Friday, January 29, 2010

500th Post

That means in two years I've approximated three days of Instapundit's output.

And the almost two thousand hits I've accumulated are probably about two minutes' worth of Instapundit hits. While I do get an occasional look at one of my many Jackie Chan movie reviews, by far most of the hits are to my posting on streaming from my Mac to my Playstation 3. I guess iTunes is more interesting than martial arts.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Movie Review: City Hunter

The Jackie Chan Film Festival continues with a lesser entry, City Hunter, which is apparently based on a popular Japanese manga. I have no idea what the tone of the original source material is, but the keyword for this film version is "goofy". And not the American type of goofy - this is the goofy used in Asian films (and the comedy over there is already way up on the goofy scale). Lots of mugging, double-takes, cartoon sound effects and ogling bodies going on as a large collection of characters intersect on a cruise ship. It had me longing for the relative restraint of the Lucky Stars films.

And somewhere in the midst of all of this is Jackie, playing the title character as a womanizing, self-important and vain private detective. It really is a fairly unlikeable character, quite unlike the normal Jackie Chan character. It doesn't help that most other characters in the movie aren't any better. There's City Hunter's attractive young ward, always wishing that he would hit on her for a change; a terrorist leader that all but twirls his non-existent mustache; the slimy on-the-prowl sidekick that is predictably hit on - by one of the male terrorists; and a pair of god-awful-annoying "comics" who get an extended song-and-dance number halfway through the movie.

There really isn't anything remotely of promise until near the end, where Jackie finally starts fighting his way through the bad guys. One imaginative scene has City Hunter crashing into an arcade machine; when he wakes up, he and his opponent have been transformed into Street Fighter characters, right down to the special moves and sound effects. It's pretty well-done (more so than most of the rest of the film) and got a few actual laughs. Beyond that scene, though, there really isn't much else that sticks in the memory in a good way.

My advice - if you must, just forward ahead to the last thirty minutes. You can find a little bit to interest you there. But as for the rest - avoid. One star. Up next: Jackie gets a little more serious (although it would be hard not to) in Crime Story.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Morning Constitutional

I used to do a series of posts called "Morning Constitutional" where I would highlight particularly stupid callers to C-SPAN's Washington Journal program. The theory was: hearing someone so incredibly stupid would make me feel smarter by comparison, and so help motivate me for the day. I gave up on it, because the theory was wrong: hearing these moronic callers and realizing they were out there - driving, voting - was more depressing than anything else, and so Washington Journal dropped off my morning radar.

But I do still turn in from time to time. This morning made me realize why I stopped. They had a phone-in segment on the recent earthquake in Haiti. Well, that's not quite right - sure, they could have done a segment with an on-site reporter, to give us more in-depth info. Or they could have highlighted relief efforts. Or even had a discussion on what the U.S. policy on Haiti should be going forward.

But instead, they decided to have discussion on Pat Robertson's latest moronic declaration - that the earthquake hit Haiti because it was "cursed" after making a "deal with the devil".

Pat Robertson is insane. He is a nutbag. He is off of the tracks. This is clear, and has been for years. The only possible reason for anyone, let alone C-SPAN, to give him any time on air that he didn't already buy is to prop him up yet again as an easy target to skewer Christians in general, and evangelicals in particular.

These are the same people that insist that the terrorist-supporting Muslims are just a tiny minority (which isn't always true) and that we shouldn't paint with such a broad brush. But in keeping with their multicultural "principles", the same standards don't apply to the predominant religion here in America.

To see C-SPAN continue to sink to the low end of the pool with stunts like this is sad, but predicable.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back To Square One

Nine straight days with a post...broken today. Oh well.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Noticed In Sports Illustrated

Two notes from this past week's SI:

Maybe you've found yourself wondering, while watching the Olympic halfpipe every four years: Where can they possibly take the sport from here?

No, that actually wasn't what I was wondering. What I was wondering is: who the heck considers this an actual sport? This is the Winter Olympics desperately trying to be something besides just a figure skating exhibition by bringing in another X-Games "sport" under its banner.

The incident [an auto accident] marked the fourth fatality since the [Dakar Rally] off-road race moved to South America amidst terrorist concerns last year and at least the 50th death since the event's inception in 1979.

Let me get this straight - they've held this thing for 30 years and killed 50 people? More than one person each year dies - because of a road race? This seems like a good thing to consider canceling.

But what do I know?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Movie Review: Operation Condor

The restarted Jackie Chan Film Festival reaches the 1991 sequel to Jackie's 1985 film, Armour Of God. He is apparently playing the same character (although my English dub called him "Jackie", while the first film called him "Hawk"), an archeologist with no apparent archeological skills. This film has a prologue where he just kind of bumbles into a cave full of natives and starts grabbing crystals at random - he only invokes their anger when he drinks their sacred water. In the end, he loses the crystals (come to think of it, he doesn't actually succeed at anything in the movie. Nor in the first one either. Hmmm.)

This one is played strictly for laughs - that is, the usual overly-broad laughs found in many Asian films. No one is played seriously; just about everyone in the movie is pretty appallingly characterized - the various natives are loincloth-draped dancing savages, the Arabs are Allah-praising idiots, and the females are constantly needing rescue (except when their towels are being yanked off).

There are several nice stunt sequences here, particularly a motorcycle chase early i n the film, and of course, the big finale set in an underground German wind tunnel (why a wind tunnel in the middle of the desert? Try not to think too much). This isn't one for impressive fight sequences - there are a few, but they tend to be short and more about the stunt-work than the fight moves.

As usual with the films of this period, if you can switch off enough brainpower to deal with the plot inanities, there's a lot of decent action work to be had. Three stars. Next up: I'll need to take that advice even more to heart, as we go full-on comic weirdness with City Hunter.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Tax Too Far

The "Apple Tax" is the higher price paid for Apple products over "comparable" products from the Windows side of the world (for some definition of "comparable"). It's usually worth it, because the Apple products are usually more capable than the corresponding Windows products. For example, my shiny new iMac not only runs Mac OS X programs, but it is already a fully-capable Unix box (including POSIX and X11), and now that Apple uses Intel chips, it is also a great Windows box. So I get the best of all possible worlds (even though one of them is Windows).

However, in some cases, it does come back to bite you. I was previously using a PowerMac G5 and a 17" Apple Studio Display. The two communicated by means of an Apple Display Connector (ADC), which looks like a standard DVI connector, but is different. This is the latest in a long line of "almost compatible" display connectors that Apple uses, which traces its lineage back to the old NeXT cubes, which also used a single cable for power, video, keyboard/mouse, etc.

My shiny new iMac has a built-in monitor, of course, but it also supports an external display through a new connector called a Mini DisplayPort. This is not really a proprietary connector like the ADC, but it doesn't appear to have wide-ranging support. So I headed down to the Apple Store to see what I would need to use my Studio Display with my iMac.

The answer is apparently: 1 Mini DisplayPort-to-DVI adaptor ($30) and 1 DVI-to-ADC convertor ($100!!!!).

So - for just $130, I can connect my several-year old monitor to my new iMac. Or - I could sell it along with my PowerMac (the going rate seems to be around ($50) and buy a completely new second monitor for not much more than the $130 price of the adapter.

Apple - you lose out on this price comparison easily.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Mandalorian, please!

Wow, this is really geeky...

...and, ummm, insane?

A Boba Fett cookie jar that warns you not to eat any cookies stored in it, because it would be harmful? Yikes.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Post-Game Reaction

Well, that sucked.

It's unfortunate that Colt McCoy's legacy, as writ by ESPN, the Worldwide Leader In Tim Tebow Coverage, will likely be almost losing to Nebraska and getting knocked out of the BCS game last night, rather than the last four years of greatness (most victories in history - yes, even more than Saint Tim). But just as Vince Young has already eclipsed the last golden boy, Matt Leinart, in the NFL, I suspect Colt's pro career will easily overshadow that of Timmy.

Otherwise, it's clear that the better team won. You can't blame all of the dropped passes, stupid penalties and blown run defenses on Colt's absence. Texas gave them every opportunity to win, and Alabama did what champions do - they took them. We had to force them into a passing game on offense, and instead they ran whenever they wanted to. I didn't think they would be able to do it, but they sure did.

Gary Gilbert looks like a winner, but we knew that already. What it will come down to next year is - can we get back any kind of running game to go along with him, or are we going to remain a one- or two-player offense for the next three years. We got lucky with Major, Vince and Colt; asking the football gods to do it yet again for us is probably pushing our luck.

So - with the volleyball team losing its championship hopes last month, that gives Texas two silver medals and no golds. Next up - men's basketball. Hook 'em!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Noticed This Morning

I'll just assume the actual reading was 87654.321 miles.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Redbox has certainly become more popular as their kiosks have multiplied, but it seems possible that the expansion has overreached a bit. Not that I'm having a hard time finding movies - I'm having a hard time returning movies. I've had several occasions where I've tried to return a movie, only to be informed that the kiosks was full and not accepting returns. This means I now have to drive to another location (usually the next Walgreen's down the road), and try again there, often to fail again. And of course, there is a time limit on the search - you can't wait and try again tomorrow without paying again.

The two points in favor of Redbox are convenience and price. This problem endangers both benefits. Perhaps they haven't hired enough staff to service their expanded deployment?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do The Charleston

The North Carolina Tarheels lost to...the College of Charleston?

Good for Charleston, not so good for Texas. That makes the earlier Longhorn stomping of Carolina look less impressive, thus costing them a little bit come tournament time.

And what was Carolina doing still ranked number 9, anyway? They already had three losses - to good schools, certainly, but still, three losses is three losses. No way they should have been in the top ten.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Austin Needs Puppies!

Had a fairly quiet Christmas break. I brought a couple of books to read, including one from the Austin library. The Cutie, by one of my favorite authors, Donald E. Westlake, as published by one of my favorite publishers, Hard Case Crime.

But while the cases may be hard, the books themselves are not, and so The Cutie fell victim to the wrath of the new Fierce Corgi, Wylie, who fished it out of my luggage and dismembered it.

Amazon tells me that the book sells for $7.00 plus shipping. So I figured the Austin library would charge about ten dollars or so to replace it.

Nope. Seventeen dollars and seventy-four cents. A ten dollar markup for processing.

With the Austin library cutting back on hours due to lack of funds, maybe they should just start importing and distributing puppies to their customers. The resulting processing fees should more than make up the difference.