Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Some quick hits of movies I caught on TV during the pre-Halloween run-up:

"Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" - [rant on]I swear on all that is holy that if I ever become a director I will never name any movie I make "Mulliga's "[rant off]. A bittersweet fable, fairly predictable in terms of plot. The voice-actors (Depp, Watson, and Bonham Carter) do some fine work here, and the wizardry of the stop-motion animators is pretty much tops in the business (this movie got beaten by Wallace and Gromit for the Oscar, but in terms of pure technical achievement, it's quite a feat - one of the main characters has a flowing veil and dress, for crying out loud!). (7/10, or 8/10 if you're an animation freak)

"Jeepers Creepers" - Justin Long is badly miscast as the erstwhile protagonist facing off against a bogeyman with his sister in this forgettable horror movie. Has some nice moments, but more holes than a cheese grater. The final reveals of the monster commit the worst horror movie sin of all - they just aren't scary, shocking, or gross enough to be remembered. (6/10)

"Friday the 13th" - This has gotta be the lamest excuse for a slasher movie ever. Where "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Halloween" both had good movies to start off with, the first "Friday the 13th" is even worse than you remember. While there is some sex and violence, the fact is that this movie boils down to a teenage girl fighting a middle-aged woman. And when the woman is down, the girl doesn't finish her off! This happens twice. Look Alice, if you've just knocked a psychopathic serial killer to the ground, go ahead and kick her in the ribs or something. (5/10)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Books: Flatland

Flatland is a novella written by Edwin A. Abbot. It was first published in 1884, and rarely do social satire, fantasy, and higher-dimensional mathematics mix in such an eloquent fashion.

In Flatland, most of the characters reside in a two-dimensional world - they have length and width, but not depth. They move around like soap bubbles on a film, or like coins on a table. They are also geometric shapes (in an act of wry satire, the protagonist notes that social status is dependant on how many sides a shape has. The geometric shape of women? They are but lines, with only two sides.). All this is well and good until a resident of the third dimension arrives and whisks the protagonist off into the bizarre world of three dimensions. To say any more would be to spoil a clever and ultimately depressing story of not just higher dimensions, but human nature. Read it for yourself

Flatland is useful because we can reason into the fourth spatial dimension by analogy. 2D:3D as 3D:4D. Thus, a four-dimensional being would be able to see into our insides easily, just as we looking into Flatland would be able to see the organs of every Flatlander. No walls or cages could contain a 4D lifeform. As for us, we would only be able to see three-dimesional "slices" of the creature, just as a 2D being would only glimpse flat 2D sections of our body.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Tech: Sammy Sports Shooting USA

I've always enjoyed light gun games. The second video game I ever played was "Duck Hunt," and I've played various examples of the genre for years, including "Virtua Cop," "House of the Dead," and "Time Crisis." Yet very few (okay, basically none) of these games portrayed shooting stuff in a completely nonviolent manner. The best example of a game that simulates action pistol shooting is "Sammy Shooting Sports USA."

Featuring an arcade cabinet with two guns with faux-fiber-optic sights, this might be the only game with an official STI license (yes, that STI). Players shoot through various courses of fire, hitting watermelons, silhouettes, soda cans, and cow skulls. Nothing living - not zombies, deer, or criminals, is ever shot.

It's a bit rare, but if you ever find it in an arcade, give it a whirl.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sports: WBD explained

WBD = Win By Default

A term coined by my good friend Steve, a very skilled and competitive person, especially with video games of all kinds. Whenever we played Bomberman, many times one player was the last one standing just by virtue of not making a fatal mistake; the other players simply blew themselves or each other up with their bombs. In other words, the winner won by not losing.

Somehow the term just kept flashing in my mind when the Florida Gators beat the Georgia Bulldogs 21-14. The last significant first down that allowed the Gators to run out the clock, after all, came from a 5-yard facemasking penalty against Georgia - a very, very slight facemask. and that was that.

Miscellany: Big Brother is watching you...on the road...

There's a lot of things that are sacred in the American consciousness - baseball, an honest day's work, Thanksgiving. One of the most sacred, though, is the open road. Sad to say we're seeing U.K.-style surveillance sweeping the country, and those vast stretches of American road are no different.

For miles and miles, there are these ugly, imposing cameras mounted on concrete towers. They symbolize a lot of what's happening in America, good and bad. On the one hand, they can be used to spot accidents, catch kidnappers, and just check on the weather. On the other, of course, are more questionable ends, like tracking where Joe Dissident is driving at 3 AM.

I don't know. It is a public thoroughfare, that vast stretch of road through Florida that goes from Gainesville to Miami. I'm used to seeing the billboards for Disney, the signs hawking various unseemly foods and forms of entertainment. I just can't help wondering, though - who's watching?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Food: Sometimes...it be's that way...

Okay, I'll admit that it's probably not very healthy to eat like this every night, but it's hard to get yourself to cook a meal after being at school for 8 hours (man, I understand how my Mom feels now :P). So one day, I had some Chef Boyardee (did you know the original guy was named Chef Boiardi?), an Amstel Light (not my kind of beer, but it'll do in a pinch - I prefer stouts and porters), a box of raisins (Sun-Maid kind of has a monopoly on this one), and some applesauce.

It ain't gonna win any awards, but it's sorta balanced, and if you eat while watching the Food Network, you can almost fool yourself into thinking the food tastes better than it actually does.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tech: Blogger troubles & some short bits

I'm not one to complain about a free service. That's tacky. This is just a heads-up, though - Blogger servers seem to be kicking the bucket quite a bit recently, so if my page goes down, I apologize.

Anyway, here are some tech bits:

Meteos: Disney Edition: This is certainly a lot more foreseeable than the whole Kingdom Hearts thing (they need to hustle on that Kingdom Hearts theme park ride), but it's still a bit unexpected.

Sam & Max Episode 1: I love adventure games. I cut my teeth on "Zork" back in the day, and I loved "The Longest Journey," the last really great adventure game. So it's nice to see them bringing back the form in fine style.

WoW Burning Crusade delayed: Mad props to Blizzard. It's so tempting to cut corners to hit that holiday release window, but I think Blizzard has always had the right idea in making sure a game is done before it's released. Nobody remembered how long Starcraft was delayed, for example, but they're still playing it now.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Miscellany: Get Rich or Die Tryin'

They say money doesn't bring you happiness. I'd like to see for myself, first.
- Albert Kwan, my dad

I like the American dollar. I like ridiculously large amounts of American dollars. I know, on an intellectual level, that it is fiat currency - it's only valuable because the government tells us it's valuable. But even if bills didn't have any worth at all, I'd still use them as bookmarks. They even make nifty little canvases for artwork:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Politics: The Governator

I still remember the night Arnold Schwarzenegger won the California recall election. It definitely seemed surreal - the star of "Terminator 2" and "Total Recall" running an entire state, and an important one at that? Some saw it as a farce, others as a chance for real reform.

Now Arnie is up for re-election, and some the ads are very subtly hilarious, regardless of your political persuasion. When Arnold was fighting the Devil in "End of Days," I betcha he didn't plan on fighting budget deficits 7 years later. Seriously, I want just one campaign ad where they play all the catchphrases from Arnie's movies to attack his opponent, the ultra-nerdy Phil Angelides.

[after impaling Phil with steaming steel tube] "Hey Angelides...Let off some steam"
[after killing Phil with a giant drill] "Hey Philly...Screw you!"

Monday, October 23, 2006

Music: A defense of "Cheer Up, Charlie"

While nearly all of the songs from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" have gone on to become famous in their own right ("The Candyman," "(I've got a) Golden Ticket," "Pure Imagination," the Oompa-Loompa song, etc.), one song is invariably forgotten - "Cheer Up Charlie."

Performed by Diana Sowle, an actress who has gone on to an active career in theatre, "Cheer Up, Charlie" is the slowest song in the movie and also the most depressing. Charlie's mother, working late washing laundry to make ends meet, is visited by her son who expresses resentment at how all the other kids in life get the breaks. As Charlie walks home from his paper route through the night streets, dejected at his lot in life, his mother sings this ballad.

Cheer up, Charlie
Give me a smile
What happened to the smile I used to know
Don't you know your grin has always
Been my sunshine;
Let that sunshine show...

It's a moving scene, at least for me. It fleshes out Charlie's mother (who, let's face it, is probably the only sane adult in the whole movie) and gives Charlie a deep, dark hole to work out of. It shows the viewer that Charlie, although a strong and honest boy, is human like the rest of us, and has wishes and dreams that might be considered selfish if it were not for the fact that Charlie works so hard for so little.

I can't believe some people fast-forward through it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tech: Frickin' lasers

Why didn't anybody ever tell me about these things?

I've always wanted a laser powerful enough to light a cigarette. Or pop a balloon. Or cause permanent eye damage.

Of course, some people want to ban these things. Well, technically, laser pointers in the U.S. are restricted to 5 mW, but as these lasers are labeled "research and experimentation" devices, they purport to skirt that restriction...

Not sure if that's the case, but I find it ridiculous that people want to ban a laser that is only powerful enough to pop a balloon (after a few seconds of exposure). Might as well ban cigarette lighters, baseball bats, and handguns. We can't let anything exist that could possibly hurt us. :P

Saturday, October 21, 2006

HHN 16: The Horror, Indeed, Comes Home

This is sort of an expansion on the discussion we had waiting in line at Halloween Horror Nights 16 at Universal Studios Orlando.

Admission to HHN was $40. In objective terms, it's well worth it - you can go on most of the rides, you can visit all sorts of fairly well-done haunted houses (at least one step above your local community haunted house, anyway), and you get to purvey Universal Studios at night, when it's filled with booze-addled young people and all manner of non-famous sweaty black men (you had to be there).

I didn't get to go to most of the houses, or even most of the rides. I got way, way more than my $40 worth, though.

When I went to sleep, I had a nightmare. And not just any nightmare. Imagine being trapped inside a horror-themed MMORPG set in 19th-century Louisiana (Victorian-era voodoo, "Interview with the Vampire" kinda creepiness). And imagine the townsfolk watching your every move, along with a host of supernatural events. And imagine a creepy old lady explaining to you why you lost the game (some sort of stealing offense) and then doing...something to you. And imagine waking up with both your arms numb...

Once again, your own imagination proves more scary than anything someone could ever set up for you. But kudos to Universal for sparking that.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Music: iRiver online music guide

iRiver is a Korean company that makes some kick-ass anti-iPods, or "antiPods" as I like to call them. I have both their slim MP3/CD player and their H10 mini-hard drive player. iRiver also runs a neat American site that not only showcases the products available on this side of the Pacific, but also has a monthly music guide.

In the guide, you can download a smattering of mp3s each month for free. Including familiar and not-so-familiar artists, it's a nice way to sample what might be worth listening to in the future. If your tastes don't include rock, electronica, or hip-hop, you're kind of out of luck here - they only feature artists from those categories.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Miscellany: Of wheat grass and gut flora

Dietary fiber is really important. Back around the beginning of the 20th century, people used to eat a LOT more fiber, mostly because everything was "whole grain" back then, not just health foods. The whole wave of refined sugars and flours hadn't quite hit every household yet.

I've been taking wheat grass pills in addition to paying more attention to the empty carbs and sugars I consume. Couple that with daily exercise, and I've dropped 15 pounds in two months, with no signs of stopping any time soon. More important, however, is that I have the energy to make it through the day.

Why is fiber important? One of the biggest reasons is your intestinal bacteria, or "gut flora." Most of what you actually excrete is bacteria - these bacteria can sometimes be harmful, of course, but most of the time they crowd out other harmful species. They also help your body absorb energy from food, and strengthen your immune system. Eating fiber "feeds" these gut flora (that's also what causes flatulence), keeping them healthy and happy, keeping you healthy and happy.

A lot of foods are rich in fiber that you might not expect. Nuts and beans are obvious suspects, but pretzels and popcorn have a good deal of fiber, too.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Movies: "Rear Window"

I'm not the world's biggest Alfred Hitchcock fan, but the man made some very good stuff in his career (actually, one of the shows I most remember from my childhood was Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which I loved seeing on Nick at Nite back in the day). My favorite Hitchcock movies include "Lifeboat," "Vertigo," and, of course, "Rear Window."

The gimmick in "Rear Window" is that the action never leaves the enormous apartment plaza set. Photographer L.B. Jeffries, confined to his apartment with a broken leg, spends hours just watching the people across the way. One day, he sees a murder. Or does he?

The perennial everyman Jimmy Stewart and the gorgeous Grace Kelly have a bit more chemistry than some of Hitch's other couples, and the film knows when to use humor to lighten what could have been a very dark commentary about American life. In the end, Hitchcock gives us a voyeuristic movie with a strangely optimistic tone.


Side note: Back when Universal Studios Orlando still had its "Alfred Hitchcock" themed show, they had a real neat post-show area with all sorts of exhibitions. The coolest one there was a large model duplicating the "Rear Window" set, complete with screens inside mimicking the action in the films. You used bincoulars to try to figure out which apartment contained a murder.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Links: Entoptic Phenomena

Do you ever see these little moving shapes in your eye, most noticeable on a clear blue sky?

They're called floaters, and there's not too much you can do about them. I've had the same floater shapes in my eye since I can remember. In a way, they're almost like a part of me - a floating, translucent part of me. :P

Floaters and other types of entoptic phenomena are described here.

I also experience the "blue field entoptic phenomena." Whenever I go to the beach, I see the moving dots the page talks about. I was really worried about that until I read that page. Sometimes the Web can actually teach you something useful.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Links: Some thought experiments

Wikipedia can be a very good time waster.


There's some interesting food for thought in some of these old chestnuts. Kavka's toxin puzzle is particularly relevant now that I've studied various kinds of criminal intent in law school. Quantum suicide is the topic of the novel "Quarantine" by Greg Egan, a little gem of hard sci-fi (you know, the kind without lightsabers and phasers ;=) ). Perhaps the most inscrutable, at least for me, are the pages dealing with the EPR paradox and the Renninger negative-result experiment.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Miscellany: Laundry day

Like most people in industrialized nations, I no longer do my laundry by hand. Not that doing laundry by machine gets clothes any cleaner. The reverse is almost certainly true - the old fashioned washboard is probably leagues more effective than some agitator. The problem is that doing laundry this way takes so much time and requires a big bucket and a stool.

The sad thing about laundry day is that you are often wedded to the laundry. Unless you can separate the day into tasks that take less than an hour, clothes will sit in the dryer, idle. This can stretch what should have taken three hours back-to-back-to-back into an all-day affair. Still, this is preferable to the old way, especially when your clothes aren't that dirty.

I wish you a healthy and happy clothes-washing experience the next time you do your laundry. :)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Books: I Am Legend

The granddaddy of all the "Night of the Living Dead"/"Assault on Precinct 13" siege stories is "I Am Legend," a novel by Richard Matheson.

In the book, there is only one normal man left on Earth - the rest have become bloodthirsty vampires. By day, he hunts the sleeping undead in the post-apocalyptic ruins of humanity's cities, and by night he boards up his house and prays for dawn as the mob of vampires try to get inside.

Many of Matheson's works have already been adapted into motion pictures ("Stir of Echoes," "What Dreams May Come," etc.) and "I Am Legend" is no exception. You may have seen Vincent Price's version or the Charlton Heston version, "The Omega Man." Another remake is slated to be released next year.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tech: Castlevania meditations

While Konami has certainly had its share of classic franchises (Metal Gear & Contra spring immediately to mind), my personal favorite has always been Castlevania. While the story and characters can be thin at times (okay, pretty much all the time), I don't play games for theatrics - you can get all the "story" you'd ever want from Kojima's stuff, like Metal Gear Solid.

No, Castlevania is an entirely different beast. In every single game, the premise is the same - an evil force is threatening the world, and you have to destroy it and a whole barrelful of disposable monsters.

The early 'Vanias, of course, were typical stage-by-stage affairs, probably reaching their pinnacle with Castlevania III and Rondo of Blood. There was some limited branching and secrets to prompt a second or third playthrough, and typically the Castlevania games were graphical showpieces (Super Castlevania IV for the SNES still holds up today, actually).

This all changed with Symphony of the Night.

Like Oprah on hiatus, Dracula's castle suddenly developed a weight problem - from a series of stages that could be run through in a half-hour, it ballooned into a huge maze that would be about 125 stories high and a few miles long in real life. Nearly everyone loved this new "Metroidvania" or "Castleroid" style...myself included.

Now, here we are, nearly ten years removed from SOTN's release. Every single subsequent 2D Castlevania (ignore the mediocre-to-awful 3D incarnations) has followed the Symphony template. I just finished playing the latest entry, "Dawn of Sorrow" for the DS, and I have to say, it's starting to wear a bit thin. It's obvious "Dawn" was rushed for release on Nintendo's then-fledgling handheld; many of the boss battles are simplistic and the difficulty has been turned way down from "Circle of the Moon."

What would I like to see from the series? In the 3D realm, instead of trying to ape other games (like Devil May Cry or Zelda), I'd like a bold new 2.5D, stage-oriented game, a la New Super Mario Bros. Let's go back to what makes Castlevania games fun - navigating through clever and deadly stages, blowing through hordes of good-looking enemies, and fighting outrageous bosses, not trudging through an endless, repetitive castle in search of the next key ability.

Oh, and lose the double-jump.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

News: Anterograde amnesia

I understand the fanbase surrounding the Yankees and all, and it's certainly a tragedy, but it seems like the news media are having a hard time keeping up with all the happenings in our modern world. A member of the House and everyone associated with him is being investigated for an e-mail sex scandal, Amish girls were executed last week, and North Korea, after what may or may not have been a nuclear weapons test, is implicitly threatening war if we don't cave in to them.

Small planes and helicopters go down all the time. I just don't see what's the huge deal.

Then again, I'm not a baseball fan.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tech: "Collector's Editions"

Nowadays, big-time game releases, both on the PC and on the consoles, invariably get "collector's editions." For an extra ten or twenty bucks, you get some added material in addition to the game - a T-shirt, a soundtrack CD, a book, etc. A more recent trend has been to include in-game additions, such as bonus maps or missions, in these editions.

That's all well and good.

I find it a bit more suprising, though, that now expansion packs are coming in collector's editions. Is anyone else miffed by this? Already expansion packs (especially for MMORPGs) are most commonly seen as a way to wring some extra cash out of a game before having to design an entirely new software product (ironically, I have found Blizzard's expansion packs to be fairly worthwhile in terms of new content). I mean, people already pay $15 a month to play WoW, and they're probably going to pay the $39,99 for the expansion pack, too...getting even more out of your erstwhile fans just seems, well, wrong.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Music: Digitally Imported radio, AKA "Gilbert" music

Back in my middle school days, my cousin Gilbert used to live with our family. He was going to school at PBCC, and he was into all manner of rock and alternative bands - he introduced me to Metallica (well, old Metallica anyway - I still love "Ride the Lightning," but the new stuff leaves me cold), Smashing Pumpkins, and the like in that tender transition period between fifth grade and sixth.

After he moved back to California, I continued on through high school and college. When he visited this past year, many changes had taken place. He had gotten noticeably fatter, he was working at a hotel, and he was listening to "Digitally Imported." DI features the same kind of throbbing beats you'll find on many a dance floor nowadays, and it makes for great music to zone out to. You don't really listen to it as much as let it play in the background of your life. Next time you're scrubbing out your toilet or trying to forget about that bad enchilada, tune in to DI.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Miscellany: The empty room

I live in a condo along with my sister. The condo has three bedrooms; my room lies across from the empty room. This empty room has a fully furnished bathroom and bed. Up until yesterday the electricity was off in this room - it turned out the wire connecting the circuit breaker had become loose. Good thing we didn't need an electrician.

It's nice having an empty room in your place. If you ever have something bulky or inconvenient that you don't want to deal with, you just dump it in the closet (vacuum cleaner, oscillating fan, dead body). I shudder to think about my parents - when we're gone, there are three empty bedrooms in our house in West Palm.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Movies: "Jet Li's Fearless"

Huo Yuan Jia is the sorta-true story of a very famous martial artist of turn-of-the-century China. Jet Li has, of course, mined this vein before (in "Fist of Legend," he even played a fictional student of Huo Yuan Jia). What's notable about this film, however, is that it's supposedly Jet Li's final martial arts epic.

The story is the sort of pedestrian plot that serves its purpose as a framework for the fight choreography. Jet Li, while undoubtedly skilled at kung fu even at his advanced age, isn't really flexing much in the way of acting muscle here. The continued references to China as the "sick man of Asia" now look particularly out of place for Western audiences - the only major debate now, it seems, is how fast and how far China's dominance will spread in the 21st century.

The production design, despite using some obvious CGI, is usually fairly sumptuous. Most impressive is an extended fight through a restaurant in which the structure suffers greatly for being in the same scene with two wushu masters. Perhaps most telling is the final philosophy extolled by Li's character - that people should seek to use martial arts to better themselves, not to destroy others needlessly.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Miscellany: Happy Birthday, "Star Trek"

It's been 40 years since the broadcast of the first episode of the original "Star Trek" series. If "Star Wars" is the classic space opera, "Star Trek" is the classic space soap opera. Without further ado, here's a look back at all the Star Trek series:

The Original Series - The granddaddy of them all is more spoofed today than watched seriously (how many times have you seen the Kirk arena fight parodied? - geez, I even saw a "Rugrats" episode making fun of it). Still, it came up with the whole formula that would be followed for years.

The Next Generation - My personal favorite. All the actors are "into" their characters, and there's usually some sort of interesting alien/anomaly/conspiracy to drive the plot. Most fun were episodes that took place entirely off the ship ("The Inner Light" being the most acclaimed example - that's the one where Picard lives a whole lifetime on a doomed planet because his mind was being controlled).

Deep Space Nine - Never really got into this one. The later years, with epic plotlines spanning entire wars between the Federation and Cardassia, were supposed to be very tight, but I must have been Trekked out.

Voyager - The first Trek series I ever got to watch from start to finish (well, I saw the first and last episodes, at least, and a ton in between). Janeway was a whiny bitch, but at least the ship looked cool. The premise was a good way to avoid all the built-up racial tensions that had started to suffocate the series, but it really jumped the shark when they put the Rock and Seven of Nine onboard.

Enterprise - Again, never really stayed with this one. I love "Quantum Leap," and the idea of Sam Beckett helming the Enterprise was spooge-tacular for Star Trek nerds. Still, it only lasted four seasons. Oh well.

I understand a new Star Trek movie is coming out. I wonder how it'll do...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Miscellany: Yeah, it matters.

When I got my diploma in the mail over the summer, it was sort of a turning point.

I waited a long time for the darn thing to arrive. It came in a modest cardboard tube. I told myself it wasn't important; after all, didn't everyone get a degree nowadays? I didn't even graduate from any place fancy. My parents, though, got it framed at the same place where their diplomas were framed.

My grandparents never went to college (well, my grandfather was a colonel, so I suppose he sort of got the equivalent). My father's mother grew up on a farm; she would have went to school, but one of her family members squandered the money set aside for her schooling. It is a stereotype that Asian parents value education above all else. I don't value education because I'm Asian, though. I value it because my grandmother never got the opportunity to learn how to read. Every time a word enters my head, I feel like it's doing double duty.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

TV: Make Love, Not Warcraft

Unlike many, World of Warcraft never really hooked me. I am a huge Blizzard fan (played every single 'Craft and both Diablos extensively), so that surprises me more than anyone else. The first character I made (A Troll Shadow Priestess - Christ, I feel weird just typing it) I took up to level 19 - the level cap on the trial account was 20, so I guess I did pretty well.

I was certainly hooked that first week, sometimes staying up till 3 in the morning playing the game. After awhile, though, you sorta run outta things to do, and the game becomes like every other MMORPG - a grind.

South Park is doing a WoW parody tonight, and I'm sure it's gonna be sidesplitting.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Movies: Quiz Show

"Quiz Show," directed by Robert Redford, is an adult movie. And no, I don't mean that naked people moan unconvincingly in cheap-looking apartments; I mean it's a movie made for adults. There are no gunfights, no sex scenes, and no car chases. There are many, however, whose lives are ruined just as surely as if someone shot them with a .45 slug.

Covering the now-infamous quiz show scandals of the 50s (and taking its share of dramatic license), "Quiz Show" recalls a simpler America, before the seething hotbed of the 60s and the upheaval of the 70s ruined post-WWII optimism. While "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" was a huge hit with its million-dollar payouts, "Quiz Show" merely had prizes in the tens of thousands. That may not sound like much, but this is a time when a Columbia University professor made $86 a week.

Redford has crafted an engaging, thought-provoking movie. The moral boundaries crossed by some of the characters are never really hard to see - but Redford concentrates on the "why" of why these things happen. The performances, anchored by the trifecta of Fiennes, Turturro, and Morrow, are believable, and the meta-statements about show business probably hit closer to home than many in Hollywood would care to admit. This is one of those movies that deserved to be nominated for "Best Picture."


Monday, October 02, 2006

News: The madness continues...

Even the Amish are victims. And people are starting to go nuts.

I was going to blog about Mark Foley's recent alleged behavior. But as lewd and perverted as those e-mails supposedly are, I'd rather have disgusting e-mails sent to me than be bound and shot to death.

Is there some way to prevent such tragedies from occurring? I'm guessing not, unless you fence off every school with metal detectors and armed police.

Quand il pleut...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tech: Nintendo DS Lite

I bought a DS Lite over the summer, mostly to get through the blistering 10 hour plane rides to Hawaii and back, though the DS did come in handy during the hellish, motion-sickness-inducing Hana highway (yes, I've just described a vacation to Hawaii as "hellish" and "blistering" - yeah, I'm one spoiled guy :P ).

The damn thing is well-designed. Whereas the original DS was tank-like and clunky, this DS bears a striking resemblance to the iPod. Closed, it's about the size of the original GBA, so it fits in most pockets. It's also incredibly bright - the highest level brightness is brighter than the unplugged PSP. It's telling that Nintendo immediately stopped promoting the original DS in any way - they don't even sell it any more in Japan, because anyone in his or her right mind would prefer the DS Lite.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED LINK: For part 3 of the greatest DS Lite review ever, click here.

Current games: New Super Mario Bros., Meteos, Brain Age, Puyo Pop, Metroid Prime Pinball, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (pictured above).

Future acquisitions: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Castlevania: Insert Subtitle Here, FFIII, Magical Starsign, Children of Mana, and probably Yoshi's Island 2.