Friday, November 27, 2009

The batchelor cooking show.

Me, I think I've almost got this fish business down. I marinated way too much tilapia in a muck made of equal parts store-bought ginger/garlic marinade and canola oil, with another big hock of ginger and a couple cloves of garlic diced up and left to sit in the fridge for half a day. The muck & fish were chucked into a frying pan to simmer while I added a can of sliced mushrooms, half a can of bean sprouts, another half a can of sliced carrots, and a handful of green onions, properly cleaned & chopped up. Nuked a bag of pre-seasoned noodles in the meantime to give the concoction some grains, and dumped everything into a big honking bowl and ate it.

It was way too much food for one person, but fairly edible, and cooking it killed nearly forty minutes of a Thanksgiving otherwise occupied with dvd-watching.

On that front, the Dead Zone kind of went to heck after Michael Piller died. It's not a terrible show afterwards, but a lot of the moral core of the story was lost. It turns into yet another why-heartland-religious-folk-suck homily of the sort that TV types adore. One of the charms of the Dead Zone's first few seasons was its capacity for mostly avoiding that pitfall.

Later in the evening I started in on my new Sarah Connor Chronicles DVDs. About the same time that the Dead Zone and Battlestar Galactica lost their religious-moral plots, Sarah Connor found its voice. I had forgotten just how explicitly Christian the text got in the second season, and how earnest it was. The creator-writer was saying on a commentary how his father was giving him grief for going so New Testament when the family was observant Jewish, but that this was where the story went.

I had missed their intention that Cameron was running on free will from the end of the first episode of the second season onwards; I had just accepted the explicit text that her protect-John programming had rebooted properly; apparently the Terminator-vision "Terminate/override" display was *not* supposed to be the future-John hack, but rather the machine "choosing to cross the street against the light". It's a much cooler interpretation, and deepens the impact of the rest of the season. It's a crying shame the show got cancelled. Can't say I'm surprised, though. Watching it on DVD, you really get reminded of how they're filming in southern California. It must have been an extortionately expensive production.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On the plus side, another of my blind-purchases this month was the Tower of Druaga: Aegis of Uruk, and it turned out to be a really nice little show. It was well-animated, sweet-tempered, funny, and had a moral core inside of its faintly-preposterous RPG-style fantasy setting. I especially liked how the protagonist was a "Guardian", a type of warrior trained as a shieldwall specialist, someone whose whole purpose was to protect his fellows with a specialized shield-based tactical system.

I've been noticing the absence of the 'shield' as a physical metaphor in anime - it no doubt has something to do with cultural factors, but the Tower of Druaga definitely avoids that particular issue. The usual empty shounen declarations of desires to "protect" suddenly have substance when the boaster's whole deal is to be an immovable shield. What is ironic when spoken by the typical offensive-minded "sword-spirited" Japanese hero is sheer common-sense heroic when stated by a simple-minded guy with a big heavy shield and a desire to stand like a wall.
I'm a worse person than I was Sunday morning, and I blame Quentin Tarantino for it. I went to see Inglourious Basterds at the dollar theater yesterday afternoon, and came out of it angry, upset, and feeling deeply uncharitable to my fellow man. Tarantino movies have always shown a strong streak of nihilistic sadism in the past, but his ability to tie the meanness and viciousness back into a valid and occasionally sublime artistic summation has let me excuse that streak as part of his aesthetic creative engine. I'm thinking of material like the "Mr. Blonde w/ ear" scene in Reservoir Dogs, the Buck business in the first Kill Bill movie, the "eye" scenes in the second, and basically the whole script for Natural Born Killers. But he never really turned that sadistic nihilism against the viewing audience before like he has in Inglourious Basterds. (Well, I say that, but I've never gotten around to watching his contribution to the Grindhouse double-feature, so maybe it's in that.)

It's an ugly movie, a soul-eroding movie. It reminds me of nothing so much as the Blair Witch Project, but whereas that experiment turned its sadism, hatred, and fury against the film-maker as a class - message: stop looking! stop filming! leave evil be! - Tarantino's movie is a diatribe against the potential viewing audience. It's a film made with a burning rage against those who enjoy war pictures, especially those which fixate upon combat action footage. I'd apologize for spoiling, except that I honestly don't want anyone to see this movie, so I'll come out and describe what upset me:

Tarantino presents the film climax as the symbolic murder of the viewing audience. The set-piece is a three-fold terrorist assault upon a movie theatre filled with the National Socialist elite, complete with the "big four", Hitler, Goebbels et al. They're gathered together in a Paris theatre to watch the 1944 premiere of a high-budget propaganda piece about a German sniper's heroic one-man stand, filmed with the actual sniper a la Audie Murphy's autobiographical post-war film, To Hell and Back. In the build-up to the climatic bloodletting, we're repeatedly assaulted with snips and cuts from the propaganda piece, filmed in a cinema verite style with repeated on-screen killings of American soldiers. It's a brutal, ugly piece, and we're conditioned to hate the audience as they applaud every cleverly filmed death.

At the end, as the sniper-hero turns to the camera to deliver his propagandistic message to the audience, the doctored in-story film cuts out to the piece created by the actual film's heroine. She introduces herself as the Jew who is going to kill them all, in a presentation rather like the Apple 1984 commercial. At the end of the filmed clip, she gives the order to her awaiting accomplice, who starts a fire behind the screen, with an enormous pile of spilled-open nitrate film reels. The resulting cacophony is dominated by her posthumous maniacal laughing face, floating horribly over the smoke and fire and the brutal, gleefully filmed mass death.

Supposedly the whole picture was designed as an experiment in testing the hypothesis, "there isn't anything too terrible you can do to a Nazi in a film". I very much believe it. But the thing is, he's set it up so that there is no moral center to the film. The titular Basterds are murderous, animalistic clowns, with no dignity or humanity to them. The Germans are, well, Nazis - and unstintingly portrayed as such. Even the Marlene Dietrichesque double-agent actress is shown to be duplicitous and murderous. The Jewish heroine - a young woman who survives the murder of her family by the primary antagonist, Col. Landa - is never given an actual positive personality trait. She's as humorless and murderous as the hero of a third-rate Jacobean revenge tragedy; her only putative virtue is her victimhood.

The film ends with the scalping, torturing clown Lt. Raine gleefully proclaiming of one last, pointless mutilation that "I think this might just be my masterpiece." There is no escape from the sadism of this picture. I left the theatre sickened and ashamed to have participated in it by having sat through the whole show. Because the awful thing is, it was a "show", and a horribly gripping one, worse than a train-wreck, because train-wrecks are accidents and every last second of this film was planned. Even the clownishness, the ahistoricality, the bizarre mis-casting of Mike Myers as a British general, the buffoonery of the Hitler portrayal, the random anachronistic rock music and the sheer ludicrousness of the plot don't keep it from being compelling, doesn't keep it from being a coherent filmwatching experience.

But it is, quite simply, a dehumanizing movie. It seems to have been made to demoralize, to derange the moral sense. The film's view of war is a series of atrocities unconstrained by law, purpose, justice, discipline, or morality. But I can't say that it's an honestl anti-war film - the core message is too wrathful, consuming, hateful. The final image, of American soldiers mutilating a Nazi war criminal so that he can't ever take off the uniform, is calculated. The idea of never letting them take off their uniforms is a device which breaks down the bounds between the atrocity of war and the securities of peace which ought to be the concern of a proper anti-war, pacifistic message-picture. This device, and the way that it was placed just prior to the credits, rips open the war-atrocities the picture presents us & spills it into our safe-zones, like a bullet-punctured intestine leaking into a peritoneal sac.

Incidentally, I was the only person in the theater, barring only the occasional usher shuffling through. That theater's days are numbered, if they can't get an audience at a dollar a show, they're doomed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

From: Phil Jones
To: “Michael E. Mann”
Subject: IPCC & FOI
Date: Thu May 29 11:04:11 2008


Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4?
Keith will do likewise. He’s not in at the moment – minor family crisis.
Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don’t
have his new email address.
We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.
I see that CA claim they discovered the 1945 problem in the Nature paper!!

Prof. Phil Jones
Climatic Research Unit Telephone +
School of Environmental Sciences Fax +
University of East Anglia
Norwich Email

Source, comment at 09:56:00

Somebody leaked a massive document dump from the British Climate Research Unit, including a dozen years' worth of email spool, via a Russian ftp server in Tomask. There's still the chance that some of it might have been "salted" with faked emails, but CRU is talking to the media as if *they* think it's real, which suggests that their servers have been locked down by the authorities. The above email isn't even the most egregious example of conspiracy to commit fraud against Freedom of Information requests, it's just the one which implicates Dr. Mann of my alma mater, PSU. There are other emails showing members of CRU conspiring to blackball a journal editor who wasn't playng ball, and explicitly manipulating data to produce desired outcomes.

So far, only their pet website is hitting on Google. Keep in mind, RealClimate is actually *hosted* at CRU. It's their house organ. Full story here. BBC limited hang-out here.

A useful index of "hot" emails. I'm going to go ahead and say that this much dirt couldn't have been 'salted'. The sample's almost five carats!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I had a difficult conversation with a conservative co-worker this morning about Sarah Palin's new book. I'm getting kind of tired of the Alaskan merry-go-round. The over-educated fools freak out about her, she goes tabloid on them, they freak out some more, the soc-cons dump on the fools, the fools freak out at *them*, and then the populist right rallies 'round the flag & everyone gets dragged into a cult-of-celebrity policy-free zone.

The thing is, I like most of Palin's principles. Her heart seems to be in the right place, and she has the right policy instincts. But she keeps *engaging* with her detractors. There's too much of the reality-show about her whole scene. I want a politician who can talk like a statesman while spending most of her time in the trenches, working like a dog. The Alaska success story was a big selling point for me - until that appalling July 4th melodramatic resignation display. I worry about Palin being all short-winded flash and surface and cheerful pugnacity.

Worse, I worry about her propensity for opening up fissures, for whittling away at potential governing coalitions. There's a positive blizzard of shavings floating around these days. What we need is coalitional glue - the sort of figures who can get people who honestly can't stand each other to slouch sullenly in close enough proximity to build an approximation of a winning majority.

In short, we need someone who can lure all of you overbred, arrogant twits on the Main Line and in New England back to the GOP. Someone who won't bring out your class resentments and can calm your irrational status anxieties. I'm almost positive that ain't Sarah, and it should now be blindingly obvious it won't be me or anyone who thinks *like* me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The mirrorball was on Fox News yesterday, advertising for a bipartisan partner to stave off a double-dip recession by massively raising taxes to pay for his obscenely profligate spending spree. Maybe Libby Dole might be interested? Being the Republican tax collector for Democratic welfare states is a Dole family tradition.

Suggestion, office-holding Republicans: don't. They have the majorities. They incurred the debts. They can pay the political price for the necessary taxes. Offer a minority bill repealing the stimulus acts & laying off large chunks of the domestic federal work force instead. Push the Republican health reform bill. Let them own their own irresponsibilities; increased taxes are more likely to cause a double-dip than "loss of public confidence", anyways. The difference between a probability and a near-certainty, admittedly, but still a distinction nonetheless.

Friday, November 13, 2009

"And now, we're going to become absolute tyrants..." sez President Mirrorball. The wonders of the ellipsis, no?

I've been marathoning Dead Zone, which I mostly missed when it was actually on TV & I actually had cable. It's much, much better than I had given it credit for back then. Some of the episodes strongly resemble that old joke about a supposed conundrum offered to philosophy students.

I've also been watching Tears to Tiara, which I bought blind. It's not as good. A bland action-fantasy harem anime, with no sexual tension, placed in a Celtic/Ancient British setting by writers who have never seen anything Celtic or Roman, and have severely stunted imaginative capacity. The show's warriors have never heard of shields, for instance.

The characters constantly kevetch about their lack of weapons, but everybody has swords, and in general are better-armed than the imperial enemy. They hunt *boar* with *longswords*, for the love of mike. Everybody has one set of elaborate-formal clothing, and they wear all of it in every circumstance - from hunting boar to milking a cow to fighting animate skeletons.

Galleys operate themselves, without any apparent crew or effort made by the protagonists to row, sail, or otherwise acknowledge that there's a ship to be run. The central nakama does everything, from hunting expedition to spying trip to forest ambush. Nevermind that said group of protagonists includes a cute, harmless little seeress with no apparent fighting skills. The imperials wear full armor at all times and in all occasions, except for the one chick who is clearly being set up for a heel face turn. Said armor never protects the wearer from being quickly disemboweled by the merciless protagonists, who lead a scrappy band of leathery hillbillies who never die on-screen.

Because of the way that the companies release shows in half-season "coers" these days, I now own half of this show. It's not badly-animated, and it isn't actively offensive. A mild case of OCD demands that I finish out the series, but we're not talking Heroic Age or Romeo+Juliet here. Those two weren't really brilliant shows by any objective measure, but they were highly-animated, clever at times, and very, very pretty. This is more... eh. For a show about a resurrected Great Demon King and his increasing collection of nubile young wives, it's moderately... dull. It's not even entertainingly sketchy.

Friday, November 06, 2009

I'm starting to fear that those people who say that the Large Hadron Collider's failures are due to its capacity for destroying existence - by collapsing the probability array & only allowing those possibilities in which it *doesn't* work - might be on to something. In short, we few possible futures have been spared by the operation of the Weak Anthropic Principle upon a Doomsday Device. Every future in which the LHC *worked* either the first or the second time has been obliterated, allowing only those possible futures where the device was thwarted by the accidents of fate or malice aforethought.

Maybe we ought to destroy the damn thing, if we want to be among the futures spared by the next attempted operation of Europe's Kreation Killing Kontraption.

OK, that's it. NPR was burbling about how the apparent fact that yesterday's Fort Hood shootings were the result of Sudden Jihad Syndrome was yet another excuse for the CAIR crowd to cringe and snivel and cower behind the cowl of conditional victimhood. Spokesflacks all swearing on a stack of korans that it had *nothing* to do with religion, please report any anti-Muslim activity to your local law enforcement authority, yadda yadda snivel yadda.

Horsecrap. I don't want to goddamn hear it any more. It's time for the American "Muslim community" to either make a show of active renunciation of jihadis, not just "violence" or "indiscriminate violence", but the actual, real, Islam-espousing fanatics and radicals who have their own stack of Saudi-printed koranic commentary tellin' em to do exactly what that [expletive deleted] down in Texas did.

Some [expletive deleted] on this morning's radio actually said that - "indiscriminate violence", as if the guy had only shot a couple veterans who had actually killed members of al Queda or the Taliban in open warfare then the shooting rampage at Fort Hood would have been *justified* in this [expletive deleted]'s opinion.

Hell, I want to see bonfires. I want to see ceremonial, officious bonfires of Saudi-printed and sponsored Wahhabi propaganda in front of mosques, fed by the congregations of those mosques. I want to see a tangible, open demonstration of renunciation. I want a Bonfire of the Jihadi Vanities.

Because cowering behind a facade of fake victimhood this time ain't gonna cut it. It's your umma, I want to see some maniacs read out of it. The imams in Iraq are capable of explicitly throwing the killers out of the Community of God, of calling them the devil-worshipping death-idolizing monsters they are.

No more cringing in fear of your fellow Americans. Show some proof of cultural solidarity this time, or I'm calling it taqiyya.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Was out looking at computers & ended up buying and watching House of Flying Daggers. Strange movie, at the same time less obnoxiously political than Zhang Yimou's Hero, and much less well-put-together. Eyelines are crossed, fights are botched, actors aren't quite on their marks, etc. Technically weaker, and less polished. It still has moments of that unearthly painterly composition which made Hero so monstrously watchable, but the connective tissue is weak. The beginning, especially, is very stagy, mannerly in an old-fashioned way, like an old 40s Olivier film production. Then you hit the musical dance number, and suddenly it comes together for one of those set-pieces which make this sort of modern wuxia worth watching.

I think part of the problem might have been Yimou acting as his own cinematographer, to judge from that part of the making-of featurette I was able to stay awake through. There was a cinematographer listed, but his other work as one prior to this movie was on non-action titles, and it isn't the same guy who did Hero, who was an old gwailo pro named Doyle with a list of credits longer than my arm.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Wow. What a thing to say about your own mother. Corzine is just all class, isn't he?
Meh, pretty much everyone I voted for except for the judge slates lost. That's perverse - it includes *all* of the Democrats I voted for.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

There was a meme going around - what are your top five anime, and what does that say about you? After somebody got me thinking about it from the view-point of "worst five", I buckled down & figured out my five most favorite:

Princess Tutu
Full Metal Panic Fumoffu!/Second Raid
Macross Plus
Maison Ikkoku
Gurren Lagann

I don't know what that means. Maybe I'm political-minded? Trying to balance out the magical girls/shoujo artsy crap with Tutu, the fanboy eye-candy with KyoAni FMP, respectable mecha with the Macross Plus oavs, old-school (and the best Takahashi anime by far) with MI, and the new kids stuff with Lagann? Maybe I'm trying to be *respectable*?

That I'm a bit of a cheat for trying to squeeze both KyoAni FMP series onto a single line?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Has somebody been drugging the Secretary of State? There are things that are true and obvious which cannot be said by a minister of foreign affairs - such as telling the Pakistanis to their faces that they're drunk-rolling whores who play both sides of the street. Which Secretary Clinton effectively did last week.

Look, I voted for her in the 2008 primaries. I *thought* she was more composed than this. I even agree with most of what she said. But the President *has* to sack her after this. It was worse than a crime - it was a mistake.