Afraid to ask the tough questions - Dan Rather is admitting that the patriotic surge post 9/11 has prevented journalism from doing its job. Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | US media cowed by patriotic fever, says CBS star.
You have to go all the way over to England to read it, though.
Remember "Conway's Life"? - I have friends who would spend hours playing with "Life" - the cellular automata game. I played with it quite a bit myself. Now, a fellow named Stephen Wolfram is publishing a book that claims to launch a new kind of science based on the complexity which can be generated by the interactions of such cellular automata. The NYT website reports about it in: A Man Who Would Shake Up Science. This is the second article I've seen about this guy, and now my interest is piqued. The articles don't talk enough about how his ideas really work, but it sounds like the idea is to model complex systems with simple rules.
May The Farce Be With You - Mark Fiore provides his animated version of a Star Wars prequel. And, yes, it's about Bush.


List of Idiots - But heartfelt idiots, nonetheless. There is a petition online to try to coerce director Peter Jackson to rename his second Tolkien movie (the upcoming "The Two Towers"). Why? Here's why:
Peter Jackson has decided to tastelessly name the sequel "The Two Towers". The title is clearly meant to refer to the attacks on the World Trade Center. In this post-September 11 world, it is unforgiveable that this should be allowed to happen.

At the Rename "The Two Towers" to Something Less Offensive Petition Petition Petition site, "View Current Signatures" takes you to the list of people who have no clue. This group, and especially the people who came up with the petition are hereby awarded the Four Flush of Disgrace.

Hey, I have an idea. Let's rename everything with the number "two", "twin", "towers", "world", "trade" and "center". Er, no.

Look - before September 11 if you'd asked me about the two towers I would have thought "Lord of the Rings." Heck - I still do. I think of the Worlds Trade Center as the World Trade Center. After the disaster, people were calling them the "twin towers" not the "two towers."

Exactly what good is going to come from Peter jackson renaming his film? It will allow us to forget the World Trade Center disaster? Is that the goal? Please, someone fill me in on the logic here.
Pong - A flash animation fantasy based on the classic game: "pong"
Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Spoiler Free Trip Report) So we went this morning to see Attack of the Clones. The plan was to show up at 9:30 for the movie at 10. When we went to the same theatre a few years ago to catch Phantom Menace the place was pretty much empty. Today the scene was slightly different.

Walking in the door we saw that there were already many people there, but it was by no means crowded. A couple of Jedi-robe clad kids were with their mother waiting for the first matinee and I saw them wheeling around while the ticket clerk told me that the 10:00 showing was a little full and that I'd be better off in the 10:30 show. We took his advice.

We sat in the theatre and waited as people filtered in. As per usual there was at least one inappropriately young child in the audience. Luckily there were no disruptive types.

Here are my brief comments on the film (which I guarantee won't ruin anything for anyone):

The film was shot in digital video, but we did not view it in a digital theatre. As far as I could tell, it didn't make a difference. The picture was plenty crisp. However, I did notice something odd. In some of the darker scenes there was a kind of noise pattern (snow) going on in the backgrounds similar to what you will see if you videotape in poorly lighted situations. I could not discern if these patches of snow were over actual sets or part of the computer generated background. These did not detract from the film.

I found the emotional/romance portions mostly forced and awkward, punctuated by maybe one or two sincere moments. But Hayden Christensen did do anger well. And he did "shifting emotions" well.

Better action in this film than in the last one. But, perhaps, less exciting light saber work. One thought that keeps coming back, and I've heard other people complain about this, too, is that when CGI is used in action scenes, people don't seem to move in a way that looks natural. Whenever you have people jumping or being tossed around for one reason or another, they don’t look real. Some people had the same comment about Spider-Man. It isn't just CGI - some of the wire work in X-men was really implausible-looking.

It's long.

Very little Jar-Jar!

When I was a kid, light sabers seemed immeasurably cool. They still are cool, but now I think that real swords are cooler. Real sword fights, for some reason, are more compelling. Those scenes in Crouching Tiger, for example. And in any Kurasawa movie.

I was more "comfortable" with the characters this time around. It felt more like Star Wars this time.

The dialogue… ugh. But looking way back at the original trilogy, Harrison Ford pointed out that some of their dialogue was unreadable. So nothing new there.

Overall, I rate this one much better than The Phantom Menace. Yes, it was mostly eye candy. But it was a decent bit of entertainment for fans. If you look at this sort of film for what it is - swashbuckling fun - then you'll realize that it fulfills its promises.

That's all I'll say for now. Maggie really didn't like it, but she never does on a first viewing.

Change of plans - We're reverting back to plan A. I'll be seeing Episode II in the morning. Expect a spoiler-free report after lunch.


Get ready to eat fungus Yesterday I heard about "Quorn" for the first time. It's an edible non-meat substance that comprises some new vegetarian "nuggets." (Why do marketers think that "nuggets" is an appetizing term?)

Aparently, mushroom growers are upset that the Quorn folks are insunuating that there are similarities between Quorn and shrooms. They're afraid of some sort of fungus backlash is people don't like Quorn, or it makes them sick. Speaking of that:

"Dr. Jacobson said that Quorn should not be on the market "until the company can show that it does not cause vomiting and diarrhea."

Hard to disagree with that, eh? Where can I get some Olestra-fried Quorn chips?

NYT: What's in Those Nuggets? Meat Substitute Stirs Debate
Driving in Massachusetts There are unwritten rules. Apparently, someone at Brunching Shuttlecocks is trying to make them written rules in this "Supplement to Massachusetts Driving Regulations". My personal favorite is "You are reminded that the mass transit system is maintained only as a tourist attraction like the cable cars in Rice-a-Roni commercials and is not designed to move large numbers of people rapidly."


Sanity Check We're going to see Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones on Thursday evening (in Seekonk). Am I completely insane?

  • Yes. The place is going to be mobbed. You'll stand in line for a long time and may not even get to see the movie. If you do get in you will be sandwiched between two sweaty guys dressed as Jawas.
  • No. Sure, there will be some people there, but it's not as bad as te weekend will be. You may run into a Darth Maul, but worry not. At least you'll be seeing it with fans who want to pay attention to the film.

Register your opinion in the comments. (The unspoken third choice is: What do you want? You are a Sci-Fi geek. You're going to go, you know you're going to go, stop bitchin' about it.)
Humor - Two bits I found funny. One is Amy Borkowsky'a Answering Machine and the other is today's Story Minute by Carol Lay on Salon.com.

Things are really slow with net access today. Especially posting to my blog.

By the way, if you like the Carol Lay cartoon you owe it to yourself to get over and check out The Funny Times. This monthly publication is filled with the best bits of humor and cartoons from the previous month. Sometimes political and always hilarious, I recommend it highly. It's where i first saw Carol Lay's work, as well as Tom Tomorrow, Lynda Barry, and a bunch of others.