Tuesday, July 31, 2007

These aren't the droids you're looking for.

The Times has a list of the 50 greatest movie/TV robots of all-time. And I'd like to have an interesting spirited discussion about it. But a list that clocks C-3P0 in at #45--only five slots ahead of Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man--can only be mocked. Mercilessly.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Spock Lives!

Yet again, no reputable media organization was willing to send me to Comic-Con to provide important coverage. Their loss. They missed out on important news like this: Spock is coming back to the big screen!

Advantage: Blogosphere

The best quarterback in the league now has his own blog. He has comments enabled.

Raise your hand if you think there's a chance this ends well.

New Hotness

Galley Friend M.G. passes us along to that: a 16-foot Lego USS Harry Truman. Follow the link for more photos, including one of it in the water.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Tony Lane was very unkind to Danny Boyle's new movie, but Massawyrm loves it, with this very funny caveat:

[I]f one thing is bothering me about this it is one of the lynch pins of the premise. You see, the sun is dying. And what is Hollywood's response? I know, let's strap a bunch of astronauts to the back of a bomb and launch them headlong into the sun. Um, okay. That sounds…plausible enough. Fortunately for me I'm buddies with Copernicus, our resident real life Astrophysicist. And he assured me that Hollywood actually has it right.

Wyrm, he reassured me, I understand how hard it is to understand for a layman like yourself, but we scientists are working hard every day to solve the astrophysical problems of tomorrow with the nuclear weapon technology of today. For example, say the core of the earth were to stop spinning. "Wait, the core of the Earth could stop spinning?" Sure, and when it does, we're gonna strap what we scientists refer to as a BIG FUCKALL BOMB to the back of a drill and send it straight towards the center of the Earth.

"Wait, but what if say an Asteroid were to collide with the planet?" Well then we'd have to send a drill out into space to strap a bomb to the back to. But of course, that would require oil drillers – which you'd have to train as astronauts first. Fortunately for us, their skill sets are very similar.

"But what if, say, a large comet were discovered by someone, like, Frodo? What then?" Well, then we'd have to send astronauts out with robot drills that we could strap a BIG FUCKALL BOMB to. "Wait. Do you always need a drill?" Oh, heavens no. Only when you need one. If you're gonna send a nuclear weapon into the sun, you don't need to drill down into it. That would just be silly. Wyrm, what you're failing to grasp is that there is little in this universe that can't be improved by shoving a big fuckall bomb right up its ass. I mean, sure, thirty years ago nuclear weapons were only good for commies and aliens – you'd just nuke em from from orbit. It was the only way to be sure. But could you imagine what it would be like if Disney had been aware of the advances we've made today? Do you realize what could have happened at the end of THE BLACK HOLE? "That would be fucking awesome!" Yeah, that's exactly what Stephen Hawkings said.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jersey Love

Pajiba gives us this kind of awesome video, featuring a young lady named Chunky Pam singing--nay, rapping--about the joys of Jersey. Somehow both Toms River and Parsippany are mentioned, but Moorestown isn't. Thats whack. Wiggedy whack. Yo.

Also, I take Reihan in a rap-battle. Or pose-down. Or whatever they call it.

Buffy Season 8

Galley Hero Herc points us to an actual Pubisher's Weekly story on how the comic book Buffy Season 8 is minting new comics readers. I can't say I'm surprised--and what's really wild is that BS8 isn't even the best comic book Joss Whedon is writing right now.

Go ahead and mock me, but hear this: Whedon's run of Astonishing X-Men may be the best thing he's written to date in any medium.

Truth or Onion?

I can't tell if this story is a gag or not. I report, you decide:

Senator is a Level-70 Dwarf Priest in World of Warcraft

What if a senator was playing games instead of bashing them?

It’s already happening in Guam, where as reported by the Pacific Daily News, Sen. Ray Tenorio (left) is a serious, level-70 WoW player. Tenorio’s avatar is a Dwarf priest named Paleray on the Silverhand server. He’s a member of a guild, of course, the Knights of the Marianas.

NB: I gave up WoW so long ago that I don't even remember what level my mage was. I swear.

Bubble Watch

Galley Friend A.W. sends us this awesome link noting the eerie similarity between Baghdad Bob and the housing industry.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Weirdest Thing You'll See This Week

So it's "Thriller." Only in the Philippines. In a prison yard. Acted and danced . . . by inmates. Like 400 of them. In orange jumpsuits.

Except for the girl.

Go watch it. No. You know you want to.

It Came From the Deep

Galley Friend M.G. is trying to make sure I never go back into the ocean again. Ever. That's the only explanation for him sending us this link to a list (with pictures and discussion) of some of the weirdest, freakiest super-deep sea fish ever.

There are lots of highlights, including the megamouth shark and the tiny octopus which proved so deadly to a certain Bond villain. But I think this dude might be my least favorite:

Go look. If. You. Dare.

Colossal Squid!

Okay, not colossal, they're only jumbo. But there are a whole lot of them off the coast of central California and they're up to 7 feet and about 110 lbs.

Very uncool.

Get Snopes on Line 1

Patrick Ruffini, whom I like very much, has linked to a YouTube clip purporting to be what Gen. Patton would say about the war on terrorism.

I'm afraid Ruffini has been hoaxed--clearly that is the voice of Admiral Ackbar, not George S. Patton.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pajiba Love

In discussing Emmy nominations, the TV Whore notes that Two and a Half Men got nearly twice as many nominations as Veronica Mars and Battlestar Galactica combined (seven to four).


And then Galley Friend D.R. starts a discussion on movies you've walked out on. To my eyes, his list is slightly heretical (Fellowship of the F'ing Ring?), but that's neither here nor there. The first flick I ever walked out on was Nightwatch. Best decision I ever made.

The Fresh Posh

The Fug Girls are back: "This party is OFF THE HOOK! I wonder if the DJ will play 'Willennium' if I ask."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Man vs. Fake?

Don't get me wrong, I love Man vs. Wild. Can't get enough of it. But there's always been something about Bear Grylls which reminded me ever-so-uncomfortably of Gilderoy Lockheart. I've tried to sublimate those suspicions as much as I could, but now this story is making it harder:

But an adviser to Born Survivor has disclosed that at one location where the adventurer claimed to be a “real life Robin-son Crusoe” trapped on “a desert island”, he was actually on an outlying part of the Hawaiian archipelago and spent nights at a motel.

On another occasion in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains where he was filmed biting off the head of a snake for breakfast and struggling for survival “with just a water bottle, a cup and a flint for making fire”, he actually slept some nights with the crew in a lodge fitted with television and internet access. The Pines Resort at Bass Lake is advertised as “a cosy getaway for families” with blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

In one episode Grylls, son of the late Tory MP Sir Michael Grylls, was shown apparently building a Polynesian-style raft using only materials around him, including bamboo, hibiscus twine and palm leaves for a sail.

But according to Mark Weinert, an Oregon-based survival consultant brought in for the job, it was he who led the team that built the raft. It was then dismantled so that Grylls could be shown building it on camera.

In another episode viewers watched as Grylls tried to coax an apparently wild mustang into a lasso in the Sierra Nevada. “I’m in luck,” he told viewers, apparently coming across four wild horses grazing in a meadow. “A chance to use an old native American mode of transport comes my way. This is one of the few places in the whole of the US where horses still roam wild.”

In fact, Weinert said, the horses were not wild but were brought in by trailer from a nearby trekking station for the “choreographed” feature.

“If you really believe everything happens the way it is shown on TV, you are being a little bit naive,” he said.

Channel 4 confirmed that Grylls had used hotels during expeditions and has now asked Diverse, the Bristol-based production company that made the programme, to look into the other claims.

This is just amazing!

For Our Friends at the National Association of Realtors

One of my pet theories is that by the end of the decade, realtors will hold a similar position in the public's mind that junk bond traders did in the 1980s and trial lawyers did in the 1990s. If the real estate market really does crash, they will bear an enormous part of the blame for the way they shamelessly and irresponsibly helped inflate the bubble which began in the beginning of the decade ("Now is a great time to buy . . . or sell!").

So how bad is the housing situation? In my neck of the woods in Northern Virginia, I wouldn't say it's apocalyptic, but it's pretty bad. Stop on any corner in Old Town Alexandria and you can see three, four, or five For Sale signs, and once properties go on the market, they seem to be staying there for a long time. But elsewhere in the VA burbs, it's worse. To that end, check out this great site on the NoVa housing bubble. The percentage price reductions are kind of terrifying--lots of listing prices off 30+ percent from their prior sale prices 12 to 24 months ago.

Of course the NAR is already claiming that housing prices are totally going to recover in 2008!

Obligatory PS3 Post

The latest numbers from Japan--Sony's big firewall for the PS3--are in. They're chilling, if you're Sony:

Yesterday, international news wire Reuters reported that Sony's PlayStation 3 had sold its 1 millionth console in Japan, nearly six months to the day after the publisher claimed to have shipped 1 million consoles to its home market. Citing numbers published by Famitsu publisher and gaming-industry tracker Enterbrain, Reuters also reported that Nintendo's Wii was at the precipice of its own milestone, having sold 2.9 million units in the Land of the Rising Sun as of July 8. . . .

However, both consoles have well surpassed Microsoft's Xbox 360, which has sold 420,000 consoles in Japan as of mid-July, according to Enterbrain.

Pay attention to the fact that it took Sony six months to sell off the number of consoles they had shipped. That doesn't say good things about demand.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Potter Watch

Is it wrong to be staked out at a table in Barnes & Noble at 8:03 p.m.?

Or rather, how wrong is it?

Bonus: This is the Geek Weekend from Heaven--HP tonight and The Buffy Horror Picture Show tomorrow night. Throw in a comic book convention and, well . . .

Geek Alert

Got my Barnes & Noble line bracelet for tonight. Number 32.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Harry Potter Spoilers

Just a request: Until July 28, please don't post any HP spoilers in the comments, or email them to me.



This is more in the interest of full disclosure than of intimate communication, but I figured it's only fair to give the packs of Sony-loving readers some ammunition for when they accuse me of being an anti-Sony malcontent.

Pursuant to my question the other day, I finally decided to get an HD-DVD player. Not that you care--but I want to give a short defense of this decision in order to attempt to protect my objectivity on Blu-Ray/HD-DVD matters going forward.

So let me start with this: This is not a Harry Knowles-like decision. All of my "director friends" are not swearing by HD-DVD. It's not even clear to me that HD-DVD is going to win the format war. In spite of my great misgivings about Blu-Ray, I find some of the Blu-Ray inevitability arguments relating to the importance of content very, very persuasive. I won't be shocked if, in 24 months, Blu-Ray emerges as the dominant format.

So what does HD-DVD have going for it? Price. (And for me, necessity; I needed a new DVD player asap.) The HD-DVD player I bought cost less than half of the entry-level Blu-Ray machine and amounted to only $100 more than a standard, solid upconverting player (it was even a bit cheaper than the higher-end Oppo unit that everyone seems to love so much; *and* it comes with five free HD-DVD movies).

What I did was basically place a very small bet on the HD-DVD format that, win or lose, will be spread over at least 18 to 24 months. That's low-stakes poker. So much so that I think I'll be able to stay reasonably objective on Blu-Ray/HD-DVD matters going forward.

My basic analysis of which still stands: If a new hi-def disc format takes off in the near term, I think HD-DVD will do very well. They've got the cheaper players and if they take a sizable lead in the stand-alone player market over the next 18 months or so, then there's a chance Fox and/or Disney will peel off from Blu-Ray and become platform agnostic, which puts them in a strong position going forward. If, however, Blu-Ray keeps the stand-alone numbers close until they get their price down in the $200-range, then I think their content advantage eventually overwhelms HD-DVD. (Remember that in all of this the presence of upconversion somewhat mitigates the advantages of content exclusivity and, to my cheap-skate mind, gives more importance to price-point.)

And then there's the Sony thing: Every time I think about Blu-Ray's advantages I'm brought back to Sony's PS3 non-price-drop, and I think, This is the gang that can't shoot straight. How on earth could they ever win a format war?

In sum, I'm happy with my HD-DVD, at least for now. The Toshiba HD-A2 is pretty much a dream: easy set-up, sensible nav menus, and very solid upconversion. If it becomes obsolete and I have to buy a $200 Blu-Ray in a couple years then it's no big deal--I needed a new DVD player in the interim anyway. If this turns out to be the player I keep for the next 10 years, then that's a bonus.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Harry Potter Predictions

They're going around. Tom Maguire and the Soccer Dad have theirs up. The Hogwarts Professor has a bunch. And the amazing Janet Batchler has predictions on basically everything, including horcruxes and who will die. (She also has this whoppingly good theory on Harry's death.)

I don't have any thoughts of my own independent of these deep thinkers--Batchler and Granger, in particular, I think, are going to look very smart come Saturday morning. So my amalgamated thoughts are that:

* Per J.B., Harry "dies" in a non-permanent way in order to get to the Dark Lord.

* Hagrid, once slated for death, is spared by JKR, but figures prominently in the denouement. As does Grawp.

* Tonks and Lupin survive.

* Ron and Hermione survive.

* The Weasleys are not through suffering, though. Percy bites it and either Fred & George or Bill & Fleur don't make it out alive.

* Dead is dead and Dumbledore ain't coming back. But I suspect he has left Harry a little something to help him along.

* Voldemort and Bellatrix, obviously, are toast. Ditto Fenmir Grayback.

* All of which comes at a cost. Luna, Neville, and Minerva McG are all in play. And I do stand by my prediction that, in the grand tradition of Joss Whedon, someone we care about dies early to serve notice that there is going to be blood on the floor.

* Which leaves Snape. I've been championing Snape since Book 1, much to the consternation of all who know me. I became convinced, even at the end of Half-Blood Prince, that Snape was a quadrupe-agent (think about it: that's what he'd have to be) working for the Order of the Phoenix.

But now I'm not so sure. I wonder if the big surprise is that sometimes things are what they seem, and Snape really is evil. We know that Dumbledore's judgment is highly imperfect. We know, also, by the end of HPB, that Harry's judgment is much improved (i.e. his obsession with Draco's project). Maybe it turns out that Harry was right all along.

Then again, it's possible that Snape is more of a Prince in the Florentine sense of the word, as John Granger supposes. Or, it's possible that, as all sophisticates now believe, Snape really is on the side of the angels due to his feelings for and about Lilly Potter.

More later.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Save Ferris

The Pig sends us this excellent link to an Australian paper's everything-I-need-to-know-I-learned-from-Ferris-Bueller essay.

Crikey, it's good!

God won't save you
Cameron crosses himself when he realises Ferris is taking the Ferrari and we know where that gets him.

Bonus trivia: As Cameron states, less than 100 of the cars were made with no two being the same. They are valued at over US $3 million. However, the car used in the movie was actually a modified MGB.

Extra bonus trivia: According to Save Ferris website, "the Ferrari's personalised license plate was NRVOUS standing for, of course, nervous. Did you know that all of the Bueller cars' license plates were also personalised and referred to other John Hughes films?

"Tom Bueller's license plate reads MMOM referring to Mr Mom. Katie Bueller's reads VCTN referring to National Lampoon's Vacation and Jeanie's license reads TBC which, of course, refers to The Breakfast Club. Ed Rooney's plates read 4FBDO, standing for, For Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

The Number 10,000

So the Phillies lose 10,000 games and suddenly everyone in the world is talking about how they're the losing-est team in history. Well guess what: That 10,000th loss didn't put them over the hump or anything. They've been the losing-est team in pro sports for my entire life. Everyone else is just noticing.

Either that, or my theory that Philadelphia is America's new BoSox is beginning to take hold!

The Man Who Hated Harry Potter

Pity Ron Charles:

It happened on a dark night, somewhere in the middle of Book IV. For three years, I had dutifully read the "Harry Potter" series to my daughter, my voice growing raspy with the effort, page after page. But lately, whole paragraphs of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" had started to slip by without my hearing a word. I'd snap back to attention and realize the action had moved from Harry's room to Hagrid's house, and I had no idea what was happening.

And that's when my daughter broke the spell: "Do we have to keep reading this?"

O, the shame of it: a 10-year-old girl and a book critic who had had enough of "Harry Potter." We were both a little sad, but also a little relieved. Although we'd had some good times at Hogwarts, deep down we weren't wild about Harry, and the freedom of finally confessing this secret to each other made us feel like co-conspirators.

Along with changing diapers and supervising geometry homework, reading "Harry Potter" was one of those chores of parenthood that I was happy to do -- and then happy to stop.

Ordinarily, I'd be inclined to give Charles a break because taste is individual and whatnot, but his essay isn't just a personal dissent, but an attack on those who like Harry Potter: He charges that we suffer from "cultural infantilism."

For my own part, of course, guilty as charged. But I'd like to stick up for the rest of you, the legions of reasonably sophisticated people who enjoy Harry Potter.

There's no need for a point-by-point refutation of Charles, since his entire argument for how childish the Harry Potter series is rests on his assertion that he and his daughter were bored by it. QED. So I'll simply suggest that this essay is such a perfectly predictable miniaturization of counter-intuition for its own sake that the only thing surprising or interesting about it is that it didn't run in Slate.

Friday, July 13, 2007

No Comment

Clearly the guys at KSK have been delving into Matus's fantasy world. That's the only explanation for this.

BSG: Claymania!

Remember when I told you that Baby Copy would be the funniest thing you saw all week? Lies! Vicious lies!

I give you, the entire plot of Battlestar Galactica, in 2 minutes and 40 seconds. In clay.

That. Just. Happened.

About Sony . . .

Maybe my hi-def DVD decision is being made for me? Remember Sony's much ballyhooed price drop from a few days ago? They were going to cut $100 off of their 60 gig model (making it only $499) while they simultaneously introduced an 80 gig model for $599. Astute observers noted at the time, that this didn't really amount to much of a price drop, since when the PS3 originally went on sale, it offered a less-spiffy model at $499, which they subsequently discontinued. All this did was re-establish a $499 model.

Except that they didn't!!!

Sony now announces, days after their "price-drop" announcement, that, come to think of it, they're just going to discontinue the $499 60 gig model. Leaving them with only the $599 80 gig.

Which makes this less of price cut and more of a short-term clearance sale.

Seriously, who's running this company? Because this is Exhibit 3,794 as to why corporate CEOs are criminally overpaid.

On Golf

Galley Friend Dean Barnett has a very sweet and moving ode to Tom Watson, calling him the best player to come along between Tiger and Jack. He means in golf.

I kid! Watson may be something, I wouldn't know. My experience with golf pretty much ended after my second summer working as a caddy at the local country club. (A club, I might add, that was all Judge Smails and no Ty Webb.) But I was struck that the occasion for Dean's paean was Watson nearly winning the U.S. Senior Open, which Dean calls a significant tournament. I'm sure Dean's right, and that it is. Which is one more reason why I hate--and I don't use the word lightly--hate golf.

Golfers have the longest athletic life of any professional athletes. (NB: I will not include race car drivers. Period.) They can play in something near top form for 20 years, easily. Nicklaus is Nicklaus, but he won a major at age 46. This isn't like Nolan Ryan pitching in the Bigs or Jimmy Connors making a long-shot run at the U.S. Open around the ages of 40. This is being closer to 50 and actually being capable of being an individual champion.

So it's a little strange that we would invent an old-timers tour for a bunch of guys who have already gotten to play their sports professionally longer than any other athletes. Particularly when no other serious sport has a has-been league.

Steve Czaban insists that golfers are the most coddled athletes in pro sports. It sure seems like it to me, if for no other reason than this: These guys can compete for forever and even when they eventually "retire," they never have to go away. There's still a league willing to throw money at them and even concoct pretend "majors."

The PGA's senior tour began in 1980, I think, and in a way, it's a perfect symbol of Boomer self-entitlement. Any sport that has room for that kind of nonsense is perilously close to not being much of a sport at all.

HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray (cont.)

So what are your thoughts on the matter? I've been hard on Sony for a long while about their quest to assure the success of Blu-Ray even at the cost of their game division. Now I'm considering taking the plunge myself and getting a hi-def DVD player. So what should I get? The evidence is contradictory.

Let's start with the raw numbers. 1.3 million Blu-Ray machines have been sold, versus only 150,000 HD-DVD machines. However, of those 1.3 million Blu-Rays, 1.2 million have been PS3's. So of the stand-alone boxes, the two systems are very close. You can see how close, exactly, by looking at the number of discs of each format which have been sold: Blu-Ray has the slight edge with 1.5 million units versus 1.2 million for HD-DVD. Which suggests that the PS3's are not being used very often as DVD consoles, meaning that the 1.3 million Blu-Ray player number isn't as important as it might seem.

Then there's price. On both lines, the price is falling. But Blu-Ray is still significantly more expensive. $499 seems to be about as low as they go, whereas you can find a second-gen HD-DVD player for about $220. So far, most of this seems to point towards HD-DVD.

That said, Toshiba is pulling back their expectations on sales numbers and this essay calling the fight in favor of Blu-Ray is interesting, if not dispositive. The nub of the argument is that looking at the top movies of 2007 so far, 52% of them will be exclusive to Blu-Ray, 10% will be exclusive to HD-DVD, and 37% will come to both formats. Looking at the top 100 movies of 2006, the numbers are even more in favor of Blu-Ray: 60% were exclusive to that format.

That's a big deal. But the question becomes, will the content drive the medium, or the price? I'm not sure. Ordinarily I would lean toward content, but in this case "exclusive" doesn't really mean exclusive, since you can buy the movie on regular DVD and upconvert, which I would think allows consumers to be more sensitive to price. But maybe I'm wrong.

Anyway, all of this points to waiting a while longer--unless you happen to need to buy a new DVD player now. Which I do. So, any thoughts? Do I stick with a normal upconverting player? Or take a chance on one of the other formats?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Funny or Die

As usual, I'm like 18 months late to the party, but this is the funniest thing you'll see this week.

Good Cop, Baby Cop

Sony Style

Really, I'm not anti-Sony in principle. In fact, I just bought a DVD player from them (I had to return it, because it didn't work, but they handled the return pretty well) and I'm really wrestling with whether or not to take a flier on an HD-DVD or a Blu-Ray player. And it's a close call, with merits to both sides.

But this report from Sony's presentation at E3 is dispiriting:

[The Sony president] starts by giving us, gasp, numbers on the PS2.

Umm, when you open your showcase by boasting about how your previous-gen console is doing, that isn't going to inspire confidence.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Drive Time

Via AICN, Tim Minear tells us what might have been.

Civilization is coming to Wii

'Nuff said.


As a child, I often imagined that everything interesting in the world happened in Australia. I was right:

CANBERRA, Australia - One of the largest giant squid ever found has washed up on a remote Australian beach, sparking a race against time by scientists to examine the rarely seen deep-ocean creature.

The squid, the mantle or main body of which measured 6.5 feet-long, was found by a walker late on Tuesday on Ocean Beach, near Strahan, on the western coast of island state Tasmania.

“It’s a whopper,” Tasmanian Museum senior curator Genefor Walker-Smith told local media on Wednesday. “The main mantle is about one meter across and its total length is about eight meters.”

Scientists would take samples from the creature, identified by state parks officials as an Architeuthis, which can grow to more than 33 feet in length and weigh more than 606 pounds. The Tasmanian animal weighed more than 500 pounds, Pemberton said.

Now that the magic of cinema has given us the AC-130 in action, isn't it time we get to see giant squid vs. sperm whale?

Daniel Radcliffe the "Actor"?

In Slate, Dana Stevens has this to say about Daniel Radcliffe:

Radcliffe is a notoriously serious and hardworking actor—in his spare time between Potter movies, he's not clubbing with Lindsay Lohan but appearing as the tormented lead in the West End production of Equus. At times, that work ethic gets in his way . . .

Really? Maybe he is notoriously hardworking and serious and I just don't know about it. From what I can tell, since being cast as Harry Potter six years ago, he's appeared in a 30-minute episode of Extras, an independent film called December Boys and has been in two stage productions--as a special guest in The Play What I Wrote and as a lead in Equus. This is nothing to be ashamed of, but I don't know that it calls to mind a fellow obsessed with the work.

As for his extra-curriculars, it's overstating things, I think, to suggest that he's been the anti-Lohan. To wit:

'Harry Potter' star Daniel Radcliffe is happy to have sex with girls who are only interested in him because of his fame.

The 17-year-old actor insists he is too young to settle down and is keen to take advantage of any groupies he has.

He said: "Girls who want to go out with me just because I'm famous has never been a problem. I'm 17. I don't care.

"Obviously, if I wanted a deep and meaningful relationship then I wouldn't want to be going out with somebody who is only with me because I'm an actor, but if you don't a relationship like that then it's fine."

However, Daniel is adamant he wouldn't stay with a girl who called him Harry during sex.

He said: "People do call me Harry. I once had a friend call me it by accident. If there's another person in the room called Harry and somebody shouts their name I do respond slightly, which is embarrassing.

"But no one has ever said it in the throws of passion. That would be the end of that session. Go now!"

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Buffy Horror Picture Show

Perhaps not as totally amazing as watching Firefly with beer, but check out the Buffy musical on the big screen, coming soon to an excellent theater near you.

Get Your Fresh Military Porn!

Finally, someone has notched a kill against the F-22.

Go read. And enjoy the headline. Yee-haw.

Slightly Worrisome Order of Phoenix Note

From AICN:

The movie isn’t flawless. It clocks in at 2 hours and 18 minutes, making it the shortest of the series. . .

The longest book becomes the shortest movie? Quint also writes, "Neville’s involvement in the prophecy is completely removed and the occulemency lessons with Snape are significantly pared down."

Those are two important things, no?

What Happened to the Real Soundwave?

The small, annoying boombox Decepticon in Transformers may have left you nostalgic for Soundwave--one of the greats from the original series (and my first Transformer). Galley Reader E.H. sends along this behind the music video which shows what happened to the big guy:

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sony Death Pool

So who had "8 months" as the over-under for the how long until Sony slashed the price of the PS3?

This is pure, unadulterated panic. At this point, Sony has only sold a few million units. If they were going to lop $100 off of the price this soon, they should have done it from the start, ate the additional $400 million loss, and been in a position not to be dead in the water eight months into the next generation of game systems. Four years from now when Sony is trying to figure out how to resurrect their brand with the PS4 (prediction: I think they'll drop the "PS#" from their next-gen console), that $400 million will look like a bargain.

Also, in furtherance of the argument that Sony is the Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight, notice how they announce the price cute while simultaneously announcing another version of the $599 console--which is the price point that scared everyone away to begin with! Way to muddy the waters.

Also, also, as Galley Brother B.J. notes, "Nothing says 'Fuck you' to your base of early adopters like cutting the price less than a year into a new system."

John 3:16

The only explanation for the following is that we have reached the End Times. Witness this: Leapin' Lanny Poffo on Fox New Channel (courtesy of Galley Friend and Savage Family Superfan D.B.). Part 1:

Part 2:

I love Rich Lowry. He's super-smart and a great guy. But I really think it's too much to ask that the man who sits in Bill Buckley's chair also be equipped to handle the poet laureate of the WWF on life television. It's like asking Irving Kristol to juggle chainsaws.

If God is just, Congress will hold hearings and we'll get a parade of these guys on Capitol Hill.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Trailer City

* I'm about as excited for The Kingdom as I have been for a movie (non-Transformers division) in months. And raise your hand if you thought for a second during The Great White Hype that Peter Berg might turn out to be an important director.

* Jodi Foster as Batman? Sign me up. This looks about 20 times better than The Dark Knight.

* I'm not sure what I think of the Jan. 18 J.J. Abrams project, but I am kind of happy to know that if you try real hard you can keep something as big as a movie relatively secret. (One AICN talkbacker has already dubbed it The Godzilla Witch Project." I hope that sticks.)

* And I'll bet Wall E is great and everything, because it's Pixar and isn't loaded with celebrity voices (is it a coincidence that the two least good Pixar films are Bug's Life and Cars?), but the robot looks a lot--I mean a lot--like the gyroscope robot sold with the original NES.

That little robot added an extra $50 to the system's cost--which to an 11-year-old might as well have been an extra million bucks. And then Nintendo made two--2!--games for it.

I hate that robot.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wimbledon Notes

* Little Ana Ivanovic held off a couple of match points and toughed it out against Nicole Vaidasova (Delta Delta Delta Can I Help Ya Help Ya Help Ya?) in a solid match. But the women's side looks like a showdown between Justine Henin, who's making a run at history, and Venus Williams, who looks as good as she ever has. Venus's fourth round win over Maria Sharapova was dominant, probably the best performance of any woman in the tournament thus far.

* Watching Hewitt and Djokovic go at it this morning I was struck by how sometimes you watch a match and you're just sad that someone has to win. Hewitt is slightly more bearable now that he's been neutered (you wonder whether or not he realizes that he'll probably never be in another major's final), but Djokovic is particularly unpleasant because he's looking like he could be the transitional champ once Federer begins to break down in a few years.

Leaving aside Djokovic's Paul Orndorff-style pose-down, his game isn't particularly inspiring. Very solid, very aggressive, good court coverage. He gets by, I think, with a lot of raw athleticism. For whatever it's worth, I much, much prefer Richard Gasquet's game--he's smooth as glass.

* Speaking of which, why is it that we have to sit through every single Roddick blowout, but ESPN/NBC won't show a second of either Gasquet of Baghdatis? I understand they're not stars yet, but they might be soon. The next generation of studs--Gasquet, Baghdatis, Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Rafa, too--are very promising. Promising enough that I think we'll be able to get a true measure of Federer's greatness by seeing how he handles them in a couple years when he's not at the height of his powers.

Still, I wouldn't mind the chance to get to see more of them growing up on court.

(P.S.: Not that I have anything against Roddick. I like his game and I like him. Watching him burst on the scene for the first time at the 2001 U.S. Open was incredibly exciting--that giant, springing serve and his ridiculous, booming forehand. You could tell in about five minutes flat that he was a special player.)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Transformers Notes (Updated)

Saw it last night. Thoughts, in no particular order:

(1) Overall, the movie is a mess. A glorious, amazing mess. I don't think I could recapitulate the plot for you because it made almost no sense. Enormous chunks of the story are either preposterous, contradictory, or completely unnecessary. Of the three main groups of humans the story follows, you could have cut one of them out entirely (the plucky NSA analysts) and missed absolutely nothing.

Many of the action sequences are basically incomprehensible. Also, the dialogue is laughable more often than not. And Michael Bay has grounded the movie so deeply in the present--jokes about Armageddon, references to eBay--that there is little chance of it holding up a decade from now the way, say, Jurassic Park does.

(2) All of that said, I spent the entire 144 minutes basically in the same state Sean William Scott is in here, after Frank the Tank tranqs himself (at the 1:43 mark):

In short, I haven't been this emotionally, physically, and spiritually satisfied by a summer movie in a very long while.

(3) Why? Well, there's the visceral thrill of seeing Optimus Prime--even an Optimus Prime with flames--transforming for the first time. But most of the movie's charms defy explanation. Either you'll be delighted by giant robots fighting in the street and turning into cars, planes, helicopters, and tanks, or you won't.

(4) However, even if you don't dig Transformers, there's much to appreciate. For one thing, Transformers serves as a giant advertisement for the F-22. For another, it's very satisfying to know that while Decepticons are awesome killing machines, the main cannon on an A-10 shreds them like hot BB's through a stick of butter.

And then there's this: Transformers is the first movie I've ever seen to show a Spectre Gunship in action. If that doesn't make it move, you might already be dead.

(5) While I loved Transformers, in Japan this movie might just be Citizen Kane.

Other random observations:

* The unnamed boom-box Decepticon seems clearly modeled on Sebulba.

* The Decepticon side of their home planet looks suspiciously like post-betrayal Isengard.

* In a triumph of product placement, this movie made me really, really want the new Camaro. True story.

* There are so many bit parts filled by Law & Order veterans that I found myself almost a distracted by them. For instance, the fellow who played Anthony Anderson's brother was also the victim on the SVU episode in which Anderson appeared as a detective.

* John Turturro's slightly gonzo MIB routine is totally out of place and yet highly amusing.

* Is Shia LaBeouf the new Wes Bentley or the new Josh Hartnett? Just asking.

Update: Now that I have some distance, it occurs to me that Transformers is actually important in that it does something that's never been done before--it is not just critic-proof, it is judgment proof. Michael Bay has created a work which simply cannot be held to any sort of standard: artistic, logical, moral, critical. He has made a movie which simply is. This is the Holy Grail of modern moviemaking, I think. It's Hollywood's version of a perpetual motion machine.

AICN's Vern tries valiantly to hold Transformers to some objective standard, but in the end I think he fails:

[Bay] is obsessed with sports cars and has never felt a human emotion, how could you do better than hiring him to make a huge expensive movie where the main characters are cars? It's like God made up The Transformers just to get some use out of Michael Bay.

But Michael Bay told God to fuck off, and he went and made a movie about people. After that opening attack you get literally an hour of kiddie movie horse shit about Shia LeBeouf being a nerd and trying to hit on the adult car mechanic Maxim cover girl with a troubled past from his high school.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Wimbledon Notes

I may have mentioned in the past that I'm not the biggest fan of the Williams sisters. Neither of them plays particularly beautiful tennis (although they're both much more complete players than they were even four years ago) and while Venus seems kind of sweet, in her way, Serena seems . . . how to put this? . . . less so.

Which brings us to yesterday's seven-hour (with rain delays) affair. Serena was playing the over-matched Daniela Hantuchova (Galley Friend M.G. refers to her as Hotuchova, see below), winning the first set handily. Late in the second set, Serena suffered a ghastly muscle cramp in her calve--you could see the muscle bulging out and when she initially started whacking at it with her racket to try to break the cramp it made me a little queasy. That's painful stuff.

After an injury timeout, Serena stumbled through the end of the set, losing it. After rain delays, they came back for the third and Serena, improbably, steamrolled Hantuchova. Along the way, she limped a lot. But she moved pretty well when she had to. At one point, she made a big stink about needing a bathroom break before a Hantuchova service game. Per the rules, her request was denied. After the game, the umpire asked if she needed the loo. Miraculously, she did not.

But what struck me through all of this is that Hantuchova only drop-shotted Serena once, rarely hit wide, spinning serves, and, in general, played as if she didn't quite know what to do with a seemingly injured opponent. Give her high marks for sportsmanship, even with Serena grunting and screaming and Richard Williams jumping around in the players' box like a crazed soccer fan.

All of which is prelude to the following question: The top rank of current women's players are a particularly ruthless lot: Serena, Venus, Sharapova, Henin. They employ all sorts of gamesmanship, they show none of the quarter that Hantuchova displayed against Serena, and they almost never look like they're having fun. Why is that?

You don't see that among the top men's players, where Federer, Rafa, Roddick, and most of the elites display the normal balance of anguish, frustration, and euphoria. (There are exceptions: see Hewitt, Leyton.) You certainly didn't see that among the last crop of great women--Hingis, Clijsters, Davenport. I wonder what's in the air in the women's locker room these days.

Whatever it is, I wish it would go away. Sports aren't fun to watch if you get the sense that the players aren't having fun. Not everything is snakes and ladders, of course and I admire competitive drive as much as the next guy. But even Federer and Sampras gave you wry smiles every once in a while on court, as if to say, "Hey, can you believe that?"

I don't think I've ever seen Maria Sharapova smile during a match. Ditto for Serena. The only time Justine Henin smiles is when she's trying to get away with something. Dourness is not--or at least should not be--a prerequisite for success. There will always be Thomas Muster's in the game, but the top players should be better than that.

More Harry Potter Speculation

Like everyone else, I'm re-reading Half-Blood Prince in order to prepare myself for Deathly Hallows and now come two other bits of prognostication.

First, the Soccer Dad maps out the Rowling Uncertainty Principle.

Then, GS Reader C.C. sends us this link to the famed Hogwarts Professor, who makes the mind-blowing case for an Evil Snape (meaning that Snape is a quadruple, not triple, agent; I think).

Those of you who have followed the Hogwarts Professor and his very convincing theories on literary alchemy may recall that he was previously a proponent of the Good Snape. But this scholarly dissection--it runs thousands of words--has me re-examining everything I thought I knew from Half-Blood Prince:

My reason for taking the Evil!Snape position more seriously than I have or than I ever expected to is Ms. Rowling’s fascination with the Italian Renaissance. If this fascination is not news to you, forgive me if I review it here for readers who may have missed it. In brief, the magic of Ms. Rowling’s world is the Hermetic magic of the Italian Renaissance. . . .

* The “good” centaur in the Harry Potter books is named “Firenze.” Firenze is the Italian word for the city of Florence, arguably the center and heart of the 15th Century renaissance of arts and sciences in Northern Italy. Firenze the Centaur is an accomplished astrologer, and, unlike the herd in the Forbidden Forest, he believes that his art does not reveal what must come to pass so everyone should step aside and “let it happen.” Firenze argues with Bane and others what is essentially the humanist “free will” position of Albus Dumbledore that “what is foretold” reveals the playing field of choice. [Friends of Narnia will see Ms. Rowling’s tip of the hat here to Roonwit the Centaur’s final words in The Last Battle.]

* Maybe you don’t like Firenze or the Centaurs. How about Buckbeak the Hippogriff? Ms. Rowling lifts this magical animal right out of Ariosto’s early 16th century epic Orlando Furioso, which is in many ways the completion of Matteo Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato of the late 15th century. Both writers are from Emilio and Ferrara. Hippogriffs are the heroic steeds of Italian Renaissance fantasy epic.

* Ms. Rowling said in 1997 that “To invent this wizard world I’ve learned a ridiculous amount about alchemy… to set the parameters and establish the stories’ internal logic.” If you’ve read Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader (and if you haven’t, you really should), you understand at no little depth how literary alchemy is the skeleton on which Ms. Rowling has built her stories. This is a pointer to Florence and the Renaissance because alchemy, as a Hermetic art, owes its Western rebirth (or better, “second wind”) in the 15th Century to Ficino’s translation at the direction and expense of the Medici of Hermes Trismegistus. Alchemy is a cornerstone of Renaissance magic. . . .

* The Italian Renaissance is largely about the relations between the four Principal Cities of the Peninsula: Florence, Naples, Venice, and Milan. Their inability to get along or even co-operate in shared emergencies leads to their subjection to France (Charles VIII, Louis XII) and Spain (Ferdinand of Aragon). “Four rivals in division being vulnerable to takeover” sound familiar? I suspect, too, that one of the spurs to Ms. Rowling’s creation of Quidditch as experienced at Hogwarts was the Palio di Siena. Though it is now a competition between 17 different sections of the city, these passionate horse races, according to Titus Birckhardt in his book on Siena, were originally between the principal four quarters of the city.

* And, while that mention of Titus Burckhardt is still fresh, two notes. Is it odd that this author of the best book on alchemy in print, though Swiss, was born in Florence and wrote at length about Siena? And that, to University historians at least, the name “Burckhardt” means Jakob Burckhardt, the author of The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, and great uncle of Titus? What I wouldn’t give for a peek at Ms. Rowling’s bookshelf. I’m guessing that her copy of Burckhardt’s Alchemy is the one with the Hagrid Hermaphrodite on a dragon straddling a Golden Snitch and that it sits right right next to Frances Yates’ books on Renaissance magic and Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy.

* There’s more. All the references in the books to specific stars (Sirius, Regulus, etc.) and the importance of astrology both in Divinations and with the Centaurs are pointers again to Renaissance memory-based magic, in which astrology plays a huge part. The Tarot? Again, whether you’re talking about their origins as playing cards or their occult usage, you wind up in 15th Century Italy (specifically, Milan). Remember Boiardo, the hippogriff guy? He wrote a poem on Tarot cards as well.

Ms. Rowling’s magical world, like it or not, is an echo of the hermetic magic and heroic literature of Renaissance Italy. . . .

A little over a month ago I received a letter and essay from a serious reader of Harry Potter named Sally Palmer. She wrote in a very flattering note that she thought I was way off in my arguments that Severus Snape is a Dumbledore man. Ms. Palmer shared a few links to help make her case that the Potions genius is a relativist and power seeker. The links were to essays on The Leaky Cauldron and on MuggleNet that explored Severus Snape in light of Niccolo Machiavelli’s political treatise The Prince.

The case builds from there. Read at your own peril. I loved Snape the minute he called Harry "our new celebrity," but for the first time I'm now wondering that he might be evil.

Small Point of Pride

I've been very much digging the Buffy Season 8 comics, so you can only imagine how surprised and gratified I was to see Dark Horse editor Scott Allie throw out a link on his blog to the little Serenity Tales strip I did with Mike Russell and Bill Mudron, Beginner's Luck:

Autobots Roll Out!

I'm going tonight and, despite myself, I'm kind of psyched. But I make this solemn vow: If any Dinobots show up on the screen, I walk out of the theater.

Conversely, should there be Constructicons I may stay for a second showing. The Wershovenist Pig was, as usual, the first person I knew to have all five (six?) of them, and when formed them up into the Super-Duper Mega Constructicon--or whatever it was called--it was like a new awakening of coolness. Easily the best day of high school.

To tide you over until showtime, here's a Transformers clip that's been sort of Fun With Real Audio-ed, Robert Smigel stizz.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Chris Benoit and Unions

Writing about Benoit and the future of wrestling last week, I said that it wouldn't surprise me if this was the end of the line for the WWE, the McMahon family, or maybe even pro wrestling as we know it. Here's a piece I wrote making the case for the necessity of a pro wrestler's union.

I know, it sounds crazy. But have a look at this outstanding USA Today piece. Between 1997 and 2004, USA Today found that:

about 1,000 wrestlers 45 and younger have worked on pro wrestling circuits worldwide, wrestling officials estimate.

USA TODAY's examination of medical documents, autopsies and police reports, along with interviews with family members and news accounts, shows that at least 65 wrestlers died in that time . . .

Wrestlers have death rates about seven times higher than the general U.S. population, says Keith Pinckard, a medical examiner in Dallas who has followed wrestling fatalities. They are 12 times more likely to die from heart disease than other Americans 25 to 44, he adds. And USA TODAY research shows that wrestlers are about 20 times more likely to die before 45 than are pro football players, another profession that's exceptionally hard on the body.

I suspect that if the NHL, NBA, or NFL had death rates like that, Congress would shut them down in a blink. But if pro wrestling is protected from such scrutiny precisely because it isn't a sport, then the least they can do is have a union to improve working conditions and protect the wrestlers. Even Broadway actors have Equity.