Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sweep the leg!

The trailer for the Karate Kid remake is out.

Would be kind of awesome if the kids had to compete in kumite at the end instead of a sanctioned karate competition.

NORAD Santa 2010

Don't forget that the good folks at NORAD are putting the U.S. nuclear defense umbrella to use tracking Santa's flight path tomorrow night.

Merry Christmas!

Kick-Ass and Hit Girl

Everybody's going crazy over this clip from Kick-Ass:

To be honest, it doesn't do much for me. At all. I'm a giant Matthew Vaughn fan and I've been with Millar's book from issue #1. And I still think that this movie is going to stir up a giant discussion about comic books and the popular culture.

But that isn't quite what I pictured. It's cartoon-y, but in all the wrong ways. Maybe it'll play better in context.

Television Makes Strange Bedfellows

Galley Reader J.O. writes in:

poured a cup of coffee at about 6:30 this morning and here was the lineup on the only MSNBC show I watch, "morning joe":

Carl Bernstein
Tina Brown
Stephen A. Smith

Awesome. The only Green Room story I have that comes close is this: Several years ago I was slated to do some morning show. In the Green Room was Henry Kissinger, Jenna from the first Survivor, and me. We sat on three sections of a U-shaped couch silently, just blinking at one another. Eventually I introduced myself to Kissinger and tried to make small-talk. Jenna, clearly having no idea who he was, simply looked away disdainfully. She seemed a little irked at having to be around people who weren't famous.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


At least the science of Avatar gets a friendly review:

Pandora is a moon of Polyphemus, a fictional gas giant orbiting Alpha
Centauri A. I’ve always wanted to know what the view would be from
the moon of a gas giant. Can you imagine a quarter of the sky being
taken up by a massive cloud-covered planet visible night or day? We
get to see it in Avatar, and since Jupiter is the king of the gods,
maybe majestic is an appropriate word to describe it. I wonder if
Cameron’s choice to set this on the moon of a gas giant wasn’t a slap
in the face to Lucas, as if to say “this is RETURN OF THE JEDI done
right.” (I know it is ambiguous in the Star Wars universe whether or
not Endor orbits a gas giant.)

But what had me really geeking out is the choice of the star system.
Alpha Centauri A is perfect.

More Defense of the Empire

This time, a game theory explanation of Han Solo's decisions in Episode IV:

Hamermesh downplays the real game theoretical reason why it’s rational for Han to fight: His contribution is likely to be decisive to the outcome. After all, he’s got “the fastest ship in the galaxy,” and it can make mincemeat of Imperial tie-fighters (as we already saw earlier in the movie). Hamermesh’s payoff matrix implicitly represents this by positing that if Han fights, he increases his own payoff from 5 to 8, and that of the Rebels from 7 to 10. In truth, however, Han’s contribution might well make the difference between victory and total defeat (as in fact happens). Moreover, the speed of the Millenium Falcon minimizes the risk that Han takes should things go badly. He has a good chance of running away unscathed. I’ll ignore the fact that he also times his arrival at the battle perfectly, such that it’s clear exactly what he has to do to ensure victory at little risk to himself; if it looked like the Rebels were going to lose, he could have just as easily have destroyed Luke’s fighter instead of Vader’s and then claimed he was there to help the Empire all along.

A Bridge Too Far?

Well, now my environmentally conscious friends are going to have to give up their pets, too, if they want to halt climate change. But something tells me that, like non-essential air travel to vacation destinations such as Los Angeles or France, this little bit of environmental responsibility will be glossed over, too.

It's enough to make you wonder if even they really believe any of this stuff.

End of Decade Lists

Lots of "Best Of" lists everywhere the next couple weeks, which is fine--and often fun. But I've always thought that the more interesting list would be "Most Influential." As in, what were the most influential movies of the decade, as opposed to the "best." I suspect that there wouldn't be much overlap between the two.

As a for instance, some version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy shows up on almost everyone's "Best Of" list. It certainly would be on mine. But I don't know that those movies were particularly influential, either on movies themselves or the industry at large. By contrast, the first X-Men now looks fairly influential because it proved that even a troubled, mid-budget superhero movie could make money. Which lead to the explosion of comic-book movies; the giant grossing Spider-Man series and Dark Knight; and the eventual independence (and then acquisition) of Marvel. Not a great movie, but a very important one for the business.

Artistically, I'm not sure what the most influential movies of the decade would be. Maybe someone else (Santino?) has thoughts on the subject.

Update: Galley Friend DR has an interesting version of this: A list of the most detrimentally influential movies of the decade. He includes 300, The Ring, and Saw.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Total Effing Hotness

Peggy Noonan on the NFL Network.

Sheer, utter genius:

As America sits, in the snow, tired, and perhaps hungry—not for change, anymore, but hungry perhaps for optimism, or hungry to once again love and respect and feel warmly toward our on-air talent—what do they really want, besides a rest, for a bit? I think they want to watch professional football on a Saturday. Snowy professional football. And, I think, they are wary of digital satellites.
When I was a girl, America watched football for free. President Kennedy told us to be proud of our Founding Fathers, our moral courage, our free market of ideas, and as he instructed us to look to the stars, America received football from the sky, with rabbit ears and pride. Sometimes we drove cars and listened to football. I wonder—have you listened to football, in a car, recently? Has anyone? Did we lose something, as a country, when we stopped listening to football? I think so, sometimes. But some didn't. Some still do.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Paging George Will:

President Obama, for whom I voted because I believed he was the best choice available, is a profound disappointment. I now regard his campaign as a sly bait-and-switch operation, promising one thing and delivering another. Shame on me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Way-Back Machine

A brief look at wrestling's late golden age. Hogan, Savage, Flair, the Andersons, Hall, Nash, Big Show--those were the days.

DeSean = Road Runner

A great little bit.

More Christmas Joy

From RedLetterMedia. Here's part two of his dissection of of Star Trek: Generations.

Among the many, many joys is him catching the film re-using an f/x shot from Undiscovered Country.

What If . . .

David Lynch had directed Return of the Jedi?

Lynch has the story of how it almost happened.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Gift to You

Merry Christmas.

Go ahead and follow the link. It's entré into the YouTube world of RedLetterMedia. I'd try to summarize it for you, but it's really beyond description. Make sure you hang with it at least until the 7:30 mark. There's a lot going on.

Just Asking

How long until Doctor Manhattan is photoshopped into screenshots of the Navi from Avatar? Days? Weeks? Hours?

After the Dinner Party

George F.'in Will seems to understand now that he was duped. Two instant classics here:

* "his incontinent hunger for attention"

* "And for disavowing a competence no one suspected him of. ("I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war." Note the superfluous adjective.) And for an unnecessary notification. ("Evil does exist in the world.") And for delayed utopianism. ("We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes." But in someone's.) And for solemnly announcing something undisputed. (There can be a just war.) And for intellectual applesauce that should get speechwriters fired and editors hired. ("We do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected." If the human "condition" can attain perfection anyway, human nature cannot be significantly imperfect.)"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Personal Milestone

I never, ever, thought I'd get professional mileage out of the Contra Code. But there it is.

Hundreds of hours with the Pig in front of the NES have been redeemed.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tiger Beat: Lefty's Revenge

Phil Mickleson is on top of the world!

Michael Steele = Tony Stark?

"I don't want to see this on your myspace page. Please no gang signs. No, throw it up. I'm kidding."

Crime Blotter

Good to see someone else stealing David Bradley's money for a change.

Tiger Beat

Galley Friend P.G. offers an interesting thought: "I've always thought of Tiger as our Ruth (not Ali or MJ). Turns out, he's more Ruthian than Ruth."

Is there a place in our culture today for a superjock who doesn't try to create a lovable public facade and instead just lets it all (or most of it) hang out? I'm trying to think of one, but the only examples that come to mind are more marginal greats, like Namath, Reed, Iverson.

Maybe Pete Rose? Maybe Wilt. Though I don't know that Wilt's lifestyle would today be considered so hip and funloving.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Messiah Watch

And in the East a star appeared, shining day and night above His head.

The Omnibus G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra Conspiracy Theory

Valerie D'Orzio explains how Cobra is tied to the Freemasons/Illuminati, why aliens are most likely behind the advanced technology the Cobras and Joes have, and how the Cobra/Joe fight is an allegory dating to ancient Egypt. And that's just the start.

Not to be missed.

Tiger Beat: The Merchandizing Begins

The Team Elin gear is in full swing over at CafePress.

Oslo Dreaming

Galley Friend X asks--not facetiously--which American luminary is going to be kicked off a coin or a bill to make room for President Obama's portrait.

I'll open the bidding with Grant on the $50 and set the initial over-under line at January 2013.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Surf Porn

The Eddie ran this week in Waimea for the first time in five years. Surfline has the video though, for my money, these still photos are even better.

Finally, the Answer has come back to Philadelphia.

I would have given just about anything in the world to have been there for this:

I'd argue that Iverson is the most beloved athlete in the history of Philly sports. (Dr. J is the only other guy in the discussion.) As much as any other jock who's ever been through the city, he's the embodiment of everything Philadelphians want to believe about themselves: He's great; he's troubled; he's authentic; and while ultimately successful, he's often fortune's fool.

I've defended Iverson's greatness in the past, so there's no need to recapitulate that here. He's a lock for the Hall of Fame, number 3 on the all-time scoring list, and one of the greats of the modern era. Arguments to the contrary simply aren't sustainable.

No doubt, the Answer has had problems--lots of them. But he was never your garden-variety delinquent jock. More often than not, he got into trouble trying to hold his marriage together or dealing with extended family problems. He wasn't just getting into fights at clubs or driving drunk with a trunkful of guns.

His problems were simply part of who he was, and he made no attempt to hide them, or pretend he was someone else. There were no Kobe-style image consultants trying to make him into a softdrink pitchman. He wasn't Jordan with a publicly-groomed perfect marriage and an entire clandestine operation for his girls on the side. Iverson never hid who he was. There's something touching (and maybe a little bit tragic) about a guy who isn't quite equipped to lead a normal lower-upperclass existence trying his best to figure it out on the fly and create what he thinks a normal life is supposed to be.

Like Philly itself, Iverson is a bundle of contradictions. People remember his "practice? you talking about practice?" rant--and he was a terrible worker when it came to practice. You can't be a Jordan or Bird level player without being obsessed with workouts, so Iverson's game and the franchise suffered because of his laziness. But while he was disdainful of practice, he was an absolute warrior in games. He never took a play off; never hesitated to give up his body. He never tanked games. Philly fans love Iverson because on any given night, he cared about the game more than anyone watching did. That's probably the rarest attribute in all of professional sports.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Fish on Palin

Galley Friend M.C. points us to Stanley Fish doing a very fair impersonation of Lorne Michaels in his assessment of Sarah Palin.

The lede, though, is what's really striking:

When I walked into the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan last week, I headed straight for the bright young thing who wore an “Ask Me” button, and asked her to point me to the section of the store where I might find Sarah Palin’s memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life.” She looked at me as if I had requested a copy of “Mein Kampf” signed in blood by the author, and directed me to the nearest Barnes and Noble, where, presumably, readers of dubious taste and sensibility could find what they wanted.

A bookstore that purports to be the best of its kind refusing to sell the book of the moment simply because they don't like the politics of the author? Some businesses deserve to die.

Having a bad day yet? No? Then suck on this.

The Czabe runs the best single best sports-talk show I've ever heard, a nationally syndicated show on Fox Sports Radio during the morning drive time.

His show has been cancelled. This is terrible.

But wait--there's more.

He's being replaced.

By Stephen A. Smith.

Advantage: Jerruh

The 11th Wonder of the World--the Cowboys' new giant HD screen--is going to being doing a demo at this week's game: Converting normal 2-D HD image into 3-D.

You heard right. Glasses-free, auto stereoscopic three-dimensional, HD images on a 72' by 160' screen. The new software is going to render all replays (and maybe even the live feed?) on the big screen into 3-D.


I can't really imagine the computing power it'll take to make conversions like that in real-time.

Geek Pride


Monday, December 07, 2009

Google = Slightly Evil?

Google CEO: Only bad people keep secrets.

Sensitivity, NBA-stizz

Behold the power of a single aggrieved viewer: A long-time Clippers play-by-play team was suspended for making offensive comments about an opposing player during a game. Here's a transcript of the remarks that got them in trouble:

The Wednesday exchange began when Haddadi entered the game and Smith said, "Look who's in." Lawler responded, "Hamed Haddadi. Where's he from?"

Smith answered, "He's the first Iranian to play in the NBA."

Towfighi, in an e-mail to The Times, the Clippers and Fox Sports executives, took umbrage with the fact that Smith mispronounced Iran and Iranian.

Here is the rest of the on-air exchange:

Lawler: "There aren't any Iranian players in the NBA?" repeating Smith's pronunciation of the word "Iranian."

Smith: "He's the only one."

Lawler: "He's from Iran?"

Smith: "I guess so."

Lawler: "That Iran?"

Smith: "Yes."

Lawler: "The real Iran?"

Smith: "Yes."

Lawler: "Wow. Haddadi -- that's H-A-D-D-A-D-I."

Smith: "You're sure it's not Borat's older brother?"

Lawler laughed and Smith continued, "If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I'm going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part."

Lawler: "Here's Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball."

Smith: "Especially the post players."

Lawler: "I don't know about their guards."

Umaga: R.I.P.

Another wrestler dies young.

Sexting: Warden Gentles Is Here to Help

Tiger Beat: Bro's before Ho's? Not in Sweden!

Jesper Parnevik went well beyond the requirements of chivalry the other day and it was awesome to behold:

"I would be especially sad about it – I really feel sorry for Elin – since me and my wife were at fault for hooking her up with him," Parnevik said. "We probably thought he was a better guy than he is. I probably would have to apologise to her and hope she uses a driver next time rather than a three-iron, I would say."

I can't ever remember one jock taking sides against another like this. It's kind of awesome. (I have a vague memory of Iverson saying something critical of Kobe during the Colorado affair, but I can't find anything in the magic Google machine about it.)

Woods has been the subject of much discussion among Galley Friends who seem disillusioned that he isn't the good guy that they thought he was. I argue that Woods is a good guy--by the standards of professional athletes. Compared to Michael Vick or TO or A-Rod, Woods is a great guy. But he's also a pro athlete--which means that on the continuum, he's probably closer to those fellows in general deportment than he is to Bob in accounting.

I'd argue that this sudden realization is the reason that the Woods story has become so fascinating. He's the premier athlete of his time and he's cheating on his wife. No surprise there. But he's not cheating with Jessica Biel. He's not having an affair with Miranda Kerr. He's consorting with the type of girls you'd expect your average NBA sixth man to be banging. I suspect that that's what people find so surprising, and hence interesting.

Bonus: Galley Friend X warns that Tiger appears to be headed for sex addiction defense:

It's OBVIOUSLY going that way. This has become so ridiculous that he absolutely has to do it for purely financial reasons: i.e., it's the only way he's going to be able to keep Elin out of divorce court for the near future.

But here's the real fun: he'll come up with some story that combines sex addiction with his lost opportunity to have a childhood. (You heard it here first!) Tiger Woods is about to construct nothing less than A Classic Michael Jackson Defense, except that he tastefully substituted NYC/Vegas partygirls and A PORN STAR for underaged boys.

I hope not. Just about the only thing that would make me think less of Woods at this point would be if he went into public-confessional/apology mode. Despite everything, there's something refreshingly old-school about him just disappearing and taking his lumps.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Trailer City: 44 Inch Chest

Count me in:

We Need More 26-Year-Old Pundits!

Imagine what the conversation was like on JournoList.

"Like The Day of the Jackal set in 1861 Washington."

That's a description of John J. Miller's new historical novel The First Assassin. Sounds pretty irresistible to me.

I know Miller slightly and he's one of the true gentlemen of the Washington press: a good guy, a diligent reporter, and a solid writer. I'm looking forward to reading his book.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

What if they played ping-pong in The Matrix?

Galley Brother B.J. sends along the goods. Awesomeness quotient: high.

The Problem with Capitalism

It's all about "value." What is value, I mean, apart from what someone is willing to pay for something? Because if YouTube, which loses almost $500 million a year was worth $1.6 billion three years ago. And Facebook, which makes no money whatsoever, turned down an offer of $8 billion and is valued at $10 billion. Then how can NBC/Universal be worth only around $14 billion?

Forget mere (mere!) profitability. Which entity do you think has a better chance of even existing in 10 years, NBC/Universal or Facebook?

"Think about the future."

And so they have over at the New Atlantis. A great new blog on futurism and the transhumanist project called Futurisms. Highly recommended.

(Also, a cookie for the first one to place that line.)

Airport Bars

Galley Friend C.L. sends a link to a fantastic blog about airport bars. In particular, don't miss the comments, which tend toward the brilliant. Sample awesome:

Drinking at the airport is usually like being a pigeon that keeps whappin' itself into a closed window. I'm not 100 percent sure what I mean by that, but I do know that it's especially true at the Fox & Firkin. If you like the whole idea of a traditional English pub--and sweet Lordy in heaven, I do--then you will regard this bar as a personal insult. Let's just start with the fact that you're in Dulles, where Stalinist realism had its last big hurrah, so the atmosphere isn't exactly Shropshire-on-Buggery.

Brief Afghani Aside

The people who work my side of the street seem to be reasonably happy with President Obama's decision on Afghanistan: his ordering of more troops into the theater while simultaneously setting a withdrawal date. The reason these folks are happy, I think, is because they believe that the troops are what matter and that Obama included the withdrawal date in his plan simply to give himself cover from the left. For the most part, the left--which is largely unhappy with Obama's decision--seems to agree with the right's reading on Obama.

Doesn't it seem just as plausible that in reality, the most salient part of the president's plan is the withdrawal date, and that the increase in troops is simply included to give him cover from the right?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tiger Beat

About that little Tiger Woods thingie, there's more. Lots more. This looks like a Cat V super story.

Update: Woods has now issued a Clinton-esque statement acknowledging personal failings and asking for privacy, etc. under the strange header "Tiger comments on current events."

"Current events"? Like Obama's Afghanistan speech? Or Friday's coming unemployment numbers?

In any event, it seems like another ill-advised statement. If Woods has done nothing illegal--and there's no indication that he has--then he should simply clam up and refuse to speak about any of this, ever. Let the tabloids do what they do. You can't control them. Take your lumps. But refuse to participate and make clear to the mainstream media that you will not--not tomorrow, not three years from now--ever talk about this stuff. Private is private and while they're free to do what they want, you won't play along.

The problem is, by coming out and trying to promulgate his own series of events from the outset, that sort of principled hard line might not be available to him in any plausible way.

Hot Coffee!!!

Oh, how quaint Grand Theft Auto now seems.

Seriously. Watch the clip. You'll think it's parody.

A Contrarian View on Twilight: New Moon

Galley Friend Mike Russell has some surprisingly nice--albeit measured--words for New Moon. At first, I was a little surprised, given the general disparagement of the movie, but on further reflection maybe I shouldn't be so surprised: After all, it has a script not rushed out because of a looming strike and it's directed by Chris Weitz.

By the by, if, in 2002, someone had told you that the director of the really spare and wonderful About a Boy would follow his smart little movie up with two giant, CGI-heavy, and poorly regarded kid/teen movies, would you have believed them? Just a reminder of what a funny place Hollywood is.

Crime Blotter

Someone is stealing David Bradley's money again.

Should we care about Tiger Woods?

I have only a tiny appreciation for golf, so my investment in Tiger Woods is nearly nil. Yet the story of his minor car accident from early in the morning a few days ago stands out. The facts of the case--such as we think we know them at this point--are odd. Woods left his house to drive his SUV in the (very, very) wee hours of the morning. He struck a tree and a fire hydrant at very low speed. His airbag did not deploy. A 911 caller told police that she saw Woods lying on the ground, apparently unconscious. Woods' wife was nearby with a golf club. Woods apparently suffered superficial injuries, particularly lacerations to the face.

Everything else so far is speculation and, for whatever reason, Woods seems to want nothing to close the story down, issuing only a short statement and refusing to speak with police about the matter.

I wouldn't begrudge Woods any of that. If he wants to take this story to his grave and never speak about it, so be it. That's his right. The worst-case stories suggest that Tiger's wife might not have been heroically liberating him from the SUV, but that's fine, too. Whatever the law may say about the subject, morally speaking, wives have some leeway for minor violence against their husbands in exceptional circumstances. So long as that street only runs one way, it would be perfectly reasonable to keep omerta. And as far as not talking to the cops--that's every American's right.

What bugs me is Woods' statement. Again, if you're going to go silent, go silent. Instead, Woods gives an affirmative explanation of events which seems, at least on its face, very strange. Most importantly, his statement includes a couple key lawyer words (most notably "false" and "malicious") which are there to serve only one purpose: Tell media outlets that they pursue this story at their own legal peril. Or, to put it less charitably, to bully reporters into not reporting the story, wherever it might lead.

If something unpleasant happened to Woods the other night, so be it. We never needed to know about it, no matter how curious we all might have been. But if Woods was less than truthful in his statement--and is playing the part of the legal bully--that strikes me as (1) Reflecting more poorly on Woods than any other part of this incident; and (2) A provocation, similar to Gary Hart daring reporters to make a liar out of him.