes, emerging from a straitjacket suspened 40 feet in the air. Magician Mike Schroeder performed the stunt to celebrate the new 37-cent Harry Houdini stamp. Cool!

Finally, I learned from NPR this morning that baseball legend Ted Williams passed away this weekend. Williams racked up impressive batting stats despite spending some of his prime years as a fighter pilot in WWII and Korea. He's the last person to have achieved a .400 average (so far, anyway).

Much going on today; I'm catching up with work after the four-day weekend, I'm planning some longer posts on a number of topics (including adding some seriously belated commentary to the discussion on Ann Coulter undertaken by Meryl, Dodd, and Susanna, among others), I have an article to submit to Destroy all Monsters, I want to write some movie and anime reviews, and there's other stuff going on as well, which I plan to mention when the timeis right. I'll post as the opportunity permits.




  xSunday, July 07, 2002

anime cel


anime cel
Apropros of nothing other than I've been meaning to get around to it, I wanted to mention that I own exactly one anime cel. (A cel is one of the transparent sheets animators use to draw characters, objects and backgrounds.) Back in 1998, AnimEigo offered one free cell per customer to anyone who asked, so I did. True to their word, they mailed me the cel pictured above.

I'm not sure who it is--obviously it's a minor character, or it wouldn't have been free. The good people at the Destroy All Monsters forums were unable to identify it, but did offer some guesses as to the style of the anime it may have come from. It's a cool thing to have; eventually I plan to frame it and hang it in my library/office, where most of our science fiction/anime stuff resides.