Spokesman Richard Boucher confirmed Monday that Powell had indeed appointed Brown to be the first US "secretary of soul and foreign minister of funk" but said the job description for the post had not yet been drawn up.
...Powell made Brown's appointment public on Saturday while hosting a dinner for winners of the annual Kennedy Center Honors -- awarded to US artists and performers for outstanding work -- of which Brown was one this year.
"James, you know, I really could use you," Powell told Brown, according to a transcript of his remarks at the dinner released by the State Department on Monday.
"I could use you on those diplomatic conferences that I have to go to, sitting there all day long (in) meetings that went on forever and ever," he said to laughter from the guests.
"Man, you could have livened up things at the end of a long day, when we're all dying to reach an agreement on something!" Powell said, before announcing: "Godfather, I hereby appoint you secretary of soul and foreign minister of funk."
Get down! Seriously, that's about the best diplomatic move out of this Administration in months.
My review of Dark Horse Comics' edition of the Oh My Goddess manga is now up at Destroy All Monsters. That makes four reviews in four days, a fact I'm fairly proud of. Plus it makes some headway in a rather large pile of review fodder I've accumulated...
With the suspension of the space shuttle program, NASA engineers are planning ways to bring Hubble in for a safe re-entry ("safe," in this case, meaning that only the telescope gets destroyed) at the end of its mission in 2010. Count me among those hoping that a way can befound to extend the Hubble's phenomenally successful mission.
The result is an endless parade of false endings that will give you a great lower back workout as you rise from your theater seat thinking things are finally over, then settle back in for the next prolonged addendum.
This is the main flaw to an otherwise rousing, action-packed closing chapter that began with 2001's "The Fellowship of the Ring" and continued with last year's "The Two Towers." The nine-hour theatrical epic (more like 11 hours once the extended home-video version of all three flicks are out) winds up petering out in anticlimactic torpor.
Jackson does scale back greatly on the aftermath of the final good-against-evil battle, yet he preserves the main events to keep die-hard Tolkien fans happy.
...That baggage makes "Return of the King" the longest of the trilogy by far, clocking in at 3 hours, 20 minutes.
The story also confirms the absence of Christopher Lee as Sauruman. I've heard, however, that Saruman's palantir does make an appearance. I'm looking forward to seeing how Jackson explains that.
Here's an interesting collection of Japanese Battletech images. Apparently they were commissioned for an abortive attempt to export the game to the Japanese market. Ironically, although many of the 'mech designs in the original edition were based on mecha from anime like the Robotech series, FASA lacked the license to use the imagery (indeed, the early style mechs have been discontinied).
The irony of the situation is that those in the U.S. who wish to see any of these films has only one recourse, and that is to download these films illegally from the internet using services like Kazaa or Bit Torrent. Miramax could very easily resolve this situation by getting off their hands and RELEASING THE FILMS. In a recent Wired article (for which Pollard was interviewed, incidentally), it was claimed that Shaolin Soccer is the #10 downloaded film on the internet...and seeing that the film is not yet domestically available, it's not hard to understand why.
The sad thing is, Miramax may have already shot themselves in the foot. By waiting so long to release Shaolin Soccer, Miramax has basically undercut whatever hardcore audience they would have been able to rely on had they released the film in a timely fashion. By now, just about everyone who has a desire to see or own this film already has. What's left is curious college students who don't mind stealing the film and everyone else, who'll probably give it a pass. I'd rather not see Hero and Zatoichi fall into the same hole.
The bottom line, though, is that Miramax is making the wrong move by alienating the very people they should be harnessing to bring attention to these films. We've already seen what word of mouth and other grassroots efforts can do to make (or break) a film. Just like the music industry, which can only see the threat posed by digital media, Miramax is shortsightedly gagging people like Pollard who could do the studios far more good than ill. When you're trying to market a niche product, what do you have left after you've pissed off the fans?
I have little to add; Musashi's words are spot-on. As we noted in our interview with a Texas-based import DVD vendor, interest in Asian films is growing among American audiences. The fact that many are willing to pay premium prices for imported DVDs -- most of which offer no English dubbing at all, only subtitles -- makes it clear that there's a large and growing market for the undiluted goods. Once again, the Internet plays a role, as fans get word of the latest hot flick from Asia long before American companies like Miramax grace us with whatever version they choose to release.
From my own perspective, as an Asian film fan, I'd rather order an import of the original version of a film than a misguided edit by a Stateside studio. It's the magic of the marketplace at work -- Miramax may eventually release a bowlderized version of Shaolin Soccer, and ten years ago the only alternative would have been scrounging for badly-dubbed bootleg videocassettes at various fan conventions. But now, thanks once again to the magic of the Internet, I can order the original version of many films direct from Hong Kong. (The fact that HK studios release all-region DVDs of their products tells me they know there's a big market to tap.) I've bought video CDs (VCDs) of hot Asian horror films like The Ring and The Eye off of eBay long before their appearance in Stateside release. And all that's without firing up KaZaA and seeing what's out there for download.
Ironically, Miramax and its fellows already have a precedent making the proper -- and profitable -- attitude crystal clear: Anime fansubs. Obviously, there's a considerable lag between the release of anime in Japan and its eventual dubbing and repackaging on American shores. In the interim, fans have long taken it upon themselves to create fan-subtitled (fansubbed) version of the anime for trade (and once again, Internet downloads has replaced videocasette trading). Indeed, the episodes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Musashi is documenting come in the form of downloaded fansubs.
But far from moving to stop this technically illegal practice, anime studios long ago made the wise decision to tolerate it, if not encourage it. Fansubs generate buzz and enthusiasm for a series, practically guaranteeing an instant audience upon its eventual release. Fansub ethics hold that the fans will buy the legitimate version upon its release, and anyway the quality of the official product is bound to be superior to either an nth-generation video dub or small-format computer video file.
In addition to being stupid, Miramax's move is likely to be ineffective. I suspect that most visitors to Kung Fu Cinema and Destroy All Monsters are aware of import vendors like HKFlix and Poker Industries. Why isn't Miramax siccing its lawyers on the importers? Could it be they have no case? (I'm not familiar enough with international copyright law to know.) In any case, even if sites like KFC and DAM stop linking vendors, it'll hardly deter fans from finding what they want. After all, I have both those sites bookmarked, after all. Is Miramax going to threaten to sue Google next? Its misguided -- if not outright malevolent -- action in this sordid case is good only for lawyers, not for fans and definitely not for the studio.
Update: In the comments, Musashi points out that with a US release pending, the studio has requested that fansubs of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex cease. That request is certainly reasonable; I didn't mention here that fansub ethics don't apply to shows with current or pending Stateside releases. But they can generate interest in a show, leading to a profitable distribution deal. And as I said, the system works because fansub consumers are expected to follow through with a purchase of the commercial video when it becomes available.
Also, check out this news item: It seems Miramax has served a cease-and-desist order to a Web site for copyright violations regarding an Asian film the company owns. Not for selling it, mind you, but for linking to a site that does.
Years ago, when I taught beginners' classes on the Internet, one of my favorite sites to mention in describing the 'net's limitless wierdness possibility was Jennicam.org, the Web site of a young woman who maintained a 24-hour-a-day Web cam. Beginning with a single cam next to the computer in her bedroom, she eventually placed others around her apartment, and subscribers could tune into the goings-on (or lack thereof) in her pad any time. (I never subscribed, but if you were patient, yes, you could catch Jenni in the buff.)
Ringley, more famous as the woman behind Jennicam (www.jennicam.org), became an Internet curiosity and a quasi-celebrity in the early days of the Web by putting up cameras around her apartment and letting anyone with an Internet connection tune in at any hour for a $15 annual subscription.
An announcement on Ringley's site last week said that the Jennicam show will close at the end of the year. But so far, the woman who shared everything -- yes, everything -- about her daily life has not revealed at her site why she's pulling the shutters. She did not respond to an e-mail sent midafternoon Friday.
Online payment service PayPal could be one culprit. In October, Ringley forwarded some of her subscribers an e-mail from PayPal telling her the company had closed her account because its policy prohibits "the sale of items for mature audiences" (patient viewers have been able to catch the redhead in the altogether).
"They've disabled my account so I'm not able to accept subscriptions," she wrote in the e-mail. "I guess I've given up." A spokeswoman for PayPal confirmed that the company had closed her account because of the presence of nudity on the site.
Of course, I'm pretty sure PayPal didn't exist back in '97, and anyway, she could probably arrange some other kind of payment method if she chose. Perhaps the closure is less motivated by finances than an impulse to bring closure to her life on cam. Who knows.
Sure, Web cams are everywhere these days, but it wasn't that long ago that they were fairly novel. I've never had the patience to stare at a given cam in hopes something interesting would happen -- and the only cam I ever got was a cheap model that isn't even worth turning on -- but Jenni's proved the perfect intersection of technology, evolving social ideas, and an Internet full of voyuers willing to shell out 15 clams a month on the off chance of catching Jenni n00d.
The image, courtesy Jennicam's archives, is an example of what you would have seen back in '97 when I first noted the site.
In more anime Xmas developments, I watched the first half of the Love Hina Christmas episode last night. I hope to finish it this evening.
And speaking of Oh! My Goddess!, I picked up issues one and three of Dark Horse's Comics collected manga publication Saturday during a visit to the library with The Girls. It's excellent -- I think I like it better than the anime, in fact, and that's a bold statement. The manga emphasizes the comedic aspects of Keiichi's relationship with the goddess Belldandy and her sisters, while the anime, while humorous, focuses more on romance.