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  xFriday, April 11, 2003

review at dam

In honor of the DVD release next week of the Academy Award-winning (and thoroughly magnificent) anime film Spirited Away, along with the Miyazaki films Kiki's Delivery Service (a favorite of my daughters') and Castle in the Sky, Destroy All Monsters is devoting a week to special coverage of Studio Ghibli, which released the three films. It begins today with my review of Isao Takahata's profoundly moving Grave of the Fireflies, which critic Roger Ebert lists among the all-time greatest movies.

I routinely cite my reviews at Destroy All Monsters, but this one is special to me. Please read it. If you like, you can let me know what you thought via the comment thread. And I can't recommend the film highly enough.

  xThursday, April 10, 2003


I just learned that has a keen little promotion that asks trivia questions about the shopping site and credits a nickel or so to one's account for correct answers; the trivia total can be applied to reduce the price of subsequent orders. It's a neat way to encourage frequent visits and familiarity with the site.


literary link of the day

Musashi recently had the pelasure of reading Joe Haldeman's excellent sci-fi novel The Forever War for the first time, and commented about it over at his blog.


aviation pic of the day

...or as South Knox Bubba aptly puts it, "jet pr0n." Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the transatlantic-range Gulfstream G400:

gulfstream g400

Several years ago, Microsoft Corporation treated me to a ride in a Learjet. From my posh leather-cushioned seat in the back, I could see the b-i-i-i-g smile on the pilot's face as she throttled up for takeoff. Moments later, as we leveled off at 10,000 feet, she got on the intercom to apologize for the delay in reaching cruising altitude...something about clearance not being granted in a timely fashion. We even flew over Bill Gates' house. That was one sweet ride.


secret crush spam update

The secret crush spam site I mentioned yesterday has upped the ante again. Today's spam was entitled Re: Your Phone Bill. Obvious spam, of course, but notice how they're moving away from implying it's even about a crush? The message also changes tack: "We have been hired to contact you because someone you know is interested in you."

I know that responding to "remove me" offers is a bad move, as it only informs spammers that your email address is live and that you read at least one message, but I'm really tempted to try it.


godzilla post of the day

godzilla plushie

Great googly moogly! Godzilla plushies!

I know a couple of little girls who'll be getting these once they're released.

(via Destroy All Monsters)


cool link of the day

Oh my, but I love the Internet. Today's exhibit: A fan site devoted to wacky Iraqi information minister Mohammed "No I am not scared and neither should you be!" Saeed al-Sahaf, whose daily (until recently), reality-divorced pronouncements about Saddam's triumphs over the invaders were the source of many a chuckle during the war's dark days.

(via The Hoosier Review)

Update: Letterman's Top Ten Things Iraq's Information Minister Has To Say About The War (via FARK)

Update 2: Now, as seen in Wired News!


aviation post of the day

Planet Swank notes with some sadness that an aviation era has come to an end. British and French aviation officials have announced that they will cease operation of the Concorde super-sonic transport, according to the BBC, which has this retrospective of the Concorde's career.

Although this news is sad, it's hardly surprising. The enormous expense of operating the Concorde prevented its widespread acceptance outside of Europe's heavily subsideized airlines. While returning the jet to service after its first-ever fatal crash in 2000 was a brave statement, there was never any questioned that the aging Concorde fleet's operational service had little life left.


zombie movie post of the day

dawn of the dead poster

Great googly moogly! My failure to obtain my favorite zombie movie of all time on DVD so far (although I do have it on videotape; I agree with Nathan Shumate that there's something about VHS that resonates with the film's grubby quality) has obviously been fate, preparing me for this moment: A two-disc special edition from Anchor Bay! w00t!!!
At long last for George Romero fans, Anchor Bay Entertainment will release the highly anticipated two-disc collector's edition of the capper in Romero's Dead trilogy, Day of the Dead. Loaded with extras, goodies include a new 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dolby Digital Surround EX and DTS ES 6.1 soundtracks, an two audio commentaries, with George Romero, Tom Savini, Lori Cardille and production designer Cletus Anderson, and a second commentary with filmmaker Roger Avary. Disc two includes a brand-new documentary featuring interviews with Romeo, Cardille, Savini, Anderson and more, never-before-seen b FX footage from Savini, additional promo footage, an audio interview with actor Richard Liberty, four still galleries, the original screenplay, production notes and trailers. Retail is $29.98.

Props to Musashi for the heads-up!


girl to receive historic face transplant

In the life imitates art department, a 16-year-old Irish girl is slated to receive the first-ever face transplant, according to This Is London. The girl was severley burned in a car accident when she was a baby.
Once a board of ethics, headed by Falklands War veteran Simon Weston has given the go-ahead, Lena will receive the face of a dead donor, removing her own severely burned face.

The operation is likely to take place after the teenager has sat the Irish equivalent of her GCSE exams, and will end a race between British and American surgeons to be the first to perform the transplant, which was once the stuff of science fiction.

The surgery involves "degloving" the donor's face from a four-hour-old corpse, severing the top layer of skin and then grafting it onto the recipient's face.

(via The Ideal Rhombus)


random war thoughts

I'm sure the images of jubilant Iraqis pulling down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad yesterday were gratifying to the hawks. I, too, welcome the end of Saddam's rule, of course. And I hope that as the fighting winds down, the US will see less need for bombing that claims innocent civilian lives; far too many have been killed already.

For starters, I must remind my hawkish friends of one thing:

Military victory by itself is not proof that the war itself was justified.

No one credible ever doubted that Bush's coveted war with Iraq would result in anything other than conquest. (Indeed, critics sometimes wondered if the Administration's obsession with Iraq to the exclusion of what many judged as a more potent and immediate threat from North Korea stemmed from a desire to avoid any conflict other than a sure win.) The Washington Post has an interesting analysis that credits the military victory in Iraq to three factors:

  • A "seasoned and well-equipped military" (Although, since many US troops were seeing combat for the first time, I'd lean toward "superbly well-trained" in place of "seasoned.")

  • The decision to press on to Baghdad. It's clear that war planners' gamble that the regime would collapse with the first combat didn't pay off, but to give credit where it's due, it's now equally clear that the risk to continue to advance on Baghdad proved to be the right move. Of course, that success had as much to do with our military's ability to improvise and make do with a less-than-ideal situation as it did from any cunning strategy on Rumsfeld's part. It's also equally clear that if he'd begun the war with the lower troop levels he'd initially favored, the chances for this success would be slim. In my analysis, the war on Iraq more supports the "boots on the ground" advocates than the "air power and special forces can do it all" team.

  • Lastly, a conspicuously inept defense by the Iraqi military. This last point can't be over-emphasized: Our military performed brilliantly, but Saddam's forces, which were never a match in equipment or training to begin with, failed to execute even basic defensive strategies, such as blowing bridges and taking advantage of terrain. The lackluster performance of a military the Administration painted as an ominous threat reinforces the notion shared by many of Iraq's neighbors that Saddam was basically impotent.

Update: A Bristish commentator calls Saddam's strategy "one of the most inept ever designed." (via The Looking Glass)

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Also intersting--and potentially ominous--is the fact that, while many units of the Iraqi army were "destroyed"--defined as being rendered unable to mout organized resistance--much of it seems to have melted away. That's good news in the short term; Iraqi soldiers, even the vaunted Republican Guard, appear to have simply gone home. But they likely retain their small arms, and there's little doubt that motivated Iraqis could mount guerilla attacks on occupation forces if they chose.

In addition, the conspicuous absence of the top Iraqi leadership, and the undetermined whereabouts of Saddam Hussein himself, are a deeply disturbing development. Make no mistake about it: Complete success hinges on Saddam's capture or the discovery of his body. The Administration must not be allowed, as it did with Osama bin Laden, to make an individual leader, however ofdious, the focus of its rationale, and then conveniently forget him when he fails to materialize after the shooting stops. While Saddam will never again control Iraq, his mysterious disappearance will be seen as a defeat fort he United States by a humiliated Arab world hungry for such news, and could inspire followers to acts of terrorism or guerilla warfare.

(continued in the next post)


(continued from the previous post)

Also interesting is the conspicuous absence of chemical and biological weapons. For starters, post-war discoveries of chemical weapons will, once again, not retroactively justify the war. The question of chemical weapons must be put in the proper context: A sober assesment of threat to national security. There's absolutely no question that advocates of the was grossly inflated the so-called Iraqi threat. The fact that thus far no chemical or biological attacks occurred suggests that even as he was being invaded, Saddam was deterred from using them (of course--had he done so, much Arab sympathy would have evaporated). Or he never had them to begin with. In either case, it's crystal clear that whatever WMD capability Saddam posessed, it posed no threat even to the American invasion. It's difficult to comprehend how this devlopment supports the hawk's contention that Iraq posed a major threat to US security. And I reiterate that whatever threat Iraq may have posed, I have yet to hear a satisfactory responce to the notion that the invasion of Iraq, and the diplomatc debacles that preceded it, are not of much greater concern to our long-term security.

Of course, the year-long harangue about Iraq's WMDs ceased the minute we invaded; it then became "the liberation of the Iraqi people." Notwithstanding that a lenghty US occupation has only just begun.

Speaking of which, why on Earth is the Administration only now figuring out how to run postwar Iraq? As the Administraiton had years to plot this war, and indeed expected Saddam to fall almost immediately, it's absolutely inexcusable not to have a full-fledged plan in place right now for bringing order, not to mention an abundance of pre-placed humanitarian aid. The current anarchy gripping Basra and parts of Baghdad, which the allied forces are understandably reluctant to quell, is a stark reminder that the postwar governance of Iraq can't be just an afterthought.

American and allied forces have made significan military gains in three short weeks. Yet our involvement in Iraq is sure to be a lengthy one, and US security critically depends on the Bush Administration not screwing it up. Needless to say, based on my opinion of their current record, including Afghanistan, I have hope but little confidence.

  xWednesday, April 09, 2003

anime link of the day

c00L! The Washington Post has an interesting article noting the increasing popularity of anime and pointing out that the genre enjoys a long history. It leads with several paragraphs that have a particular resonance for me:
Do you think "Yu-Gi-Oh!," "Hamtaro" and "Zoids" are hot, new, cool? Something your parents would never understand?

Think again. Those shows and others, including "Pokemon" and "Transformers," are just the latest in a long history of TV shows created in Japan and played on American television. Just ask your mom or dad (or your teachers) if they remember shows called "Astro Boy" or "Speed Racer." (Go Speed Racer, Go Speed Racer, Go Speed Racer, Goooo!)

Speed Racer (weekday afternoons, Channel 41 in Louisville, Kentucky) was pretty much the origin of my interest in anime back in the late 1970s. The animation was barely above Hanna-Barbera quality (not to slam Hanna-Barbera; I love much of their stuff too, especially Jonny Quest), the dubbing was atrocious, and even my ten-year-old self had trouble suspending disbelief about an international racing circuit in which there were several fatal crashes in each and every race. But there was something swanky about Speed and the marvelous Mach 5 that kept me coming back to anime. As I've mentioned before, when I got to college and discovered the variety and quality of anime that I never knew existed, I was hooked. I hope my girls grow up to love anime too--they seem to be off to a good start--but in their case, if they ever doubt I was into the genre before them, I'll be able to show them my DVD collection to prove it.

(via Destroy All Monsters)


hoops post of the day

Congratulations to my lovely wife's alma mater UConn on its women's basketball team's NCAA tournament victory.


salon on nigerian spam

Another instance of serendipity from my recent visit to A funny Salon article on the dreaded Nigerian spam email hoax. "[A] renaissance in short fiction writing is spreading across the globe via the Internet, breathing new life into the always troubled romance between art and crime..."


webcomic video game reference of the day

The gag in today's Penny Arcade strip revolves around the character Voldo from the PlayStation fighting game Soul Blade and its sequel, Soul Caliber. c00L!


got a phone number? get a map!

Great googly moogly! While researching the previous post on the always-handy Urban Legends Reference Pages, I discovered something rather shocking: If you enter a phone number into Google, it'll return the name and address associated with that number, and a map to that location. (Interestingly enough, while the database identifies both myself and my lovely wife--who retains her maiden name--the address is that of our previous house.) Fortunately, Google will remove one's personal info from the database upon request.


'secret crush' spam

I've been getting a lot of spam email about someone allegedly having a "secret crush" on me. Of course, being happily married I'd ignore these messages even if I didn't know they're a scam. Since I ignore them, they've followed the usual pattern: A follow-up email will offer a hint if I visit the site; another will warn me it's the "last chance" to discover who my so-called "secret crush" is. This morning, though, they upped the ante: The email informed me that I have a "workplace crush." (Little do they know that "don't get involved with co-workers has long been one of my cardinal rules; besides, like I said, I'm taken!) However, the URL in the email simply pointed to the same site--one of many--that ostensibly exists to link up people with crushes on each other.

I've had some prior experience with this scam. Like all spam, this is bogus, but it's a little more insidious than most. If you go to the site, you register (providing an email address, naturally), you're asked to list the email addresses of the person you think *might* be your secret crush. (Note that if it's someone with which you've never corresponded, you're out of luck.) Each of those people gets a message that someone has a crush on him or her, and so on and so on. While the site will eventually notify you if email addresses ever match up--and will offer hints in return for even more email addresses--more often than not the match is a result of two people having guessed the other, without any actual interest in play. Crush sites that work this way are more likely to inspire embarrassment than romance.

Meanwhile, the site harvests an expanding pool of email addresses, which promptly receive a flood of additional spam.

Here's a little unsolicited advice for the lovelorn: If you really have a secret crush, get yourself a new Web-based email account--they're free, after all, and disposable--and email the person yourself. Be sufficiently discreet, and if the answer's no, there's no face lost. These so-called "secret crush" sites, though, are nothing but trouble.

Here's a related article.

  xTuesday, April 08, 2003

wired looks at cgi magic

Check out this cool Wired description of the advances in computer imagery required for the amazing special effects and computer-generated fight coreography in the upcoming Matrix sequel, The Matrix Reloaded.

(via Destroy All Monsters via BoingBoing)


blogger apologizes for plagiarism

Writer Sean-Paul Kelley, who has been reporting extensively on the war via his Web log The Agonist, has acknowledged and apologized for posting information without attributing it to the subscription news service that was its source. Wired News recently ran a story noting the similarities between Kelley's blog posts and information from Stratfor, a commercial information service. According to the Wired story, Kelley and Stratfor have reached an amicable agreement in which the former can run two attributed posts from the latter per day.

This situation is truly a shame...Kelley had achieved some notoriety for his minute-by-minute blogging of the war, and the site's increase in traffic forced him to launch several mirror sites. However, the "new medium" of blogging does not excuse a writer from the mandatory practice of attributing sources and direct quotes, by hyperlink if nothing else. By violating one of the fundamental tenets of professional writers, Kelley has called his own professional credibility into question. To his credit, Kelley has acknowledged and apologized for his poor judgement, and a recent visit to his site shows a welcome increase in attributions and hyperlinks. But his readers--and potential publishers--have a right and a duty to keep his transgression in mind.

Update: Andrew Hagen has these thoughts on the matter.


gallery of the day

picasso's three musicians

On this day in 1973, painter Pablo Picasso passed away in France. In commemoration of the great artist's life and career, here's a gallery of his early paintings courtesy of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts , another large gallery of his works, and a profile of the artist from Time magazine.


japanese movie poster gallery of the day

japanese rollerball poster

A gallery of Japanese posters from classic science fiction films from 2001 to Rollerball, part of a huge collection of Japanese movie posters touting everything from West Side Story to American Beauty to Airport.

(via Geisha asobi blog)


milestone of the (yester)day

Some time yesterday, the hit counter passed 23,000. I seem to be averaging about 150 hits per day, which is, of course, modest, but it seems to indicate more traffic refferred by fellow bloggers, as the search engine hits seem to be reasonably constant. Thanks for visiting!


many meetings

Just a quick heads-up: My morning is filled with meetings (I'm between two of them right now), so posting will be light until this afternoon.

  xMonday, April 07, 2003

saved by the blog

Here's the story:

  1. Accordion Guy posts a paen to his new girlfriend on his blog

  2. Someone emails him to say she may not be what she seems

  3. Accordion Guy confronts the tipster and learns more

  4. Accordion Guy checks into the girlfriend's story and finds some of her claims, er, unsupportable

  5. Accordion Guy confronts the girlfriend and, finding the evidence is against her, breaks up with her

  6. Accordion Guy discovers more disturbing stuff about his now-ex

  7. Accordion Guy's friend comments, "Dude, you were saved by your blog!"

Simply amazing.

(via BoingBoing)


new to the blogroll

Please welcome Geisha asobi blog, which takes a humorous look at Japanese pop culture (and other cool stuff), and AccordionGuy.

At the same time, we bid a fond farewell to Left in the West, which has decided to cease operations.


oh dear lord

I was all set to write up a number of posts with my take on various developments in Iraq, including the welcome news of the death of Iraqi strongman "Chemical Ali" Hassan al-Majid, the weekend incursions into Baghdad, and the apparent discovery--at last!--of some chemical weapons (Update: or not...).

After seeing this (warning: not for the faint of heart), I don't really feel like it any more.

His name is Ali Ismaeel Abbas; he's 12 years old.

The Bush Administration and the hawks are full of justifications for their cherished war, not a one of which is worth, in my eyes, this boy's suffering.

Yeah, yeah, our forces try not to do this sort of thing, and good on them for it--really! And no one is excusing the atrocities of Saddam's regime. The difference here is, we are repsonsible for this. As I've already said, Bush's pet war isn't worth to me the blood of one Iraqi child. How many kids, I wonder, are the hawks willing to see killed and maimed in furtherance of their ambitions?

Does anyone have a satisfactory answer to the concern--much more immediate than the bogus so-called threat of chemical weapons that Saddam, inasmuch as he posesses them, has been deterred from using so far even in defense of his capital--that this boy's mutilation, and that of other children killed and maimed by this war, isn't going to cause terrorist blowback against the US for years if not decades to come?

And can Bush, or Rumsfeld, or the neocon hawks, or the warbloggers, give this kid his arms back?


shipwreck link of the day

The BBC reports that human error was blamed for a January collision between a Singaporean patrol boat and a Dutch freighter.
The Singapore naval vessel RSS Courageous turned into the wrong shipping lane and had its rear crushed by the Dutch-registered ANL Indonesia.

A senior director of Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority told a news briefing: "The principal cause of the collision was the errors of judgment in assessing the situation... on the part of the RSS Courageous".

Four servicewomen were killed in the incident, which was described as the worst naval accident in Singapore's history.

Investigators from the Maritime and Ports Authority, announcing the findings of a three-month enquiry, said radar records showed the Courageous moving in front of the container ship, then trying to speed up to avoid a collision.

"It tried to go as fast as possible so that it would miss," one investigator said.

The RSS Courageous, a 500-ton Singaporean anti-submarine patrol boat, had its rear shaved off and engine room crushed.



Great Googly Moogly! I had no idea former Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed was into martial arts. But his affinity for tai chi has landed him a cover story in Kung Fu Magazine that includes a lengthy interview about his studies with Master Ren Guangyi! c00L!

(via Destroy All Monsters)


monday monday

I obviously took the weekend off from blogging; although we were in town and I spent some time on the computer, it was nice to take a break. The weekend was very pleasant, although it's been surprisingly chilly.

I was pleased to spend a lot of time with my daughters. Before the onset of the cool weather, we made it to a park for a while Friday evening. Saturday a couple of Cecilia's friends for the neighborhood came over for a few hours; it was chaotic but fun. We also went downtown yesterday afternoon just to walk around the Circle; Cecilia was hoping the fountains would be on, but enjoyed the time anyway. The evenings afforded a certain amount of badly needed chill time for myself and my lovely wife; we were able to indulge in several of our favorite recreational activities, including watching movies and reading.

We were going to attent the first birthday party Sunday for our good friends Joe and Jennifer's little boy Cooper, but alas the poor little tyke took ill. Cooper has our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

While shopping for his present, I picked up a couple of clearance-sale games for the PlayStation: We got Cecilia a Blue's Clues game, which she really seems to enjoy (and has learned to play with astonishing speed and practically no assist from us), and I grabbed Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Alas, I find that my MK3 skillz have deteriorated over the years...

Another devlopment over the weekend was some tweaking I did on our computer. I installed a new optical mouse (easy) and a new 48X CD-RW burner (still easy, but not as much). (In the process, of course, I took reasonable but not drastic precautions against static.) The new CD-ROM burner is a good and necessary development, as the old one appeared to be going bad, but I seem to need to make some further tweaks to the system, as it fails or hangs infrequently, but more often that it should (i.e, never). Even more pleasing than the equipment is the Nero Express software that came with it. In a distinct improvement over the version of Nero Burning ROM I already had, it allows drag-and-drop VCD creation. Essentially, it converts video files to MPG format, instead of requiring them to be already converted; thus, the process takes quite a while, but it's been fairly bulletproof so far. It even lets me create nifty onscreen menus with text and graphics! Sw33t!

I also passed one of those cheapo DVD roadside vendors. Since I gave up DVD buying for Lent, though, I declined to stop by.

I have some thoughts I may share this morning, but I also have several projects pending, so blogging may be light until this afternoon.

Update: I'm embarrassed that I neglected to mention one of the weekend's most pleasant events: Our friend Onye dropped by Sunday night for tea and conversation. We enjoyed sharing the time, Onye, thanks!

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