February 29, 2004

A nasty little war

In the commentary for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you get some of the dirt as to why the original director, Alex Cox, was dumped from the project. The producer, Laila Nabulsi talks about how there were creative differences and that it had something to do with the inclusion of the Wave Speech from the book. That's the one that goes:

We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark---the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

In the new documentary, Breakfast with Hunter, you get a much more detailed picture of what went down. Filmmaker Wayne Ewing is there at Owl Farm when Alex Cox and co-writer Tod Davies come to visit to talk about the script ... which Hunter's not read. So he's caught flat-footed when he finds out that their idea for the Wave is to show an animated version of Raoul Duke being carried back to Las Vegas after he tries to flee to LA at the midpoint of the story.

Hunter's first reaction is to threaten to sue the filmmakers. Then, he rants about how he hates animation and how this is simply turning his writing (and himself) into a gross characiture. He goes on to say that this is the best writing he's ever done, that it's a giant fucking sapphire and they've turned into into a dumb fucking cartoon.

As Alex Cox tries to explain how it's all motivated by the Ralph Steadman illustrations, Tod Davies actually starts weeping because she feels her adaptation of the material is also a giant fucking sapphire.

It doesn't make any difference. Which it shouldn't because it's a really stupid idea.

In addition to reducing the text to a plot device, it's also a flawed metaphor. The point is that the wave of Sixities Freakitude broke before it engulfed America and the world in its righteous patchouli-scented energy. The speech is Hunter's lament for the failed movement and is great because it evokes the tweaked-out isolation and madness he feels being trapped in the American Nightmare of Las Vegas.

As he says, the wave broke and rolled back - it's not gonna carry him anywhere.

Finally, Hunter threatens to kick the pair out and they take it upon themselves to skedaddle. At this point, the documentary cuts to Hunter, Laila and Benicio del Toro watching the footage we just saw and figuring out that they'll need to get a new director.

Which, thankfully, they do.

February 28, 2004

Everyone's your friend in New York City

... unless you're a black dude looking for a job. NYT reports:

51.8 percent of black men ages 16 to 64 held jobs in New York City in 2003. The rate for white men was 75.7 percent; for Hispanic men, 65.7; and for black women, 57.1. The employment-population ratio for black men was the lowest for the period Mr. Levitan has studied, which goes back to 1979.

The cited report looks at the employment to population ratio as opposed to the more traditional unemployment rate. With the former, you capture everyone who isn't working regardless of whether or not they actually looked for a job.

So, this is a number that conservatives would hate because they'd claim "A whole bunch of folks probably don't even want to work else they'd pull themselves up by their bootstraps in this great land of ours."

The article contains a baked-in response to this implicit argument.
"If job losses land disproportionately on one group of people, a disproportionate share of that group may give up looking for work. In that case, changes in the unemployment rate for that group will tend to understate the relative impact of the recession on that group"

This seems true. It makes sense to think about aggregate, cultural effects, rather than just "This one person didn't look for a job because of his own failed internal motivation."

February 26, 2004


See, here's a great example of rant from Rep. John Dingell (and courtesy of Steve Yuhan).

If you're a congressman from Michigan, you've got to be a pretty salty dog with respect to how blue collar workers have fared during the current administration / past 50 years. And yet, Rep. Dingell was able to take a ludicrous decision by the Council of Economic Advisers to class fast food jobs as manufacturing positions and turn it into a funny (but pointed) screed:

I am sure the 163,000 factory workers who have lost their jobs in Michigan will find it heartening to know that a world of opportunity awaits them in high growth manufacturing careers like spatula operator, napkin restocking, and lunch tray removal.

Plus, all references to defunct McDonaldland characters should be applauded when made by elected officials.

February 25, 2004


I'm not sure why but I've been coming across a lot of rants recently.

In the blog world, it's mostly "I have discovered this deal and now I must vent my venom upon it." A lot are funny but there are a couple of rhetorical traps that these rants typically fall into.

First off, more is not better. Having a giant ordered list of reasons isn't usually effective. Often it's numbing and you end up padding the list with trivial bits. For example, "And why are people still using drop caps! It's a webpage not an illuminated manuscript, you degenerate hack!"

That actually leads into the next common pitfall - self-righteousness. I see a lot of political blogger taking pride in enumerating the logical fallacies in the arguments of their opponents. Fallacies are fun to point out ... they've got cool latin names like reductio. But too much of it just makes you look like an pompous ass. As does writing stuff like "And to you I say, 'Fine! Be happy with your bowl of gruel, spoonfed to you by the masters of government. But I deserve a better fate. One I shape myself ... partially by writing Randian fanfiction."

Well, maybe, that would work. Self-deprecation is the great salve.

Finally, have a frickin' point. Argue in favor of something. Point to a better way you actually believe in.

Fear of sincerity's a big killer and certainly one I struggle with. But, as the man says, you gotta put your deal out there in order to feel the wind.

Oh yeah. The </rant> joke ... not funny!

February 20, 2004

Stinky Feet

Today is Bagel Day at work (the day on which we get bagels as opposed to dress up like them).

While walking downstairs to claim mine, I caught a whiff of microwave popcorn being popped.

And that's when it hit me.

Popcorn-flavored bagel schmear.

Clearly, I could've kept this idea to myself and made millions. But I'm giving back to the Net that's given me so much.

February 18, 2004

Fun with my answering machine (pt. 4)

This message is from a good two years ago.

The timestamp, however, is accurate.

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February 17, 2004

Blown whistle

John Ashcroft is being sued over the mishandling of a major terrorism case in Detroit. The lawsuit alleges that the Justice Dept. "continuously placed perception over reality to the serious detriment of the war on terror." Specifically, the plaintiff claims that a confidential informant was compromised and that results of the war on terrorism were exaggerated as a result of interference from Washington.

Which, you know, hardly seems like news really.

Except that the plaintiff is the former federal prosecutor in the case.

The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino, has filed suit after being made the target of an internal investigation following his testimony to Congress. Turns out the Justice Dept. doesn't it like it when you criticize the War on Terror to the U.S. Senate.

In fairness, there's no reason the Senate should know how the folks in charge of prosecuting the War feel about the job they're doing.

I'm sure it's going just fine.

Urban Navigation

Forget that nonsense about using moss or stars to know which way is north. When's the last time you saw trees or stars living in a big city anyway?

If you want to find your way, simply look for the DirecTV satellite dishes outside apartment windows.

They always point south.

February 16, 2004

Double wides

HDTV Arcade provides the skinny on which games will take advantage of high-definition monitors. Their by-platform matrices show if a game has a 16:9 mode or is available as progressive scan.

It would seem that the PS2 lags behind in this regard. Especially when compared to the Xbox.

I can't wait for the PS3!

Pig in Slop

The Yanks are getting A-Rod and (as Jeter will still be at short) I'm tickled pink. It's worth noting to all the "Yankees buy their championships" haters that:

  1. Well, this is just demonstrably true, isn't it?
  2. The Red Sox tried to do the exact same thing but couldn't get it done. So thhbbtt.

The NYT has a great account of the financials behind the deal which are pretty fascinating. One tidbit:
The Yankees also got Rodriguez to defer an additional $1 million a year for each of the first four years with no interest. They offset that reduction in value by giving Rodriguez a hotel suite on the road (an old players' perk) and allowing him to link his Web site to the Yankees' Web site (a new perk).
I like the fact the being in someone's blogroll has become a part of business negotiations.

February 14, 2004

Red Dye

That Anna. She keeps a great blog AND sends cookies cross-country on Valentine's Day. With self-stamped reply valentines!

There's like 47 people in the world who do stuff like this. Hopefully, you know one of them. (Hint: start looking among the sugar-fueled funny people in your life.)

February 13, 2004

Fun with my answering machine (pt. 3)

In which Eugene & Mary perform a duet in the key of Gol'man.

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February 12, 2004

Tell me about it


"I'm desperately looking for a Jewish Bestiality website. Something with a good array of God's chosen chicks and some (often literally) horny non-Kosher beasts of the field, the air and the sea. Surely, surely there's got to something out there."(via Eric)

I will return

Anna points out that Timothy McVeigh and I have more in common than stylishly short hair cuts.

But you've got to ask yourself, who doesn't like the movies Red Dawn and Brazil.

McVeigh's love of Red Dawn is easy to understand. You can picture Tim urging his militia brethen on with a full throated cry of "Wolverines!!"

What's really interesting is to see Brazil through McVeigh's eyes. This is, afterall, a movie with hero-terrorists battling against a monolithic beauracracy that has stripped its citizens of their freedom. They blow up fancy eateries, they make illegal heating repairs and are lead by a mustachioed and swaggering Bob DeNiro.

Except that's not what the movie is about at all.

In fact, there's not much in Brazil that actually establishes a real terrorist network. DeNiro's character is a freelance heating repair man. No connection is made between him and the bombings. In fact, those that try to make that connection are portrayed as fools. For example, Michael Palin's character Jack DeLint who says, "There are no coincidences, Sam. Everything's connected, all along the line. Cause and effect. That's the beauty of it. Our job is to trace the connections and reveal them."

The plot of the whole movie turns on this erroneous chain of events. Jill Layton is wrongly suspected of being a terrorist because she tries to help her neighbor who was wrongly suspected of being Tuttle who, himself, is not a terrorist at all.

The movie is not really about the righteous struggle against an oppressive society, a society so absurd in its machinations as to be inadvertantly malign as opposed to calculatingly so. Instead it's about Sam Lowry's struggle to escape the complacency of his own life.

All I'm saying is, I wish Timothy McVeigh would have seen the Criterion box set. There are some good supplemental inteviews which would have set him straight.

February 11, 2004

Look at Me

Two truisms about bad publicity:

  1. There's no such thing as bad publicity. The Anti-Defamation League has consistently refused to learn this lesson, most recently with respect to Mel Gibson's Passion movie.

    By way of recap, 9 months ago, Mel Gibson had a privately financed movie about an Italian Christ with no distribution, no dialogue in a language spoken by living people, and no subtitles. Now, fueled by months of controversy (e.g. members of the ADL passing themselves off as members of a fictious church in order to see an advanced screening) the movie has enormous support from a wide cross-section of christian congregations, a predicted opening weekend of $25M, and, of course, subtitles.

    More than any other group or marketing strategy, the ADL has kept this movie in the news and made it a cause celebre for evangelicals. Congrats!

  2. The publicity's bad if it's not about you. Why are the sponsors of the Super Bowl so pissed about the Boob. Obviously, it can't be the case that Anheuser Busch is legitimately concerned that the recent boob viewage has forever damaged the moral health of America. These are the people who had a whole campaign based around bikini models romancin' a dog in sunglasses.

    As the Guardian points out, the sponsors are pissed because no one was talking about how great the ads were after this year's Super Bowl. The big to-do over the hoo-ha is not because American families were subjected to boobie; it's because boobie distracted them from the annual dose of mega-advertizing. In this respect, the Boob is a threat to the most basic of American values: commercialism.

February 10, 2004

Fun with my answering machine (pt. 2)

In which Eugene performs the mating song of the wild gobbler.

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Why couldn't this all of happened in October?

The fallout from the Meet the Press interview continues. With both Bill O'Reilly and Peggy Noonan coming down on Bush, this is the most optimistic I've felt about a presidential election since 1996.(via dgcopter)

February 08, 2004

What are you talking about Willis?

"Blather is words, bunches of words, strewn about in a twisty tangly web ..."

Redefining meta-weblog since 1998.

Fun with my answering machine (pt. 1)

In which Eugene shows my dork-cred the back of his hand.

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Truth in Politics

President Bush: "I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind."

Yeah, we've noticed.

February 06, 2004

When they came for the Kazaa users, I did nothing. For I was not a Kazaa user.

Kazaa's headquarters down under got raided today after an Australian judge issued a "search and seize order".

To begin with, I had always heard that the Kazaa headquarters was like the Shadow's secret lair. When you tried to find it, you ended up having your mind be-clouded and your plans be-fuddled. Apparently not.

Second of all, it wasn't the Aussie police who conducted the raid. Instead it was the "Music Industry Piracy Investigations, a branch of the Australian Recording Industry Association."

So I'm to understand the the recording industry has its own stormtroopers? Who are empowered to conduct court sanctioned search and seizures. I mean this is Australia, where as far as I can tell, you have to murder someone to get a tank of gas. But still!

Are there other industry consortiums that have their own paramilitary wings? The Mechanized Infantry of the Plumbing and Heating Industry Alliance, perhaps?

"We gotta roll up to the vill' and investigate an illegal channel lock possession ... lock n' load!"

Update: Apparently, "The raid was conducted under a rarely used law, known as Anton Pillar, which allows litigants in civil copyright cases to gather evidence." Which is a messed up law with a goofy ass name.

February 04, 2004

Let's get together and feel alright

I recently played the arcade game Ninja Baseball Batman on the MAME machine we have here at work. As a wacky synthesis of japanese and american culture, it knows no equal. The powerups alternate between french fries and bbq eel donburri.

You are a robot baseball player out to save ... something. You have your choice of heroes - the fat yellow robot with donuts on his bat, the skinny blue stickball robot with the longball swing, etc. Your enemies consist primarily of anthropomorphic robot baseball equipment. There are nasty yellow baseballs with metallic mohawks. There are evil umpires who will throw their face guards at you. I think the ultimate baddie might be a pitching rubber.

The game's primarily a side scroller in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles style but the level design is a chaotic mindfuck. One level starts off on the Golden Gate Bridge which collapses and drops you onto a passing cruise ship which takes you to the docks where you have to fight a 4x4 miniboss driven by baseballs. And, as these screenshots show, the design philosophy seems to have been 'wild monkey colorgasm.'

In this respect, the game is a complete success.

February 03, 2004

More than meets the eye

Matt Bruns writes the Janet Jackson boob analysis to trump them all.

February 02, 2004

In which America goes retarded

Boob. Boob. Boob.

The level of rhetoric around the Janet Jackson boobie incident is simply unbelievable. FCC Chairman Michael Powell: "Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better."

Good use of the Rule of Threes, here ... "classless, crass and deplorable" and "children, parents and citizens."

Speaking of celebrations, a 21 year-old who had swarmed the streets in Boston to celebrate the Patriots win was run over and killed by a guy in an SUV. Who fled the scene. And, of course, was determined to be drunk.

At this hour, it is not yet known how many people died as a result of seeing Ms. Jackson's boobie.