July 31, 2002

Didn't Niven predict this...

No, not organlegging. "Flash Riots" were sudden appearances of mobs of people at newsworthy events made possible by the invention of cheap teleportation. You hear about a plane crahs in the news, you hop in a teleporter and show up. Instant riot. The authorities would react by redirecting the teleporters to jail.

Anyway, "smart mobs" and "social swarms" are the wireless cellphone equivalent. Used by teenyboppers tracking Prince Harry's movements to WTO protestors coordinating activities (in an allegedly "leaderless" fashion.). Will authorites make cellphone interference part of crowd dispersal? Will manufacturers be forced to include backdoor police switches? (Its not just cellphones though so you'd need something more thoroughgoing).

I don't have a cellphone, by the way. I do have a pda, but its not connected

What a morning

I come in today to find our office was robbed. The safe and petty cash box broken into and a cd-player or two seem to be the only things done. None of our big servers or anything were touched. My unexpert opinion would be it was an inside job, since the location of the cash box seems to have been known. Either staff or cleaning crew. Hmmm...

But unrelatedly, we had a hub go bad with our primary domain controller on it. So nobody could login either. And once the PDC [thanks for the alert Josh] was back up, the hub still had a dozen folks on it who couldn't see the network till we figured it was the whole hub. And a bunch of folks lost their NT profiles (which is horrible if you have customization). They've been restored form tape and everybodys back to work for now...

July 30, 2002

I like to talk about movies

Apropos of my bit about Orson Scott Card's issues with Hollywood demographic assumptions is this bit in the New York Times [registration required, i think] about the process of making movie trailers. Demographic balance is impossible to acheive it seems, so multiple trailers are frequently made.

Lots of updates

Since fast.net bought netreach.com (which bought my original ISP op.net) I haven't been able to update my old blog hierodulia. This has been very disappointing as I had lots of stuff to say (when I finally got this one up I couldn't remember what however). So it looks like this will be home for awhile. I have 2 ISPs until I get over my distate for reading email in a Windows environment instead of the unix shell account i use with op.net/fast.net. They, of course announced they "no longer supported" PINE for reading email, after they moved their op.net legacy servers to some other place on their network where they couldn't access the mail server and I didn't have mail for a week. Stay away from fast.net I say.

My Gene Wolfe blog is now moved to this URL http://members.bellatlantic.net/~vze2tmhh/wolfeblog.html. The other downside to verizon.net is I appear not to be able to use shtml and server side includes. (fast.net claimed I couldn't do that on their site either, but since it was working i dind't feel like contradicting them. They also claim that they only allow FTP when I am disled in to their service, but that was manifestly untrue as I ftped from work and from home on verizon.net. Blogger's ftp stopped working though.) So some of my hope for the Wolfe site (random quote engine, integrating the latest blog entry on the main page) will be on longer hiatus. [Hey, maybe Jon Barlow wants to hook me up with some pro bono hosting for the purposes of Wolfe promotion...]

Another fun thing we found cleaning house was some old books from the previous owner (not Mr. Fleer, of Fleer bubble gum whom the house was built for, but a subsequent owner). One of which was part of Henry Smith Williams The Story of Modern Science copyright 1921 and 1931. I opened the pocket-sized hardback to read the frontispiece: "Volume VII: Improving the Race". I haven't had much of a chance to peruse the book yet so I'm not sure how egregious it is yet.

Some fun links: The Mines of Moria is a humorous take on the LotR films done with action figures. Monty Python: The Fellowship of the Ring is a somewhat popular parody mix done by one my coworkers.

I paint miniatures (wargame/rpg) as a hobby. Work like this makes you just want to give up! (I guess that would make my wife happy though...)

I hope my downtime on hierodulia hsn't totally kiboshed what little interest my blog has generated. I'm shocked nobody's commented on the cat picture yet. Do folks like the underline links, or the bold links? Let me know

July 29, 2002

More Disturbing Pictures

Afficianados of preprocessed baked goods might find this a bit disturbing.

July 27, 2002


This is a picture we found cleaning my parent's house. My mom worked in a animal behavior lab after getting her psychology degree from Bryn Mawr. This depicts her applying EKG fluid to a cat about to be subjected to some kind of neural test. If you look closely you can see the electrodes in the cat's head. The picture is of course quite staged, and it's stamped on the back "National Institutes of Health, Public Health Service", and with the name of the photographer, one Sam Silverman. I believe this was taken for some brochure or such about the lab. There is another picture of the cat with the director of the lab hodling what looks like a test lamp. Perhaps the experiment was to demonstrate neural activity in reponse to light.

We've been helping my parents for the past month, this month and next in cleaning out the house I grew up in. My parents are either moving ot Arizona to my late aunt's old house or to an apartment locally. There is much to do. We're trashing stuff, taking stuff home, and gettign ready for a yard sale (August 17th if you wnat to put it on your calendar). My dad got rid of two of the three dead cars that sat in the garage and driveway today. Finally.

There is so much to go though... Today we reached an amicable settlement of some of the funinture we'd all been eyeing. This is good. Today I helped move more trash boxes down from my dad's office. I also went through a few cabinets we hadn't hit yet. My dad's been holding some old 7" reel-to-reel tapes of Sunday School classes taught by John Murray in the early 70s. If any of you technically minded folk have any info on how to convert them to mp3s or something I'd appreciate it. They probably have experienced alot of magnetic "overstamping" over the years so I'm not expecting much in the way of quality.

July 26, 2002

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Another movie I now know to anticiapte (it comes out next year) is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. This movie is based on the 6-issue comic book (collected in one volume hardback which seems to be out of print) by Alan Moore. The comic's conceit is to gather together all the "pulp heroes" of late 19th century fiction in a Superhero League. So we have Capatain Nemo, Alan Quartermain, Dr Jeckyl, etc. One of the enjoyable things about the comic was the obessive level of intertextuality in the background of the story. A sequel to the comic was supposed to be in the works, but I haven't heard much about it. Apparently pricipal photography has begun on the film however.

The occasional grim humor in the comic makes me wonder if the film will play for laughs, in terms of contrast with 20th-21st century mores. Somehow I doubt they'll trust Moores intelligent and subtle characterization in favor of more broadly appealing characters. At least they've cast an actual Indian actor as Nemo.

July 25, 2002

1. Saddest movie you've seen: Wit. The one I cried the most at was Frequency. I cried at Beaches too though.

2. Funniest movies you've seen: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,

3. Irrational fears you had as a child: That our car would crash anytime it went by the Schulkyl river and we'd sink to the bottom and drown.

4. Was there a book you had as a child that you were scared to read because the pictures were scary? None, but there was a ghost stories book I got at the library that really creeped me out with some story about a seance gone horribly wrong. I've never been able to determine what anthology that was afterwards either...

5. If you could have one talent in the world, it would be... Playing a musical instrument

6. Language I'd most like to master in my lifetime: Japanese, but I'm not going to.

7. What is your favorite city? Philadelphia

8. What is your favorite memory about the city in #7? The Bicentennial.

9. Do you root for the favorite or the underdog? Underdog. And as a follow up to #3 and #4, I had begged for an Underdog bedsheet when I was a kid and then when I got it I was afraid of it.

10. Left-handed people are: people with left-handedness

11. Animal you'd most like to see on the endangered species list: mice

12. Milk chocolate or dark chocolate? Dark

13. Movie with worst casting decision: I dunno... Star Wars: The Phantom Menace?

14. Most interesting foreign accent: Singaporean, because it's got a british twang to it.

15. Rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, well, or just plain tartare? Medium

16. Have you ever had fondue? No.

17. Something interesting you've learned listening to NPR: That their interviewers can't get Elie Weisel to say what they wanted him to say

18. Can you balance a redox equation?: I had a terrible chem teacher at Central so I never learned this in high school until I got to that type of equation in Algebra II. Then it was easy.

A Comment on Sullivan

I like reading Sullivan, but sometimes his hermetic attitude of detachment shows through. I also am convinced sometimes I read the exact same "take" on a news item on another blog first and then see Sullivan parrot it unattributed, but I haven't come up with any clear examples. I thought todays gratuitous sexual metaphor discussing a Times puff piece of Powell was oddly juxtaposed

not a single qualification to what, even for Powell, must be an embarrassingly fellatial profile. What next: formal beatification?

Uh, isn't that sort of proposed continuum just the issue in the current scandals in the priesthood?

July 24, 2002

My fifteen seconds of non-fame

So Andrew Sullivan complained that "Social Conservatives" are "mute" with regards to postive portrayals of hetero pedophilia in the culture. His evidence is that nobody was outraged about some new movie called "Tadpole" where a teen boy is involved with an older woman. I'd never heard of the movie, and Rod Dreher of the National Review (one of Sullivan's targets) hadn't either. So I thought this was an unwaranted leap. So I fired off this email, which Sullivan excerpted!

The full text is below:
Sorry Rod Dreher is a bit busy right now.

*I'm* outraged as a social conservative. How's that.

I think social conservatives are fatigued fighting stuff like movies like Tadpole, or Something about Mary, or whatever other piece of filth Hollywood produces down the pike.

Using their supposed muteness (how long has the movie been out?) as proof of inconsistency or agenda-exposing is invalid in this case.

There *is* a difference too, according to biblical Christian principles. A boy seduced by an older woman is sinning, but a boy seduced by a man is seduced contrary to nature. The B-W relationship is a model of what he should end up doing (having sex inside of a relationship of sexual complementarity in marriage), a B-M relationship is not what he ever should be doing.

Paul Duggan

I hope my quick-and dirty point is coherent. Sullivan thinks it is, FWIW.

July 16, 2002

Lord of the Kia

Must remember to Test Drive a Kia Sorento next month.

July 14, 2002

New Andrew Niccol Film

I just discovered that a new Andrew Niccol film will be coming out August 16. It's called S1M0NE and is about a film producer who creates a digital actress who nobody knows is fake. Niccol is responsible for The Truman Show and Gattaca, which had some intersting themes and symbolism.

A Blockbuster Night to Remember

We rented A Walk to Remember, starring Mandy Moore, this past Friday. The film was good and refreshing in that it portrayed teenagers fairly realisticly while allowing Mandy Moore to also portray a moral Christian character sympatheticly and realisticly. I was annoyed by the continual use of pop muic in the movie to offer commentary on the events, but that is endemic in any artefact aimed at the MTV generation, who don't know what emotion they are supposed to be feeling unless a song spells it out for them. The film is not a "Christian" movie, in that Jamie Sullivan (Moore) never mentions her faith in terms of a faith in Jesus, merely the generic "God", but how much do you expect? Moore has some good scenes where she holds her bad-boy interest at arms length until he learns to treat her with more respect. Jamie's father is a pastor, and I thought he was not well portrayed in that he had too few lines to extablish him relalisticly in his relationship with his daughter. This made a bit more sense by the time the movie was over in that there are details of Jamie that are not revealed till near the end.

While Jamie stays pure and clean in the movie, the other teens act according to type, so it's not a movie you would go to if you insist on something G-rated. (its not).

The DVD commentary was semi-interesting. The director (Adam Shankman) describes himself as a gay jew to the purpose of saying you shouldn't be suprised its not "Christian movie", with Christian understood as beat-you-over-the-head, and see the bad-boy get "converted" by the pure girl at the end. He makes comments on how some Christians have written a bunch of letters to them with their objections to certain elements in the movie. I'm not sure I blame them, since there seems to have been a concerted effort to market this movie (as with Chariots of Fire) to Christian audiances. Some things could have been cleaned up or Jamie's faith could have been given more depth if they tried harder. The commentary with Moore and Shane West really grates at times when the teens keep going on about how much they like this or that song, and there are a bunch of time where they group forgets they are supposed to be explaining the film and start making personal plans! Also my suspension of disbelief is now destroyed since Shankman tells what he tells Moore to think about to get her to cry when she needs to.

What made me really want to blog this was my experience renting it at Blockbuster. I went up to the counter with it and a Blue's Clues video and handed it to the clerk. He looked down at it and up and me, and said "is this yours?"

"yes, why?"

"well the name on the card says you're a guy but I'm not sure this is something a guy would be renting."

I decided to respond with humor instead of yelling for his manager like I should have.

"Well you pretty clearly have a a guy standing here renting the movie so I wouldn't try arguing with that".


I'm apparently not the only one to get a dorky-meme spam that start off "There is something extremely wrong with every single person in this world. They seem to be part of a pointless simulation.". Their site is here. What losers. I guess its more interesting as spam goes.

July 12, 2002

Copy Rites

This song [mp3, 4.2mb] you can download without violating the creators copyright. But you should know that the song's creator was accused of violating Dan Rather's rights. (the accusation was withdrawn). A fun song. It's been on Npr.

Ender's Game and Hollywood Racial issues

My wife and I both like Orson Scott Card's novel Ender's Game and the sequels it has spawned, (she's read way more of them than I have though). Card has been working on a film version of the book, which is still aways off. It's going to incorporate details from both the first novel and a "parallel novel" Card wrote more recently called Ender's Shadow, which follows the story of a secondary character in the Game book. Aint-it-cool-news.com had a report recently from someone who was at Endercon (an SF con just for the Ender series!) and heard Card speak on his experiences dealing with hollywood. This was the shocking quote for me:
A second clause [in his contract with the studio] he did not get in was this; [that] the races/nationalities of the children in the battleschool reflect, approximately and proportionally, the races/nationalities of the world. In other words only about 25% white, if that; it is after all a worldwide school, taking only the twenty brightest children, culled from the entire world, about every 3-6 months. He was flat out told "Not a chance in hell. There will be a handful of token characters from other races but every other child will be white." As the studio execs pointed out, if there are too many background characters that aren't white, white people will be afraid to go see it.

This sore point brought on a five-minute rant on Hollywood's racism. Interesting here is how he has had execs tell him that Mazor Rackham or Graff (main characters, and in one draft the same character) had to be white because they are the key adults, and no black actor can carry a big budget film alone. He tried to bring up Will Smith, but they smugly pointed out that Will Smith films only, ONLY, work because he is paired with a white guy for white people to go see. As OSC told them and us, people go to a Will Smith summer blockbuster to see Will Smith, not Jeff Goldblum! .

This seems to me 1) dumb 2) short sighted 3) very risk-averse 4) reflective of the racism of hollywood and the general culture. In terms of the last one, the dynamic seems to me to be the more virulent racism of the past pushed hollywood to make these kind of policies standard, and then stupid corporate inertia keeps them there when their target market (sf fans and people in their teens and 20s) is certainly ready (and waiting) to see someone approach diversity in casting with some boldness.

I also realize how hard it is to find counterexamples to break that kind of argument. I've seen lots of films with Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Samuel Jackson, etc, but they always have a white costar. (and they usually end up helping the white co star reach his epiphany or resolve his plot issues or whatever). And I didn't really want to go see Ali or... (hmm, what "all black" movie can I put into that slot.) It being hard to find counterexamples, the catch-22 of being unable to develop a genre film with arbitrarily chosen racial heroes will keep the status quo.

Anyway. Tangentially, my wife got "into" Card when she was assigned to read Speaker for the Dead (the second book in the Ender series) in an anthropology class. Its a great book for an anthro class, as the scientists have to deal with sorting out what of the "primitive" beliefs of the aliens are rooted in fact and which are mythology. And if you want to read the worst interview of Card ever, you can check it out at salon.com

July 11, 2002


My op.net ISP changes connections willy nilly and isn't keen on helping me figure out getting blogger working. So here is the new site.

It will have to be "good enough" for now. I wish verizon did server side includes though.

De script shun




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