Sunday, July 29, 2007

Movie Review: Transformers

Well, that was a summer movie. Shut your brain off and watch things fly around on the screen, other things blow up, and actors that have done better things go slumming. As far as summer movies go, this one was pretty good. Somewhat scarily, there are hard-core old-time Transformers geeks out there, who could tell you when the body color of some obscure robot changed from red to orange during season 3, but I couldn't tell you much about Transformers beyond the existance of a truck named Optimus Prime and (of course) the catchy jingle. So the new-look robots, which all sorts of sharp edges and rotating bits and roller-blades (?) and jive accents (??) and what not, didn't bother me as much as it likely did others. The design team really did a number coming up with these designs.

Michael Bay knows how to blow things up, and he knows how to breakaway from the action to give us the cliched "human angle" (and fortunately, the family he gives us on screen is pretty funny, with a sort of a That 70's Show vibe about them). What he doesn't know is how to film a hand-to-hand battle, even if that battle involves giant robots. The ability of filmmakers to put any computer-generated thing into a scene that they want is pretty much established fact by now, but that doesn't mean directors know how to use that new ability. Bay gets too much into the "you are there", shaky-cam style of filming where the camera is down among the actors, staring up into flashes of robots flailing all around them. Yeah, that's great that you can do that, but I can't see what's going on. You spent all that time designing these robots, give us nice long looks at them when they're accidentally trampling flower beds, but when it's time for them to do what we came to see them do, you give us shaky closeups of torsos. Not a good decision.

Despite that, this is still an enjoyable, if disposable, piece of entertainment. Shia LeBoeuf, who is apparently the current young flavor-of-the-week, does a good job stammering his way into some hottie's heart, and while Jon Voight doesn't really do much for me here, John Turturro made the most of his bureaucratic asshole character. And the robots weren't bad either. Four stars.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Movie Review: Norbit

What a stupid, lazy movie. The DVD claims they spent nine months creating the prosthetics to turn Eddie Murphy into a fat woman and an old Asian man - it seems like they spent about nine minutes on the script. Just grab Eddie doing his nerd character from Bowfinger, his fat woman character from The Nutty Professor, and his elderly ethnic character from Coming To America, add Eddie Griffin doing his small-time pimp character, and the laughs are sure to roll, right?

Er, not exactly. The setup is given in a lengthy exposition flashback scene at the start, and from there the plot continues in an exact straight line - you could almost write down everything that would happen from that point on. And the journey there didn't contain a single laugh. Given that the story was written by Eddie Murphy, produced by Eddie Murphy and stars Eddie Murphy in three roles, it's not exactly hard to see who's primarily to blame for this mess. I'll need to watch 48 Hrs or Delirious or something to get this mess out of my head. One star.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What Was Your First Clue?

What would we do without weather officials?

Plentiful rains throughout Texas the past year led weather officials on Thursday to declare an end to drought conditions across the state for the first time in at least a decade.

"We've gotten so much rain this year we've pretty much made up for the past few years' drought conditions in several areas of the state," said John Nielsen-Gammon, the state's climatologist and a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University.

Wow, how could that be? Maybe it's the rain every day for two months? Including another inch today (conveniently split into one-half inch during morning commute and one-half inch during evening commute)?

Them Aggies sure is smart!

But hold on - there's still reason to panic!

"If there's enough rain to say we're drought-free, that means there's enough water around to cause other problems," Nielsen-Gammon said.

Whew - for a minute there, I thought everything was O.K.

Movie Review: Crash

I haven't been keeping up with my movie write-ups, but all the movies I've seen this year are posted in this forum.

Well, if I needed a shower after Sleepaway Camp, then I needed a complete body sterilization after Crash. This is the lousy Cronenberg film, not the lousy Haggis film, by the way. Filled with characters who see every bad event that occurs while driving - a six-car pileup, getting cut off on the freeway, stopped by a red light - as a good excuse to finger the woman sitting in the passenget seat while their wife is in the back, giving a stranger a blowjob.

And while it is loaded with sex and nudity, none of it is particularly erotic, or even pornographic. Of course, the fact that much of it involved the pasty-white, smarmy form that is James Spader may have something to do with my reaction. I'm finding it hard to think of any appearance of his on film that I enjoyed - maybe Stargate.

Suffice it to say - it's a movie full of characters I don't like, doing things I can't understand, and doing them in a way that is uninteresting or arousing. One star.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tropical Storm Warning

Another day, another 0.75 inches of rain.

In about 30 minutes.

I remember when July used to mean hot and humid, instead of warm and sodden.

Morning Constitutional VIII

A brave caller to C-SPAN's Washington Journal show this morning:

I just...I...I...I'm beside myself...I was half-scared to call [the Democrat] line because in my mind I could see the President saying "See who number 14 on the list was because we're gonna tap her line and see what's going on."

Wow - I guess the War on Terror is going pretty well. We've solved most of the terrorist problems in the world and have finally worked our way down to seeing what some drooling idiot in Pennsylvania is doing.

Lady - the President doesn't care what you are saying. The host of C-SPAN doesn't care what you are saying. The viewers on C-SPAN don't care what you are saying. In fact, I'm not sure anyone cares what you are saying. This post is probably the most attention anything you've said in the last month is going to get.

Feel free to babble on secure in the fact that no one is paying attention to you.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Like Summer...In Seattle

Well, we've had one summer day so far this summer. Yesterday was hot, sunny and humid - just like July. Today, another two-and-a-half inches of rain and more on the way. And my power is (briefly) knocked out.

Eight and a half inches of rain this month. Which, last time I checked, was still July.

I don't mind it too much - I've only had to drag out the hoses once this year. And the local golf courses always appreciate it when I stay away - something about driving away other business. But Bailey, the otherwise Fierce Corgi, would rather we dispense with the thunder - which means she's really not happy today.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Beware - Elders At Work

Wow, this seems like it might be a minor waste of everyone's time:

Former South African president Nelson Mandela plans to announce on Wednesday the creation of "the Elders," a group composed mostly of retired global leaders that will seek to tackle urgent world problems unfettered by the politics of any one nation, officials with the group said.

Well, maybe they might have something useful to say. Who's in this group, anyway?

It will have about a dozen members, including former president Jimmy Carter, former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan and retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

Mind = Fully-boggled.

Wow. What's the matter, Hugo Chavez turn them down? Fidel Castro still in the hospital? At least Yassir Arafat (Nobel Peace Prize winner) has a good excuse - he's currently working for peace from six feet under.

What ad wizard came up with this brilliant idea?

Among the organizers of the effort have been rock star Peter Gabriel and British airline mogul Richard Branson, who has used meetings at his Caribbean getaway, Necker Island, as an incubator for creation of the group.

Oh. An aging rock star. Is there anything they can't do? I'm going to be very disappointed if I hear that Geddy Lee has a brilliant plan for ending world hunger.

Via Hubs and Spokes.

Racing Towards Zero

Instapundit notes the continuing decline of Congressional approval ratings, down to a record low 14%. While some on the right are in pointing-and-laughing mode (with some justification, I might add), I'm more in alignment with Dr. Reynolds on this one. We're actually at a pretty important time right now - deciding on a future Iraq strategy (not to mention the overall War On Terror) first and foremost, but also dealing with immigration proposals that will set that policy for the next decade or so, concern over health-care costs continuing to rise, probable vacancies on the Supreme Court in the next few years, etc.

While gridlock is not an entirely bad strategy during "the good times" (e.g. most of the 1990's), and I think we could do away with half the things that come out of Congress without missing a beat, I also think we're at a point where we need to have some meaningful public discussion on some pretty key topics. Unfortunately, we currently have a Congress that can't debate among itself, can't deal with the White House, and doesn't seem to be representing the people very well. This isn't exactly a recipe for "getting things done", even those things that really need to get done.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why didn't we think of that?

1997: Michael Dell states that he would "shut [Apple] down and give the money back to the shareholders."

1998: Apple begins selling iMacs in five colors.

2006: Apple's market value passes that of Dell.

2007: Dell begins marketing a new line of laptop computers - primarily on the fact that it is available in eight colors.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Movie Review: Minority Report

Just a quick note - saw it this weekend on TNT for the first time since its theatrical release. Still a pretty good movie, despite a couple of glaring plot holes, the worst of which is the fact that they did not disable John Anderton's access codes as soon as he was declared a pre-criminal. And worse, they still didn't disable them even after he was in "jail", allowing his wife to use them to break him out!

But otherwise, a solid example of the "let's introduce a new tech and see what happens" genre (much like Strange Days), and since it's Spielberg, it's pretty well realized. Although I hope the vertical roads never come to pass. Four stars.

Friday, July 13, 2007


I don't watch a lot of "talking head" shows, either on the left (Meet The Press, Face The Nation, etc.) or on the right (The O'Reilly Factor, etc.) - although I do have a strange addiction to the trainwreck that is C-SPAN Washington Journal.

So maybe this kind of thing happens a bunch and I just never see it.

But I have never seen a host get so totally and completely owned on his own show as does this Canadian idiot who tries to pass off his theories on "United States Muslims hauled away to concentration camps" and "stolen elections" to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is having none of it. Unlike this moron, she actually knows of what she speaks, having lived in both Muslim and Western society. She bats away his moonbattery with calm, reasoned explanations, and all this guy can do is stutter in amazement.

I guess I might give this guy some credit for actually airing this segment that makes him look like such a fool, but I suspect he thinks he exposed her for what she really is.

Of course, I guess he did. Just not in the way he thinks.

Morning Constitutional VII

Wow - two morons in one morning. Must be Friday the 13th or something.

KLBJ ran a story this morning about a new health care initiative in the Austin suburb of Round Rock. The story included a sound bite from Charlie Ayers, with the Round Rock Economic Development Partnership. In addition to touting the expected benefits, like improved health care for local residents and more economic activities, he found time to tout another unexpected benefit - the initiative will...
also help the environment as it keeps people off interstate and in their community
Now, I'll freely admit that I'm not a civil engineer. I haven't done the studies. I haven't measured the traffic flows, computed the auto emissions, checked aquifer levels, etc., etc. But I'm willing to make an estimate about the environmental impact of all of the people in Round Rock driving to Austin for medical reasons.


Look - I know that we're all here in the scenic heart of Berkeley east, and the first reaction of a lot of people is "what would Al Gore do?" But please, there have got to be plenty of good reasons to want to improve health care services in a reason without having to resort to "it's good for Mother Earth", especially when it doesn't actually have any effect on the environment.

Morning Consititutional VI

The first question on C-SPAN's Washington Journal today is "How has war fatigue affected you?"
  1. This question, of course, assumes that war fatigue is the default. It is not asked as "Is war fatigue affecting you?", it is asked as "You have it, so how is it affecting you?" It's a push poll kind of formulation, and typical for C-SPAN, which usually takes its questions from topics as framed by the mainstream media newspapers it references (with the biases that implies).
  2. OK - let's assume there is war fatigue. Let's assume it is affecting people. Does this mean people are being asked to - gasp - make a type of sacrifice? I thought the left was complaining that we weren't having to do anything to support this war as in the past?
  3. Finally, I can understand people are tired of hearing about the war (especially with the mainstream media controlling the dialogue). I can think of some things that cause a much stronger and different type of fatigue. These things are the consequence of the surrender on the War on Terror that Congress and, sadly, the country as a whole seems to be heading towards.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Flood In A Flood Plain? Inconceivable!

Travis County officials apparently want to be sure that the Austin City Council doesn't take too much of a lead in the wasting-the-people's-money race:

But even before a damage assessment is conducted, county officials are talking about enticing residents to move away from Graveyard Point and other low-lying areas.

At their Tuesday meeting, the Travis County commissioners said the county should begin putting together requests for federal money. If successful, the federal government and county would jointly offer to buy out homes in places — such as Graveyard Point — that sit just above Lake Travis' normal elevation of 681 feet above sea level.

Here's a good way to "entice" people to leave a flood-prone area - stop helping them. Stop giving them grants to rebuild. Stop giving them permits. Stop maintaining the roadways to those areas. They chose to buy property in a flood plain - they should bear the cost and the responsibility for doing so.

Oh well, at least the residents haven't played the race card. Yet.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Overhead On Sports Talk Radio

The Good News: Reports from Cowboys' training camp start in two weeks - at last, our long national nightmare (the summer sports season) is coming to an end.

The Bad News: On Tony Kornheiser's show, Randy Galloway says that now that Bill Parcells is out at Dallas, Jerry Jones is "large and in charge", back involving himself in all things football. That can't be good.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Channel Of Fury

I have no idea if this is going to be a continuing thing or just a brief scheduling blip, but I was really digging Spike's little martial arts festival they were running last week. All during the day, even on weekdays, late at night, prime time, whenever - there was a chance amist all of the CSI reruns to catch some martial arts movie.

And some actual good ones - Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer, House of Flying Daggers, Hero, Legend of Drunken Master, Fist of Fury, Enter The Dragon, Iron Monkey - mixed in with some of lesser quality or renown - Heart of Dragon, The Medallion, The Legend, Twin Warriors. A lot of Jackie Chan, which of course I liked.

Yeah, most of these were the chopped-up, dubbed versions - particularly noticeable for Shaolin Soccer - but at least there's some place that's showing these kinds of movies, even if just for a little while. I'm very jealous of my brother-in-law's Dish Network HD package, which includes an entire HD martial arts movies channel - not jealous enough yet to drop DirecTV, but enough that I'm keeping it in mind for when I do get myself an HDTV set.

(Non-)Obedience In Dallas

Well, another dog show, another set of failures. And not just ordinary failures - no, these were the "well, I'm sorry, it's just not her day you'll need to leave the ring now please" kind of failures. The kind that have her wandering around the ring, pointedly ignoring me. You can get away with that kind of stuff for a little while in Novice class, but not in Utility.

So after five more months of training, Bailey isn't any more ready to show than she was back in January, when she was, errr, wandering around the ring, pointedly ignoring me. She never was great in the ring, but she could at least make it through a couple of exercises before drifting off - now her attention span is measured in picoseconds.

And now I have to decide if we are going to continue. We can't just keep doing what we're doing, because it isn't working. And I don't know if we can just take some time off and come back later, because medically she could be gone at any point. So I don't know if that means we've reached retirement time or not. It would be a shame, but it's something I'm considering.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Movie Review: Sleepaway Camp

Ewww - definitely need a shower after this one.

Most famous for its final reveal, this is otherwise a pretty creepy slasher film, and I don't mean creepy in a good way. It says something when one of the first extras we meet is the pedophiliac camp chef, who greets the oncoming rush of shorty-short wearing teens with the comment "where I come from we call 'em baldies". And the old black caretaker chuckles knowingly, as if to say "Yep, he's a greasy disgusting pervert, but he's our greasy disgusting pervert."


From there we move onto the slutty teen bitch, camp hijinks that were passed over by Meatballs 3 (including an all-male skinny-dipping scene), and oh yes, the camp owner inviting over one of his camp counselors over for dinner on her night off. All of this is taking place with a cast of unknown teens all running around in shorts that the 70's Celtics would take one look at and go "damn - those are short shorts!" Not to mention the guys wearing half-length t-shirts.

Please - not to mention them.

Beyond all of the fashion desecrations, we have a fairly generic slasher film. The deaths don't come very quickly until the end, and there isn't much mystery as to who the killer is. The script tries to make it appear as though the quiet Angela might have a secret protector, well, I wasn't buying it. It's not until the end when we start getting some interesting kills, with the death by curling iron (!!!) and a great low-tech shot of an arrow through the neck being stand-outs.

And of course, the infamous ending shot of Angela revealing the "motivation" for her actions - not that it really explained anything. She had a nutbag aunt that warped her in some amazing ways (how did she get away with that, anyway?), but it doesn't really explain why she snapped at camp. Wouldn't all of these same things happen to her anywhere else?

Oh well, I was going to give this one two stars until the action picked up at the end, but there was enough there to barely bump things up to a middling three stars. But really - the ending is really the only part of this movie that is worth catching.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

My Live Earth Pledge

Wow - here I was getting all set for the big Live Earth concerts*, and I had totally forgotten to take the Live Earth pledge! Let me get that out of the way right now:

I pledge.... vote against those who would use phony science as an excuse for limiting my private property rights and destroying my property values. I'm looking at you, Will Wynn. vote for those who seek to reduce our energy dependence by increasing development of domestic energy sources (including ANWAR), increasing domestic refining capacity, and increasing the use of nuclear energy. This should be done primarily by eliminating artificial governmental barriers to these actions. treat with the appropriate amount of ridicule proposals that seek to reduce greenhouse gases in the USA while giving a pass to China and other emerging countries where the amount of gases is far higher relative the amount of output they produce. use my own judgement, rather than that of elected officials, unelected international officials and celebrities, to determine how best to adjust my energy usage relative to my ability to pay for that energy. see if it is possible to get in on the scam of "carbon offsets" to my financial gain.

* Actually, I'll be showing with Bailey in Utility class for the first time in several months. Wish me luck!