Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ten Best Sci-Fi Movies Of The Decade

Techland's Ten Best Sci-Fi Movies Of The Decade

1. A.I.
2. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
3. Solaris
4. The Fountain
5. Primer
6. Children Of Men
7. WALL-E
8. Star Trek
9. Minority Report
10. 28 Days Later

I've only seen #6, #8 and #9, but Children Of Men is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. Here's what Techland's reviewer said:

When Alfonso Cuarón says apocalyptic thriller, I bet he puts the emphasis on apocalyptic.

I can't conceive of a more hopeless future than what we see in Children of Men: Infertility has ravaged humanity, bringing out the worst in us all. The youngest of society are treated as royalty, while poverty and lawlessness run rampant among the rest of society. Clamping down on the unrest, the government has allowed fear to mature into xenophobia, establishing an elite ruling class and rounding up all others through martial law. This has led to all-out war between immigrants and government forces, a battle that ensnares Theo (Clive Owen) who is protecting a pregnant woman - the first in decades - so she can reach a safe zone and preserve the human race.

All these subplots are captivating, but it's the way Cuarón structures his story that is perhaps most memorable. Using long, unbroken takes that are immersive and hypnotic, Cuarón leaves the exposition to the background details, lining scenes with context clues as to how this world is falling apart and why. As this sci-fi fantasy plays out in hyperrealistic fashion – the shootout in the refugee camp has to be one of the most visceral gunfights ever filmed – Cuarón creates a rolling hellscape that seems to have no end.

Coming Soon: G-Strings Stuffed with Quarters and Dimes?

Strip clubs, hurting for business, waive cover charges and discount drinks to appeal to a downscale clientele. At the same time, club owners say that because of widespread layoffs in nearly every other industry, it's never been easier to find beautiful women eager to work as exotic dancers.
Quote from somebody affected: "It's not quite the elite crowd that used to come in."

These and other tales of "recession porn" from Time Magazine.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Big Snow Storm

I trudged from home to work Saturday morning as the flakes swirled. At 7:00 AM there was 6-8" on the ground. The Metro was still running.

Saturday morning.


Saturday afternoon.

Knowing that we would not be able to drive to work Sunday morning, the company put us up in a hotel two blocks away, so we could walk to work.


Nice place, full of leggy supermodels and Eurotrash.

And so, at 3:15 the next morning, we walked to work. It was still snowing.

Wind-blown show had formed drifts.

No bike tours today!

Check out the headline:


A little bigger:


But I did find this interesting plaque near 7th and F Streets:


Meanwhile, up on U Street, I was missing all the fun:



h/t Roberta X.

UPDATE on the snowball fight: WaPo covers it.

During Washington's record-breaking snowstorm on Saturday, a massive snowball fight was taking place at the corner of 14th and U streets that had grown men and women laughing and hurling fresh-fallen snow at one another in the middle of the street. Good-natured, wintertime fun, according to participants.

Then a D.C. police officer happened by, and the event -- filmed by amateurs and a local television station -- suddenly became more serious.

Videos and photos show a D.C. police detective unholstering his gun (and admitting to it) during a confrontation with a group of snowball fighters. The video is making the rounds on the Internet and national TV stations. The detective, who authorities have not identified, on one such video says: "Yes I did," apparently referring to the fact that he drew his gun, "because I got hit with snowballs."


Friday, December 18, 2009

When In Mumbai...

"Mumbai Gunman Recants Confession, Alleges Torture"

Once, just once, I'd like to see a prosecutor step in front of the press and say:

"Yeah, we tortured the little f***er. And we'll torture him him again if he doesn't shut the f*** up!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pity We Can't Burn Them At The Stake...

...'cause that would just produce more greenhouse gas.

Robb Allen found a link suggesting that overweight people aren't "green."

How much carbon are you carrying around?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Connections

OK, this is weird and a little strained, but bear with me.

The diarist and author Anaïs Nin was married to a French banker, Hugh Guiler. She also had several lovers, including (but not limited to - not by any means!) Henry Miller, Edmund Wilson, James Agee, Gore Vidal and Antonin Artaud. Who he? The name was vaguely familiar. Artaud was an avant-garde French actor who played the treacherous priest in The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, one of my favorite flicks, that I blogged about here.

Antonin Artaud and Maria Falconetti in The Passion Of Joan Of Arc.

Looks a bit like Ah-nold, Der Governator.

Anaïs Nin was also a bigamist, having married her second husband without divorcing her first. Her second hubby, Rupert Pole by name, was a California forest ranger (!) and sometime actor. She commuted between husband No. 1, who lived in New York City, and husband No. 2 in California. She told Guiler that she needed to take a "rest cure", and she would head west for six months and live with Pole; then she told him that she had a writing assignment in New York and would spend six months there with Guiler. Neither man seems to have been aware of the other until after Nin's death in 1977.

Rupert Pole died in 2006. His main claim to fame is that he arranged to have Nin's unexpurgated diaries published. Pole's obituary in the New York Times contains this howler:

... Mr. Pole is survived by his companion, Kazuko Sugisaki, a translator of many of Nin’s works into Japanese. His fellow husband, Mr. Guiler, with whom Mr. Pole became cordial after Nin’s death, died in 1985.

"Fellow husband?!" I like that! I bet the obituary writer had to consult the society columnist about how to refer to the decedent's bigamous wife's other husband. Simple! "Fellow husband!" (I would have chosen "co-polyandrist", meself.) Although I think it is interesting that the men "became cordial" after her death. Love is strange, isn't it? Strangest of all is that Nin had an intense sexual relationship with her father when she was 30 and he was 54.

The movie Henry And June covers this time period in Paris. Anaïs Nin was played by the actress Maria de Madeiros.

Anaïs Nin

Maria de Madeiros in Henry & June.

Nice bit of casting. Maria de Madeiros also played Fabienne in Pulp Fiction.

Bruce Willis and Maria de Madeiros in Pulp Fiction.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Well, Maybe That Explains It ...

From the biography of Anaïs Nin:

Juana, Anaïs Nin's godmother, never married; she was "engaged to a gymnast who died in midair and supposedly, she never recovered."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mikhail Levin

The "Russian Heavy Bomber" that I blogged about yesterday is from the imagination of Russian artist Mikhail Levin. I guess the Nazi flying saucer kinda gives it away, huh?

Leaving their secret base hidden deep in the Norwegian fjords.


Here is more of his work. Hi-rez versions are available on his website.

How about a nice Steampunk lighter-than-air ship?

I know there are some airship privateers out there who will enjoy this.


This must be the first class cabin:


I like the ship's anchor; nice touch!

The man has a deft touch with a Wacom tablet.


Charts And Graphs


Over at The Volokh Conspiracy, Jim Lindgren has a post about ClimateGate.

Jim links to a blogger who wonders exactly what kind of adjustments were made to the raw data in order to "homogenize" it. So he made a nice series of graphs showing the raw data and the adjusted data and calculated the adjustment factor from the former to the latter.

The results are disquieting. The raw data shows a slight cooling trend of 0.7 degrees Celsius per century. The adjusted data shows a warming trend of 1.2 degrees Celsius per century. The difference is entirely due to the "homogenizing" adjustments.

The graph of the adjustments shows some unusual changes in 1920, 1930, and especially 1940. The average "slope" of the adjustments from 1940 to about 1995 is actually greater than the slope of the warming trend, almost as if the scientists added a larger and larger adjustment to each year's data - preferring consistency over accuracy.

I'm an agnostic about global warming. But one thing I learned in college was the difference between temperature and heat. Trying to measure warming of an entire planet is a huge challenge. Close to Chaos Theory.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Dr. Evil, I Presume?"

Top Ten Evil Doctors.

Steampunk Hearing Aid

Actually, they claim that this is a Steampunk headset. Part of the 12 Coolest Steampunk Gadgets.

Historic Russian Bomber

Rare photograph of a 1938 Russian K-7 Heavy Bomber.

Aviation enthusiasts in Russia have spent the last ten years reconstructing a working prototype of the 1930's vintage K-7 Heavy Bomber. The K-7 was powered by twenty Ilyushin-B 16-litre quad-turbo V-20 engines, each rated at 2,100 bhp. Rocket boosters were required for take-off with a full load of fuel and weapons. Or, stripped of armament, the K-7's fuel capacity allowed it to say aloft for three days, giving it a round-trip range of 9,000 nautical miles in a reconaissance role.

Shown here fully armed with a dozen 12" guns and eight 5" guns, the K-7 would have been a formidable weapon in an infantry-support role against armored targets.

Or, as shown here, in an air superiority mode, shooting down Nazi flying saucers.

Yeah, it's just a Photoshop fantasy, but what a nice one!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Aught-ism

Or, how to refer to the decade about to close.

We've already had the Swinging Sixties, The Me Decade (1970's), The Big Eighties, and so forth. But what do we call the current decade? The Zeros? The Nulls? The Big Nothing? The Big Gooseggs? Double-Zed?

Front-runner seems to be "The Big Aughties". Yuk. I had elderly elementary school teachers who used the term "aught" for zeros. Now I might end up the same way. Pain.

Protest Signs

Fifty best protest signs of 2009. My favorite:

h/t Say Uncle.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

That's What It's All About

Composer of "The Hokey Pokey" dies at age 104.

NYT.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Brief Encounter


This is probably the all-time champion romantic tear-jerker. It is absolutely peerless.

An Affair To Remember? Not even close.
Now, Voyager? Oh, please!
Sleepless In Seattle? Nice try!
The Bridges Of Madison County? Close, but no cigar!

And the musical score? Pianist Eileen Joyce played Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the National Symphony Orchestra. Also peerless.

The story begins in an English railway station and is told in flashback, narrated by the heroine, Laura. Telling the story in a flashback is always difficult to pull off in a movie because the audience has already seen the end of the story and they think they have a pretty good idea of what will follow. But in this case, they are very wrong, the real story is hidden from them and, at the end, they will see the first scene played out again with unexpected poignancy.

For example, when we see Laura enter the train station cafe at the beginning of the movie, it doesn't make much of an impression. But at the end of the movie we see the same shot again and we know that Laura has just tried to throw herself in front of a speeding train.

Directed by David Lean (Great Expectations, Laurence Of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago). A former film editor, his family were Quakers, and watching movies was forbidden.

Celia Johnson (1908-1990) played Laura. A fine actress, she also played Mrs. DeWynter in the stage production of Rebecca, the part played in the movie by Joan Fontaine.

Noel Coward wrote the play ("Still Life").

Another favorite of mine, Harold And Maude, was also directed by a former editor, Hal Ashby, and also written by a gay man, Colin Higgins.

Big Mac IV

Mark your calendars.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in McDonald v. Chicago on Tuesday, March 2, 2010.

h/t Of Arms And The Law.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Where Do I Sign Up?

Watch THIS!


h/t Clue Meter, who remarks:

Lieutenant Colonel Allan West, US Army, got in trouble in Iraq because he fired a round from his M9 sidearm into the wall next to the head of a Tango, in the course of interrogating same.
[Is he wearing a piece?]
[No, I do not mean a hairpiece.]

Product Placement

Seconds after my last post, look what popped up:
Further comment is inadvisable - talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: "Breda is neither large, nor a hotel." Discuss!

Israeli Soldier

h/t Breda.

Glow-ball Warming

An excellent posting by Iain Murray which sums up the "Climategate" scandal. Excerpts:

Three Things You Absolutely Must Know About Climategate

First, the scientists discuss manipulating data to get their preferred results.

Secondly, scientists on several occasions discussed methods of subverting the scientific peer review process to ensure that skeptical papers had no access to publication. [...] If you are saying on the one hand that you will not take notice of someone until they have been published while on the other you are working behind the scenes to stop any such publication, I would venture to suggest that you are not operating with any degree of bona fides either towards the media or the legitimate scientific process.

Finally, the scientists worked to circumvent the Freedom of Information process of the United Kingdom. [...] There appears to be a prima facie case that there was a conspiracy to prevent the release of information subject to FOI.
Me, I'm an agnostic on this global warming thing. There's a lot of political theater going on around it, and that's unfortunate. But maybe it would be a good idea if the data used by these scientists were to be audited by an independent agency as part of "due diligence".

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Women, Crime and Guns

From an amicus brief in McDonald vs. Chicago co-written by Don Kates comes this nugget.

In a very interesting section, Kates discusses pro-gun-control academics whose research led them to change their minds, among them Professor Hans Toch of the School of Criminology at the State University of New York (p23):

But, Prof. Toch continues, subsequent research has progressively impacted this: “rates of male firearms ownership tend to be inversely correlated with violent crime rates, a curious fact if firearms stimulate aggression. It is hard to explain that where firearms are most dense, violent crime rates are lowest, and where guns are least dense violent crime rates are highest.”

Toch further notes that in contrast to male ownership, women’s gun ownership is very low where crime rates are low, but high where crime is prevalent. But “[t]his does not imply that urban women are responsible for the urban crime problem” writes Professor Toch; rather “it demonstrates that when violent crimes are high, women arm themselves for protection.”
Good point!

Dave Kopel has more at the Volokh Conspiracy.

The Gospel of St. John

John Moses Browning, that is. From Theo Spark and very funny! Excerpt:

And lo, they didst install adjustable sights, which are an abomination unto the Lord. For they doth break and lose their zero when thou dost need true aim. And those who have done so will be slain in great numbers by their enemies in the great battle. And they didst chamber it for cartridges whose calibers startith with numbers less than the Holy Number 4. And lo the Lord did cause great grief amongst these men when their enemies who were struck in battle with these lesser numbers didst not fall but did continue to cause great harm.

h/t Say Uncle.

Big Mac III

Second City Cop has a post on McDonald vs. Chicago, and compares Mayor Daley to General Custer. First SCC notes that 38 states have submitted amici briefs in support of McDonald, and Daley says, "Hey! Where did all these Indians come from?" Then:

Daley is going to lose this one and lose it badly. But by golly, he's going to spend tax money defending this hill until the very last Indian scalps his still twitching corpse.

Actually, that's kind of a pleasing image.
I like the image of 38 state AGs in full warpaint galloping over the crest of the hill, briefcases in hand, and bearing down on the beleaguered Daley.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rebecca And Laura

Spent a rainy evening watching two favorites.

Rebecca, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

And Laura, directed by Otto Preminger.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Louisiana Purchase

That's what the Drudge Report is calling it. A $100 million "bribe" to get the vote of just one moderate Democratic senator: Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

Here's what ABC News said:

What does it take to get a wavering senator to vote for health care reform? Here's a case study.

On page 432 of the Reid bill, there is a section increasing federal Medicaid subsidies for "certain states recovering from a major disaster."

The section spends two pages defining which "states" would qualify, saying, among other things, that it would be states that "during the preceding 7 fiscal years" have been declared a "major disaster area."

I am told the section applies to exactly one state: Louisiana, the home of moderate Democrat Mary Landrieu, who has been playing hard to get on the health care bill.

In other words, the bill spends two pages describing would could be written with a single world: Louisiana. (This may also help explain why the bill is long.)

Senator Harry Reid, who drafted the bill, cannot pass it without the support of Louisiana's Mary Landrieu.

How much does it cost? According to the Congressional Budget Office: $100 million.

That may also explain why the healthcare bill is such a budget-buster. Legislation is like sausage...

As an aside, notice the use of Sneaky Journalistic Trick #27: the phrase "I am told..." in the fourth paragraph. What's that supposed to mean!? Not that what follows isn't true, mind you!

UPDATE: Make that $300 million, not $100 million.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The End Of Days


The New York Times publishes a comparison of five waterfowl guns. The one pictured above is the RBL-12 ("round-action box lock"?) from Connecticut Shotgun. About 3G's.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fall Ramblings

As part of my ongoing effort to explore every nook and cranny of this area, I recently sojourned down an urban nature trail alongside a stream.

This is about 6 miles from the White House.

The trail passes under a highway and then through a (gulp!) tunnel.

Ready?

video


The other side.

I like to find places like this: out of the way Jeep trails, two-tracks and service roads.

This is staghorn sumac.

I've got your "affordable health care". Right here!


And more fall colors:




Struck By Lightning

How many Americans are killed or injured by lightning strikes?
The National Weather Service publication Storm Data recorded a total of 449 deaths from lightning strikes between 1998 and 2008. According to the National Weather Service, lightning causes an average of 62 deaths and 300 injuries in the United States each year.

link

Elsewhere, the intolerable Josh Sugarmann at the Violence Policy Center claims that in 2007-2009, holders of concealed handgun permits murdered 85 people. That's an average of 28 people a year.

The point is clear: you are more likely to be struck and killed by lightning than you are to be murdered by a CHP-holder. Twice as likely.

I should point out that not all of the 85 deaths have been fully investigated or adjudicated yet; some may turn out to be self-defense or accidents. And not all of the slayings involved guns.

Monday, November 16, 2009

New York Times Endorses Second Amendment

OK, well, it was back in 1866, but still:
The Constitution of the United States . . . provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” But this restriction is . . . a restriction upon the power of the United States alone, and gave to James Lewis [a Union veteran] no protection against the law of Mississippi, which deprived him, because of his color, of a right which every white man possessed.

It is against just such legislation and such judicial decisions that the first section of the [14th] Amendment is designed to furnish a protection.

Mr. Browning’s Letter and Judge Handy’s Decision,
N.Y. TIMES, Oct. 28, 1866, at 4, col. 1

From McDonald vs. Chicago opening brief.

h/t Of Arms And The Law and the invaluable David Hardy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Long Day

Started work yesterday at 3 PM and worked 'til 11 PM. We wanted to record an interview with the Sec. of State who was in Singapore, 12 hours ahead of us. She was about to board a plane and would be unavailable for a day. So we recorded a "phoner": we have a camera at her end and one at our end and the interview takes place over a telephone line - neither of them can see the other. We couldn't get a satellite link. So after recording the interview from 10:30 PM to 11 PM, the whole crew (about 20 people) rushed to our hotel rooms for 3-4 hours of sleep. Then back at work at 4 AM to receive the feed of the Singapore video and sync it up on the Avid and make it look like a real interview. Our guy, George S., sits in the studio and the Sec. appears on a plasma screen (chromakey) which we see from a camera looking over his shoulder. The interview ran too long so I had to cut it down two minutes for time - it ran about 13 minutes for air. And this editing involved making some tight audio edits - a pleasure with 720p because I can trim to 1/60th of a second instead of 1/30th of a second with NTSC - and adding some over-the-shoulder shots to hide the edits. It worked out well and the director, exec. producer and tech. director were very impressed. After the show, we (the tape director that I work with and I) got some unusually effusive praise: "You guys are awesome!" "You guys are fantastic!" "You guys are rock stars!" We finally got released about 11:30 AM Sunday.

Totally worth the loss of sleep. Although, in truth, I have edited harder projects under worse time pressure for more difficult producers. So it was easy to say, "Aw, shucks! 'Tweren't nuthin'."

One good day at work can make the rest of the week a pleasure.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Just Shook Hands With Alan Gura!

Yup! There he is on the far left. Next to him is Randy Barnett, who blogs frequently on The Volokh Conspiracy. The subject under discussion here was Incorporation of the Second Amendment, and all of the panelists agreed that it was going to happen, it was just a question of how. The audience consisted of about a hundred law students, plus me and two other old guys.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Man Drives Bugatti Veyron Into Salt Marsh

Driver claims he was distracted by pelican, cellphone.

Maybe the dude will wake up and get himself a real Bugatti, like this 35B:
Straight-eight, supercharged, wheel spokes integrated with the brake drums to improve cooling...

Now, THAT'S a f%#@ing Bugatti!



Two Japanese Subs From WWII Found Off Hawaii

In this picture, our friendly deepsea photobot HURL rests on the deck of the I-14 and examines the deck gun.

One of the Japanese craft, the I-201, was capable of speeds of about 20 knots while submerged, making it among the fastest diesel submarines ever made. Like other Japanese subs, it had a rubberized coating on the hull, an innovation intended to make it less apparent to sonar or radar.

The other, the I-14, was much larger and slower and designed to carry two small planes, Aichi M6A Seirans. The aircraft, which had folding wings and tails and could carry a torpedo or 1,800-pound bomb, were housed in watertight hangars inside the submarine. They could be brought onto the deck and launched by a catapult. (The only existing Seiran is in the hands of the Smithsonian.)


D.C. Court of Appeals Applies Heller Retroactively

The defendant, Frederick Plummer, was charged and convicted of possession of an unlicensed handgun from an incident in October, 2003. He filed an appeal in 2004, claiming his Second Amendment rights had been violated. That was denied. Now, after Heller, he comes forward again.

DC: Defendant never even applied for a [nonexistent] permit, therefore he has no standing.
Court: The Defendant's conviction gives him standing.

The license required is also prohibited:

In light of the handgun registration and licensing scheme in effect at the time of the incident in this case, Mr. Plummer could not have registered his handgun, but registration was a prerequisite to obtaining a license, despite the Second Amendment right to keep a handgun in his home for defensive purposes.

The court seems reluctant to allow D.C. to keep people in jail for a "paperwork felony" resulting from D.C.'s "too-clever-by-half" gun registration scheme: require registration, prohibit any new licenses, restrict renewals to previous licensees only, require annual renewals, and pretty soon there will be a defacto handgun ban in D.C.

So the court sent Plummer's case back to the lower court to see if he could pass muster as a licensee (adult, no criminal record, no mental health history, no vision impairments) and presumably if he qualifies, his conviction could be overturned.

h/t Arms And The Law.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just In Time For Christmas

Nightmares of H.P. Lovecraft Nyarlathotep Statue $219.99

Boondock Saints Action Figure Assortment Set $28.99


Buck Rogers Atomic Disintegrator Pistol Gold Deluxe Edition $174.99


Star Trek Classic Captain Kirk Chair Prop Replica $2,199.99