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January 31, 2003

Reality TV, Take 2

So, here we are in the midst of the "reality television" wave. The network people say it isn't going away any time soon, though everyone said the same thing about the prime time game show resurgence not even two years ago.

CBS reported on the whole thing, noting that the age of summer re-runs and traditional network scheduling is almost over, thanks to the success of the "month-log blitz" approach of these shows. You can see the networks screwing with each other by staggering the nights some of their "event" shows appear to induce audiences to migrate away from regular favorites, which has the net effect of making television for anyone without a Tivo and an iron will to consume network offerings a chaotic mess that's best avoided unless chronic back pain and heavy muscle relaxants force extended periods of downtime.

Meanwhile, over at Fox's Joe Millionaire, which features the universally loved theme of "money makes you stupid, greedy, deceitful, and self-deluded," it turns out that one of the finalists was a kink film actress for a time. (There are some not-quite-safe-for-work photos on that link).

No comment on that, except to note that The Smoking Gun's writeup is simultaneously leering and prudish, speaking of a sort of repression that can't be very healthy.

Posted by mph at 10:25 AM

January 30, 2003

Multnomah County Passes Antiwar Resolution

Portland Communique reports that Multnomah County passed an antiwar resolution:

"Going where the Portland City Council feared to tread, in a session that was short and painless, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners this morning adopted an antiwar resolution by a 4-1 vote.

"[...] Lonnie Roberts, the lone dissenting vote, appeared mainly concerned with the futility of the Board expressing an opinion on the matter. Confusingly, he also expressed concern that there were more pressing matters facing Multnomah County, failing to see the connections between a massively-funded war machine (on the one hand) and woefully-underfunded social services (on the other hand)."

Posted by mph at 1:01 PM

Yay Shell Posting!

New tools are always fun. mtsend.py is a Python script for command-line posting to Movable Type 'blogs. You just edit a plain text file then feed it to the script. It also does basic 'blog info retrieval. I'm working on some scripts to use with the Mac script menu and BBEdit.

For starters, I guess, here's an AppleScript that dumps the contents of BBEdit into a tmp file then pipes that through the script (which requires, unfortunately, piped text and a specified operation via a switch):

tell application "BBEdit"
  save front window to "Macintosh HD:Users:mph:.blog.tmp"
  do shell script 
  ("cat /Users/mph/.blog.tmp | /Users/mph/bin/mtsend.py -N")
end tell

display dialog "Entry Uploaded"

mtsend.py also offers the ability to retrieve a list of categories, recent entry numbers, and a few other things, all of which are pretty good candidates for a little editor-centered automation.

Posted by mph at 12:15 AM

I Can Just Hear The Old Soldiers Now

There's a new enlistment program coming that offers short (19 month) enlistments across the military (plus the remainder of an eight year term as a member of the Inactive Ready Reserve... so you get dibs on the next war):

"Congress authorized the National Call to Service enlistment option as part of the fiscal 2003 National Defense Authorization Act.

"Bob Clark, assistant director in DoD's accession policy directorate, said the program would allow the military services a new option to reach a group of young Americans who otherwise might not serve due to the length of traditional enlistment options.

"The program will work like this: A recruit enlists for the option and incurs a 15-month active duty service obligation following completion of initial-entry training, for a total active duty commitment of about 19 months."

(Complete Story)

I remember the two year enlistees and how despised they were by older soldiers who didn't see the use in kicking someone loose after a mere two years. Some arrived with a short-timer mentality and kept it the whole time. Since a universal condition of soldiery is bitter hatred of the younger crop, this ought to inspire much kvetching as "all the god-damn college soldiers" come and go.

(Via Plastic)

Posted by mph at 12:13 AM

January 29, 2003

Next Time, Make It a "Swoosh"

A doctor in Kentucky is getting sued because he used a laser to brand the initials of his alma mater into a woman's uterus, which sounds fairly horrible if you take it as one of those routine "gynecologist with a box full of tranquilizers and branding laser runs amok" kinds of stories. But he says there's a little more context to be had, since he made the marks during surgery so he could see where to cut.

Once the victim and her family watched a videotape of the procedure, they were shocked to see the University of Kentucky's initials on her uterus, and she says she suffered emotional distress as a result.

The doctor says marking organs is a common procedure, and other doctors agree. The hospital says it's sorry the victim was unhappy with the choice of markings.

Posted by mph at 1:17 PM

Get URLs from Safari

Daring Fireball has a useful AppleScript for fetching the URLs in open Safari windows into BBEdit, which goes sort of nicely with the tool I just mentioned.

Posted by mph at 12:12 PM

Behind the Homefront

Behind the Homefront is a new 'blog by The Reporter's Committee for Freedom of the Press. It went into operation the same day as the Department of Homeland Security. They're still ironing out some details, but respond to polite suggestions in a friendly manner: permalinks are in the works, and they just added a new RSS feed for easy syndication.

The press release announcing the new blog pretty much summed up what it's about:

"We plan to focus on issues surrounding access to government information about the war on terrorism at home and abroad, [...] The weblog will cover information access and free press issues, but we don't plan to follow debates over many civil liberties issues that, while important, are outside of our principal areas of interest."

So it might seem nichey, but freedom of information and press access are key to which way a free society moves during times of crisis. I'm looking forward to seeing what they dig up.

Posted by mph at 11:24 AM

Always A Good Time In The Heartland

Confronted with a student-requested Gay Students Club, a high school principal first denies the privilege, then changes his mind:

"Dr. Capehart consulted his insurance carrier and says he was told that if the district was found guilty of bias in barring the club, its legal bills would not be covered by insurance. And so in October, he decided to support the club, which began to meet weekly with 10 to 20 students.

"Enter the Rev. Tim York of the Heritage Temple Free Will Baptist Church. Mr. York calls the club 'dangerous.' He says: 'I believe God made male and female. I believe what the Bible says in Romans. I condemn the act of homosexuality.' Mr. York is concerned that the club will be used to turn Boyd students into homosexuals. (Mrs. King, the club sponsor, says she has been prohibited from even saying hello to one student whose parents fear he could be turned gay.)"

So the principal nukes every club in the school ("we had to destroy these student organizations to save them", I guess) then turns up on Bill O'Reilly agreeing that the ACLU is "fascist."

We're just not there yet. Not even close.

Posted by mph at 12:42 AM

January 28, 2003

Daniel Ellsberg on The Media and Iraq

Daniel Ellsberg comments on Iraq Coverage:
"Do editors and publishers feel, individually, that they understand the reasons we are going to war, and the consequences? And if they are basing their own understanding on what is being put out by the government, then they, and their readers, don't understand it very well at all. I suggest that, just as in Vietnam, when the bombs start dropping, the American public will be entering this war with a very limited understanding of why we are at war and what the consequences will be in both the short and long terms.

"Thirty years later, Americans are still asking why we went to war in Vietnam and stayed at war. Of course, the American presidents gave answers at that time -- and we are still looking for better answers."

Posted by mph at 2:01 AM

And Speaking of Patent Abuse...

Prodigy parent SBC Communications believes "any Web site that has a menu that remains on the screen while a user clicks through the site" may owe it royalties.

I knew frames were evil... I didn't know using them to maintain consistent navigational aids was patent infringement.

Posted by mph at 12:49 AM

And Speaking of Patent Abuse...

Prodigy parent SBC Communications believes "any Web site that has a menu that remains on the screen while a user clicks through the site" may owe it royalties.

I knew frames were evil... I didn't know using them to maintain consistent navigational aids constituted patent infringement.

Posted by mph at 12:49 AM

January 27, 2003

The World's Shortest Affiliation

While doing the research preparatory to telling Sam to go get stuffed, I came across a few things that changed my mind about just how nice it is to link to Amazon, let alone push sales its way.

It isn't. Between the clusterbomb of layoffs and outsourcing it dropped on union organizers, and its unrepentant abuse of patents, it seems best to leave Amazon alone.

Did I not know about these issues before I set out to set up the affiliate links on the site? Yes, I did. But until I re-researched the issue, I didn't take time to remember that an issue "dropping off the radar" doesn't mean the issue is resolved. Boycotts can be stupid and pointless, but so is giving your money to assholes when you can find an alternative.

Two years too late, Tim O'Reilly wins my "flashback to self-serving dot-bomb cynicism" award. It'll be a happy day when the bobos get lost.

Posted by mph at 9:54 PM

More iceblog

Over on iceblog, Beth reports that she's still at McMurdo. She's got a link to some pics from another McMurdoite, as well.

Posted by mph at 8:06 PM

Sabato's Crystal Ball Back for 2004

I didn't much like Charlottesville, but Larry Sabato sits on the faculty at UVa, and I like his Crystal Ball plenty. He's relaunched the site and restarted the update newsletters just in time for the New Hampshire primary, which is one year away as of today.

Posted by mph at 6:09 PM

Mmm.... Rich, Creamery Saaaruuumannnn...

It's a lard Saruman. Yick. Click it for the whole story.


(via TheOneRing.net)

Posted by mph at 5:25 PM

Get Your Dumb On

The 2003 State of the Union Drinking Game looks like fun, but even if I weren't scheduled to be in class, there'd be the whole pesky "no alcohol for the month of January" thing. Considering the list, my liver is grateful.

(Via Memepool)

Posted by mph at 5:20 PM

Goofing Off With Amazon

For no better reason than "I can," movie and book entries get a corresponding Amazon link now. It's courtesy MTAmazon and MTIfEmpty, which are Movable Type plugins.

MT has an 'excerpt' field in each entry that I normally don't use. The MTIfEmpty plugin checks that field for an Amazon product i.d., and if it finds one it generates the appropriate link/image. Otherwise it doesn't do anything. The basis of the code I'm using to do this is in the IfEmpty entry over at the MT Plugin directory.

I seeded a few of the recent movie entries. I feel better already.

Posted by mph at 4:52 PM

January 26, 2003

Mozilla and RSS

Over on Surfin' Safari, Dave Hyatt asks:

"Do news readers like NetNewsWire and Feedreader contain functionality that should be absorbed into browser applications like Safari, Chimera or OmniWeb? Or is the opposite true? Should some minimal browser functionality be incorporated into NetNewsWire?"

I never quite understood why Mozilla didn't just handle RSS subscriptions in the sidebar (or maybe it does, and I'm not seeing it), but Corvar at theonering.net implemented something that handles what Dave's asking for in Mozilla. You feed it an RDF, it turns that into a Mozilla sidebar tab. Simple enough, and people have been doing this for at least a year or two, if memory serves.

I will, of course, give up NetNewsWire when they pry it from my cold, dead, hands. And use Mozilla when they weld it to my clinched, struggling fists.

Posted by mph at 9:03 PM

Spam to the Editor

Last week there was a minor scandal over a rash of letters-to-the-editor of many, many papers that all said George Bush is demonstrating genuine leadership. The blogosphere caught it and much hay was made since the letters, all identical, originated from GOPTeamLeader.com

The New York Times reports the practice is so common that editors have a hotline, of sorts, to deal with the problem of cut-n-paste, automated letter-writing campaigns.

In the great tradition of partisan political discourse, one of our cut-n-paste footsoldiers is quoted saying "I've seen the same thing from the other side."

Well there's a useful ethical yardstick.

Posted by mph at 5:58 PM

Standards For The Rest Of Us

Sam has a complaint about the direction of the W3C with a slightly different angle from Mark Pilgrim's recent screed.

I'm with him in spirit, but I'm not sure what the forces at work are, or how feasible the obvious compromise between "the semantic Web" and simple presentation markup is.

It seems like the best way to go is to take steps to ensure the ongoing validity of HTML 4 in combination with CSS. We call that freeze-dried spec "The Presentational Web" and leave it the hell alone except to decide over things like whether or not to canonicalize <blink>. Then the semantic thing going on can go on unimpeded, allowing the academics who inspired the Web (with whom Sam and I will likely never come in contact) their more "complete" standard so they can continue the ambitious process of cataloging and abstracting every single piece of data that ever existed.

Is this pesky and ill-informed? Likely so. But Sam has a point when he complains that the altar in the Standards Temple is slowly being sealed behind a veil by the priests who maintain it. The alternatives we face in terms of making Web publishing accessible involve two unsavory and unlikely choices: either trusting "normal joes" to master an increasingly opaque way of authoring a page, or trusting software intermediaries to do it for them, rendering the experience as word processor/dtp-like as possible. The first is a pipe dream, the second has as evidence of its underlying fantastical nature every page of HTML ever squished out by Microsoft Word or Netscape Composer.

With a Web-lite, we can get on with the part of personal publishing on the Web that's exciting to normal folks, which mainly amounts to virtualizing the water cooler and hyperlinking the family vacation slide show. That doesn't suit the people who want that "data" to "mean" more? Well, tough... I don't let the W3C tell me how to make my bed or organize my photo albums, either.

Why should we care about this? Because setting a higher and higher bar to "standards compliance" stifles creativity. It reflects the outrage of technicians over the presumption of an Idiot's Guide to Web publishing that describes anything besides passive consumption of the orderly and collected data provided by the temple priests. It's a petty vicissitude from the "Company Computer Guy" writ large, with the democratizing effects of a wonderful technology at stake

I don't mean to say that I don't like standards, or think that the W3C should be ignored. Last year I was happy to assist the Web community in dealing with the W3C's nutty insistence on patented Web standards. In private mails I argued against people who believed the W3C had lost its mandate to establish standards even as I made sure that every story that might pressure them to make the right choice got posted on LinuxToday. Eventually, they did the right thing. It just took over a year.

In the mean time, I'll confess to having given up on my own pages.

When I make a new design, over the course of a few days I load it up in Internet Explorer (6 for Windows, 5.2 for Mac), Opera (on Mac), Chimera (Mac), Safari (Mac), and Mozilla (Mac and Windows). I make sure the stylesheets can't be read by Netscape or Internet Explorer 4 or earlier, then I call it a day. I don't validate it, and I try to be polite when someone writes and tells me the design is broken for whichever browser I missed. Even "helpful" validators are opaque, and mixing Movable Type's quality markup with my own amateur stuff causes all hell to break loose. Does this mean my stuff won't work forever? Yes, it does. It will break. Browsers will begin to fail when they encounter it. I'm consigning myself to a life of fixing bugs and glitches. So it goes. I've got a small audience that can read this stuff. When they start telling me they can't anymore, I'll fix it. They're who matters.

Posted by mph at 3:46 PM

Enough, finally, enough...

Last week we sat through the first installment of a big, multi-part Meet My Folks.

The show involves a single 20-something, his/her parents, and a group (in the case of this episode, eight) of potential mates. The producers periodically leak embarrassing information about the candidates to the parents via a fax in the house or with videotaped interviews with "friends" who talk about the time their buddy had a three-way for $0.86 and a can of beer. The candidates are also made to do stupid things at the dinner table without the parents knowing they've been told to do them. The candidates are also subjected to a lie detector test in which the parents ask things like "Have you ever kissed someone of the opposite sex?" or "Do you want to have sex with my son?" or "Do you like my cooking?" or "Did you flirt with my husband?" If it sounds like an attempt to recreate Meet the Parents, well, it is.

This particular episode's parents are disagreeable people. The mother, in particular, has a set to her mouth that suggests a steady output of unhappy and malign commentary on everything around her. The son isn't much better. He has a sort of leering fecklessness coupled with bright-eyed resentment of cruel chance, which rendered him a sad moron-nerd no amount of setup shots in front of a business school will ever rehabilitate.

So last night, in for the evening, mellow, unwilling to start a movie, we tuned in to part two. I don't know why... it's a sickness. An awful, horrible thing that needs to be denounced. Perhaps it's the mother rejecting candidates because when they were in high school they stole something from a store, or because they admitted to sneaking into an amusement park for free once. Maybe it's the sheer hypocrisy of the parents trying to "protect" their leering, perpetually horny son from women who admit to liking and wanting sex while dad is staring at their asses. Maybe it's the prying, ugly insistence on knowing everything. Whatever it is that makes the thing seem so awful, it amounts to a hateful, foul attempt to render comic the impending threat of a surveillance society run by puritans and hypocrites.

The straw that broke the camel's back and got us to turn it off was the presentation of robotic babies that cry and demand attention like they give to high school students taking "family and marriage" courses. The last set of candidates had to spend the night with their plastic children, judged on how often they responded to demands for a diaper changing or feeding.

Are you getting a picture of what the ideal "Meet My Folks Girl" is like? She's a sex-hating, law-abiding virgin who thinks mom is a great cook and can't wait to be a mommy herself... oh... and she doesn't mind the continual presence of a camera.

If I didn't have to wake up to the phrase "Attorney General John Ashcroft" many mornings, it might be funny in a sort of "let's all laugh at the people stupid enough to wander into the judging clutches of these puritan rubes from the heartland" way. But I do. And it's not funny.

Posted by mph at 12:08 PM


Privacy Digest caught an item from The Register noting that the DoD's domain registration system is wide open to all sorts of abuse. Considering the military's past humorlessness with people who eat from the fruit baskets they leave out on the front porch, I guess I'll pass on the chance. They might take away my GI Bill benefits.

Posted by mph at 11:14 AM

January 25, 2003

Adaptation (2002)

Maybe something more later, but for now we log it and move on.


  1. Nicholas Cage is great.
  2. It's from the same people who did Being John Malkovich, which shows.

Posted by mph at 10:03 PM

NetNewsWire Pro Finally Does Categories

Cool! NetNewsWire Pro's latest beta does categories for blog posting now. Very nice. The change notes are on Ranchero's site.

Posted by mph at 6:07 PM

Twin Warriors (aka The Tai Chi Master) (1993)

When the Wachowski Brothers set The Matrix in a world where "real world" physics don't completely apply, they did so to save and recreate the superhero. The extraordinary fight scenes in that movie were put together by Yuen Woo-Ping, recognized as one of the very best fight choreographers of classic Hong Kong "wire-fu."

On the strength of his Matrix-bolstered notoriety, Woo-Ping's Iron Monkey was released in the US first as a cleaned-up video/DVD, and finally by Miramax as a theatrical release. The story was centered around a Chinese bandit in the mode of Robin Hood, and featured folk hero Wong Fei-hung, a staple of dozens and dozens of Hong Kong movies, as a child. As with The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which Woo-Ping also choreographed, Iron Monkey's fight choreography and a few entertaining housecleaning scenes exist outside of normal physics.

Twin Warriors, to get to the subject of this entry, bears the signs of Woo-Ping's involvement. The colors are honey-soaked and saturated, the action is not to be believed, and it concerns itself with the efforts of heroes against a corrupt government. In some ways, though, it's better than Iron Monkey, because it covers more ground and presents a wider world. It's also much funnier. It's not particularly interested in saying anything, but it does provide some watchable filler between the plentiful fight scenes, which are really, really good.

The movie stars Jet Li, who makes all the wires look good. He's a lot of fun to watch as a young Shaolin monk cast out of the monastery for fighting, and he gets even better as the movie progresses, going from a young hayseed monk begging for coins to total badass and tai-chi theoretician/madman. Michelle Yeoh also stars as a drunk, embittered, lute-playing kung fu master in her own right.

If you like kungfu flicks, this is a wonderful, well-executed reminder of the Shaw Brothers' "sideburns and topknots" era with some reasonable production values and real entertainment value.

Posted by mph at 12:38 AM

January 24, 2003

e-Monkey Newsletter -- Volume 1, Issue 6

The latest e-Monkey Newsletter is out and available online.

Posted by mph at 11:02 AM

It's a Sickness...

...but in the midst of an proto-anti-television jihad, I've become hooked on The Charlie Rose Show.

Posted by mph at 12:49 AM

January 23, 2003

No Anti-War Resolution for PDX

Indymedia reports that Portland's City Council torpedoed an anti-war resolution in a 2-2 vote in which 9/11 and Nazi Germany were invoked.

Meanwhile, the piece originated from an interesting blog about Portland I just discovered: Portland Communique, which provides some independent coverage of Portland happenings.

Posted by mph at 12:12 AM

January 22, 2003

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965)

Richard Burton stars in this Cold War spy thriller, which was crafted as a deliberate anti-007 film in the same way the novel upon which it was based was both pitched and executed as a "realistic" spy story. The settings are, indeed, dreary, and the action is primarily cerebral. Much has been made of what a demanding movie it is, but it's not hard to keep up... there's even more explication than in the novel, which is simple enough on its own.

This movie is the parent of the likes of Ronin (1998) and even the awful, guilty pleasure of Assassins (1995) (written by the Wachowski Brothers), conceiving of a world of spycraft bereft of glamor and full of moral ambiguity and betrayal.

Posted by mph at 11:59 PM

25th Hour (2002)

One of the things I like best about Spike Lee is his exploration of the nuances of simple human different-ness and its effect on our interactions. His characters are often, perhaps, more irritated than they are hateful, and when they're hateful that depiction is more cautionary than inciteful. There's an outpouring of that irritation in 25th Hour that will make some people squirm. The scene in which it occurs is by no means the center of the movie, but it's a reminder of Lee's ongoing consideration of how we all live together, even when he's not making a "movie about race" like Jungle Fever or Do the Right Thing.

One of the widely noted things to like about this movie is its willingness to depict post-9/11 New York as post-9/11 New York. Things I remember about that city after traveling there last year spring into the frame that simply haven't existed in other recent movies set there. I'm not talking about Ground Zero itself, which appears in a scene that lands with leaden heaviness (and seems a little too heavy), but all the other trappings: flags in odd places, shrines to fallen firefighters, and even a simple conversational cue or two.

Perhaps some filmmakers believe that once memory fades in a few years, overt acknowledgment of the way NYC was rocked out of its orbit and deeply marked will simply date their work. While this may be true (though there's a patina of permanence to so many of the post 9/11 trappings that speaks to the unlikeliness of their departure anytime soon), it's also true that Lee's setting is key to the issues with which his characters grapple, and we will not become so forgetful in ten or twenty or fifty years to miss the obvious meaning of these images, even if we momentarily find ourselves reaching to understand the nuances.

Outside of the authentic sense lent to its setting, 25th Hour is well acted, well filmed, and well written. Edward Norton is great, Phillip Seymour Hoffman convincingly plays a character in a mode we've seen from him before but with more pathos than his usual immobilized over-thinkers, Barry Pepper is a perfect combination of self-absorbed money obsessive and tough-guy pal with a code.

During only one scene was I pulled out of the film at all. The rest was impossible to not watch, even though the story is less plot-driven than the trailers and promotional material make it seem. It's not a revenge flick or a mystery... it's a movie about loss, absence, and regret. The final scenes are heart-rending either way you care to take them: as a poignant, sweet vision of a salvaged future or a tragic, tantalizing, unintentional torment thoughtlessly offered in a moment of grief.

Posted by mph at 12:18 AM

January 21, 2003

La Femme Nikita (1990)

The rough sketch of the story is compelling: street thug Nikita faces death/life in prison or induction into a clandestine branch of the government tasked with assassination. The execution is fine. It's less frenetic than Besson's later The Fifth Element (1997), more akin to Léon a.k.a. The Professional (1994). It ends up being a fun variant on the spy flick (endowed with a post-Cold War sense) with some chewing to do on the nature of the main character.

I wondered, momentarily, why this was remade into the unhappy Point of No Return (1993), and decided to pass on the easy call, which would have something to do with American audiences and impatience with subtitles. Instead, I think it has something to do with the main character's underlying and persistent unpleasantness. Luc Besson's Nikita is uncomfortably wild and explosive in a way that Bridget Fonda never musters in the remake, and this is a strength. But it makes the character unconventional in a way that we only tend to allow in the form of "psycho cops with hearts of gold" in the US. Nikita might not have a heart of gold, and she may or may not be on the side of the angels. It's also a strange action movie, to the extent our protagonist is only mildly competent when real pressure begins.

I'm calling it a three star, but it's a high three.

Posted by mph at 11:46 PM

Too Late for a Divorce

Apple's recent X11 release continues to provoke discussion among the Mac People, including some fussing and worrying that the Unix apps will over-run the Mac ones. Hivelogic has the most reasonable interpretation of the lot, noting:

"...if Apple is to succeed in the Enterprise - and it must, especially with its shrinking educational market-share - then it must offer easy inroads for UNIX software companies to bring their applications to the Mac without significant code changes, a Very Big Deal in the cross-platform UNIX software development world."

Not that the "gold star Mac People" will care much for that line of reasoning... Apple's success in enterprise computing would mean more "nerds," which they seem to despise as corruptors. No bottling it up now, though... the marriage is well underway, and the "nerds" are looking at OS X as "desktop Unix," not "newish Apple OS." They're telling the people they work for.

(via Daring Fireball)

Posted by mph at 7:48 AM

January 20, 2003

When It Isn't For Money

Chimera developer Mike Pinkerton blogs that he's uncertain whether to keep going now that Apple has released Safari.

"Perhaps," he writes, "what is more disappointing is that my fifteen minutes of fame are just about up and I've really got nothing to show for it."

Which is a real shame.

Chimera's a pretty good browser, and its developers have done Mac users a real service by salvaging Gecko from the rest of Mozilla. Safari has a ways to go, and we can be almost guaranteed that the finished product will suffer from at least a few Apple-dictated blind spots.

Hopefully he and the other developers will keep at it. Maybe I should keep an eye out for more bug report material.

Posted by mph at 9:38 AM

A Brief Account of the Saturday Antiwar March

I went to the antiwar march on Saturday. This is a brief account.

Going in to the march, there was some discussion among the local gang as to whether to participate in the "official" and police-sanctioned march or participate in the "radical feeder march". The point of the feeder march wasn't clear to me, except from comments made here and there on local Web boards, in which contributors indicated that they wanted to raise consciousness about their issues with consumerism and globalism. Several were very concerned about "the middle class liberals" participating in the sanctioned march, and wanted to make the case for more radical politics with an audience they think needs educating.

I was against participating in the feeder march based on that reading. Sympathy for pieces of the broader agenda of local anti-authoritarians and anti-globalists doesn't extend to attempts to undermine the essentially broad coalition that appears to have gelled in opposition to the war: there are people opposed to the Bush administration's plans who won't care to be lectured about their buying habits, car, or coffee purchases. It doesn't require ignorance of the connectedness of some of these issues with the planned land war in Iraq to decide that the truly pressing, up-to-the-minute issue here is stopping that war and that those other issues will wait momentarily.

So after a little discussion, including some expressions of unhappiness with the idea of being caught up in a police assault on an unsanctioned demonstration, we chose to act like a collection of late-20 and 30-somethings and participate in the sanctioned march.

We got to the park blocks where the rally to kick off the march was held and went on a brief tour of the literature booths. The groups there were about what you'd expect: Physicians for Social Responsibility, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, American Friends Service Committee, and The War Resisters League had staffed tables. There was also a media booth run by the march organizers that didn't want to cooperate with the local indymedia outlet, which was unfortunate. After reading the account of their refusal to hand a press packet over to an indymedia correspondent becuase she wasn't "really the media," I decided I finally have a use for my press credentials if that's what it takes to get a little courtesy from the local organizers.

There were a lot of people milling around when the pre-march rally began, and our group almost instantly regretted not participating in the feeder march. As much as I felt it would be disrespectful toward the march organizers to try to inflict a broader anti-corporate/anti-globalist agenda on the event they'd put together, I felt like the march organizers, who decided a sonorous church chorus that demanded total attention and silence, followed by lengthy speeches, were imposing an agenda that made its own comment on who was welcome. I've helped organize rallies before, so I'm not unaware of the politics behind putting something like that together... there's a real pressure to let coalition members get a few words in, but the standing around was painful and seemingly interminable.


After a lot of standing around and speaking to each other in hushed voices (which earned a few sharp looks from people around us), we decided to follow the sounds of drumming, which we assumed would be the feeder march.

The change from the quiet, long-winded, low-energy affair in the park to the drumming and dancing among the "radical feeders" was bracing and energizing. A party atmosphere pervaded as people drummed, chanted, waved flags (and some pom-poms), blew whistles, and generally carried on.


There was a moment of confusion that split our group when some of us ended up at the head of what looked to be the start of the march and others made their way into the crowd that really was the head of the march, so my group ended up among the "radicals" for a while. They didn't do much besides wear a lot of black, with bandanas over their faces (ostensibly soaked in water or vinegar to absorb tear gas), and wave red flags around. One group took a stab at lighting an American flag on fire, but it looked to be flame retardant so I gave up trying to document the torching and moved on.


I read an account later that someone tried to charge the flag burners (I saw them at the end of the march and they'd managed to cover the flag in small scorch marks at the expense of many of the pamphlets they were going to use to raise the consciousness of white, middle-class liberals) but the police defended them, which I suppose might qualify as ironic in light of the fact the flag burners were masked to protect them from police tear gas.

Eventually, once we realized we were a block or two away from the real march (which hadn't started yet because people were still making speeches and because the police weren't ready yet), we made our way to the main march's route and waited around. Eventually they arrived and we joined them.


The rest of the march was pretty fun. It was led by drummers and a troupe of cheerleaders who had a guy dressed as a pirate out in front of them. The "radicals" ran around chalking circle-a's on everything in sight, which the police looked on with benign disinterest. We passed by a group of belly-dancers calling themselves "Bellies, Not Bombs," listened to a small band playing on the sidewalk as we passed by, and generally had a nice walk through the streets of Portland with 20,000 of our closest friends.


The closest thing to a low point in the whole affair came when an older woman drove her Mercedes into the midst of the march and promptly found herself surrounded by people with "No Blood for Oil" placards, including one balding, middle-aged man who told her the war was going to be all her fault before other people told him to shut up and leave her alone. The police were unsure of what to do with her without having to interact with the marchers, so some of the marchers told them to stay beside her while others cleared her way up to the next block.


There was also someone on the sidewalk decked out in 1st Cavalry insignia who held a sign supporting a war on Iraq. He was left alone by everyone who didn't have a camera, everyone with a camera swarmed around him while the police kept an eye on him.

At the end of the day, it was a pretty good time. I've been to antiwar marches in Washington, D.C. and in Bloomington, IN, and this one felt a lot more celebratory and hopeful than any other. Perhaps its because there's a sense that even if another land war in Iraq is almost guaranteed, the opposition to it is much greater than we could discern during Desert Storm.

If there's a next time, I expect I'll just start with the "radicals," even if I don't like their vanguard-y tone and preachiness. They had a lot more energy and I'd characterize what they were up to as much more of a pre-march party and drumline than a disruptive hijacking. There just weren't that many of them, and with the exception of their insistence on looking like German autonomes, plus the abortive flag burning, they didn't do anything that would seem to invite trouble. They certainly didn't provoke a police riot.

I'll probably also try to connect with the Indymedia folks to see if I can help them with their interactions with the march organizers. The tone of the local site is often shrill, and they aren't NBC or Newsweek, but denying them a press kit is out of line. Maybe a "professional" with a business card and credentials on their side will help.

Posted by mph at 1:01 AM

January 19, 2003

The Killer (1989)

How you feel about The Killer (a.k.a. Bloodshed of Two Heroes) will depend on how you feel about action flicks in general and whether you think there's any redeeming the form.

Hong Kong director John Woo's movie (starring Chow Yun-Fat, of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) has moments of sheer absurdity (a priest walking into the middle of a gunfight in his church watches bodies fall around him while he genuflects), grotesque violence (several shots of gutshot villains spitting blood into the air and into the camera), and over-the-top camera work (everyone seems to die in slow motion, and there are dozens killed before the whole thing is over). It also has Woo's obsession with doves witnessing death and a symbolic "dove wing snuffs candle as hero gets shot" scene that doesn't perversely enough, signify said hero's death.

There's also some dialog that I'm inclined to write off to translation errors and a massive culture-gap. Some of it is inexplicable any other way.

But for all its flaws (and there are technical as well as stylistic issues), The Killer has a heart, and more life can be found in a few minutes of this movie than in several Schwarzenegger flicks.

Posted by mph at 11:33 PM

March Pix

Just put up a gallery of photos from the Portland, OR antiwar march held yesterday (January 18).

photo from march

Pretty much a muddle of crowd shots and a few pix of some self-styled "radicals" who tried to burn an apparently flame-retardant flag. More on the whole thing later.

Posted by mph at 8:02 PM

Doesn't Come With a Web Button, But...

I'm in an Asian-American Film class this term, which is pretty clearly going to spend most of its time dealing with identity politics and issues of how American (read: white-dominated) institutions represent Asian-Americans. One issue (touched on briefly in my pocket review of Flower Drum Song) is the interchangeability of "Asians" to filmmakers, who have no qualms, even when not using "yellowface," to cast Japanese and Chinese actors in each others' ethnicities, because no one will probably know the difference.

So on Flutterby, I found a link to AllLookSame.com, which offers a quiz to measure how well you can tell Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans apart.

I thought I'd do better, having lived in Korea for a year (and having gotten out now and then while I was there). Even the site author, though, admits to having a hard time with his own quiz sometimes.

The rest of the site is a pretty good blog about Asian-American issues, too, including a recent entry on blepharoplasty, the procedure used to remove the epicanthic fold.

Posted by mph at 11:23 AM

January 17, 2003

Mickey Speaks

Sometimes "light and funny" makes the case better than a lot of squawking and heavy breathing. Here's Mickey Mouse explaining why he hates the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act:

"My first cartoon short, Steamboat Willie , was a direct parody of Keaton's movie Steamboat Bill, Jr. On the very first page of the script, it says, "Orchestra starts playing opening verses of Steamboat Bill ." I remember what Eldred's lawyer Lawrence Lessig said when he read that: "Try doing a cartoon take-off of one of Disney, Inc.'s latest films with an opening that copies the music.

"So yeah, they created me. But they don't want to let other people build on me when they make their own creations, the way they did when I was born. And now I'm locked up for another stinking 20 years! Do you have any idea what it's like to have to greet kids at Disneyland every single day, always smiling, never slipping off for a cigarette ?

Posted by mph at 3:00 PM

e-Monkey Newsletter -- Volume 1, Issue 5

The e-Monkey Newsletter -- Volume 1, Issue 5 just hit the wires. Top news this week: hope for the Naples, FL squirrel monkeys!

Posted by mph at 9:35 AM

January 15, 2003

From Russia With Love (1963)

This is probably my favorite James Bond flick and it makes me sorrier yet to think about the latest in the series. Not that Bond flicks are worthy of some sort of reverence, but From Russia With Love felt more like Sean Connery finding the Bond character and less like so much mugging and checklist-ticking.

It seems the most rooted of any of the series in its Cold War context. It has a belly-dancer catfight, poison-spike shoes, a scary KGB dominatrix, and the class significations Fleming's audience craved. It's not a bad adaptation, either: the novel takes a long time to get around to bringing Bond into the picture and has two lingering biographies along the way. The script is a substantial change from the first portion of the novel, but the essential story is preserved and the action is fairly on track once the alternate first act is wrapped up.

Would I bring this home given the inventory of the local video store? Probably not. But for college credit and something to do on a Wednesday night, it isn't bad entertainment.

Posted by mph at 11:05 PM

Baby Toy: "I hate you..."

"A Christmas toy intended to spread the peace and love of the holiday apparently spews hatred.

"As first reported by The Columbian, a Vancouver, Wash., family discovered that the toy they unsuspectingly attached to their son's crib utters the words 'I hate you' amid the rhythmic ocean sounds designed to lull the baby asleep.

"Blanche Skelton told WorldNetDaily she was giving her 6-month-old, Alex, his medicine the other night when she heard the soft voice of a woman or little kid repeating the nasty message over and over. "

Complete Story

(Via BoingBoing)

Posted by mph at 12:38 PM

Decaf Frapucinno With Your Protest, Sir?

After an initial wave of red-baiting coverage of anti-war activists, it's good to see acknowledgment that one need not be a member of a Maoist splinter sect to have issues with the upcoming war in Iraq. The New York Times covers the rather diverse political background found in assorted groups in the movement:

"Last month, Win Without War, the most mainstream of the antiwar coalitions, announced its formation with a carefully worded mission statement. 'We are patriotic Americans who share the belief that Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction,' the statement read. 'But we believe that a pre-emptive military invasion of Iraq will harm American national interests.'

"Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, a member of the coalition, was responsible for the signed letter in The Wall Street Journal.

"'Let's be clear,' the letter reads. 'We supported the gulf war. We supported our intervention in Afghanistan. We accept the logic of a just war. But Mr. President, your war on Iraq does not pass the test.'"

Here in Portland, there will be a march on Saturday. The last one I went to here was fairly uneventful. Local anarchists are somewhat frustrated at the lack of an attempt to tie in opposition to the war with their broader anti-globalism/anti-Starbucks/anti-SUV/anti-consumerism agenda, but the NYT article reminds me that I'd rather have them frustrated and complaining on their message boards than successfully attempting to "raise consciousness" on the back of a protest organized by people who don't share their agenda.

Hopefully, when they do put a brick through the window of one our many Starbucks shops, they'll be careful not to hit one of their comrades in the antiwar movement.

Posted by mph at 9:55 AM

Mark Pilgrim: "Standards are bullshit"

Mr. Pilgrim is unhappy with the state of XHTML. Until I read a followup from him, the dropped <cite> tag had me pretty worked up, too:

"I know, I know, XHTML 2.0 isn’t meant to be backwardly compatible. But damn it, I’ve done everything the W3C has ever recommended. I migrated to CSS because they told me it would work better with the browsers and handheld devices of the future, then the browsers and handheld devices of the future came out and my site looked like shit. I migrated to XHTML 1.1 because they told me to use the latest standards available, and it bought me absolutely nothing except some MIME type headaches and (I am not making this up) Javascript incompatibilities. I migrated to semantic markup that has been around for 10 fucking years and they go and drop it. Not deprecate it slowly over time, mind you, but just fucking drop it. Which means that, after keeping up with all the latest standards, painstakingly marking up all my content, and validating every last page on my site, I’m still stuck in a dead end."

His lament ends with "Standards are bullshit. XHTML is a crock. The W3C is irrelevant. I’ve migrated to HTML 4."

(Via Flutterby)

Posted by mph at 8:50 AM

Flower Drum Song

Good lord.

Flower Drum Song the novel is a well-respected book about Chinese-Americans living in San Francisco. Flower Drum Song the movie is the musical that nearly cost the book upon which it is based its place in the Asian-American literary canon, or so says the preface to the Penguin edition of the novel, anyhow.

The movie's plot is driven by a young man's romantic choices. His traditional, unassimilated father (emasculated in the movie, turned into a wheezing old whiner) wants him to marry a picture bride, newly smuggled in from China. Well, she's smuggled in from China, but she's played by Japanese actress Miyoshi Umeki, who, to save you following the link for the moment, also played "Mrs. Livingston" in The Courtship of Eddie's Father. His other choice is the thoroughly Americanized gold-digger Linda Low, who sings "I Enjoy Being a Girl."

The high/low of the movie has to be the song "Chop Suey," which anticipates Billy Joel and REM's 1986 efforts with this opening verse:

Chop Suey, Chop Suey,
Living here is very much like Chop Suey
Hula hoops and nuclear war,
Dr. Salk and Zsa Zsa Gabor
Harry Truman, Truman Capote and Dewey
Chop Suey! Chop Suey!

If you're a big fan of musicals (and I am not... though some day I'll get around to reading enough about them to affect scholarly appreciation, so I can come off as more human when confronted by them), maybe you'll see past the sheer idiocy and stupefication this thing will visit on your head and find yourself humming and tapping. Or maybe you'll turn it off and go walk around in the cold drizzle without a hat on.

Posted by mph at 12:48 AM

January 14, 2003

Still Crazy After All These Years

Emma Goldman's too political for Berkeley:
"...university officials have refused to allow a fund-raising appeal for the Emma Goldman Papers Project to be mailed because it quoted Goldman on the subjects of suppression of free speech and her opposition to war. The university deemed the topics too political as the country prepares for possible military action against Iraq."

Once again the fifth-columnists in academia undermine our nation's efforts to coalesce behin...

ps. Happy 200th post to PuddingTime

Posted by mph at 11:29 AM

A Crisis of Imagination

This might be the most hostile interpretation of the "copyleft world view" I've ever read:

"The Commons enthusiasts believe that content publishers earn their profits by using copyright law to steal content from its creators and charge extortionary prices to consumers."
(Arnold Kling, Content Is Crap, Tech Central Station)

This Commons enthusiast thinks that content publishers can do whatever they want with content they buy from musicians, artists, and writers (me included), but when it comes to stuff I produce for myself, I want to make it unequivocally clear what the conditions are on its use, and I want a way to convey that those conditions include some conditional sharing. Fuzzy-headed gnutella enthusiasts suffering confusion between the ideas of theft and contractual agreements are something Mr. Kling can wrestle with, but in the end it's just a straw man for what are probably deeper cultural issues he has with why people share and whether it's good to do so in the first place.

I'm not worried about the big media companies coming along and stealing my Charles Mingus outline, but I'm a little irked at 'net parasites who cuddle right up to the line of claiming something I spent time on is really their work, their idea, and their inspiration. To the extent any of them have a conscience and will observe things like a random license they encounter on a Web page with stuff they want to take, the CC license I chose makes it clear what their rights are, and encourages them to think about admitting that they borrowed.

Mr. Kling's essay concludes with this:

"Creative Commons is based on a naive ideology that believes that raw content is gold, which then gets stolen by the evil media companies. In reality, the economics of content are that most of the value-added comes from the filtering process, not the creation process. If you want to overthrow incumbent publishers with Internet-based alternatives, you are better off starting from the assumption that Content is Crap."

Spoken like a true working columnist.

His ideas about applying bayseian filters to content aren't so terrible: I'd love to see the sort of deep, data-gobbling mechanisms that could plow through the 70+ Web sites I at least grant a cursory headline skim daily and get me to the ones with something I can use on a particular day. But once I'm there, I'd like to know what I can do with the content I find, not because I hope to produce a paying newspaper or Web site stitched together from other peoples' work, but because I'd like to know what I can use and what I can't, what I can pass along to friends and what work the person running the site would prefer to keep for herself. The sort of metadata a site fully decked out in Creative Commons licensing would provide would give me a way to learn that easily, and the simple act of including a license badge would tell me plenty on its own.

If anything, advocating the use of technology to filter content is even more of an argument against big aggregators. If we can accept the idea that machines should be allowed a greater hand in helping us get to the bottom of the information pile that is the Web (I'm not convinced, and have said so a few times), we can certainly accept the idea that human editors and aggregators are in serious trouble when confronted with the twin threat of adequate search engines and competent, predictive filtering. And at that point, license issues become critical: freed of the intermediary editorial aggregator, we have to know what to make of the content we find. We have to know if the report from a strike or a demonstration is ours to use for our own collection of union news, if the really good mp3 is suitable for adding to our streaming radio station, or whether something as simple as a poem is ok to add to our online literary journal.

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced Mr. Kling doesn't suffer so much from hostility to sharing as he does a poverty of imagination... he's able to get to the point where filtering technology makes it easier to drill down to the good stuff, but he runs out of creative energy before taking the next step: using that technology to act as a lever to extend the capacity we each have to eliminate the people who behave as critical filters on our behalf.

Posted by mph at 1:23 AM

January 13, 2003

Critic Bites Back

Salon critic Charles Taylor is miffed that Variety EiC Peter Bart doesn't like film critics, and it gets nasty before it gets nice:

"At this point, it might be useful to consider just who Peter Bart is. Before becoming editor in chief of Variety, Bart was a production executive at MGM and Paramount. His own contributions to the art of movies include producing 'Revenge of the Nerds II' and the Rob Lowe hockey drama 'Youngblood.' It may be more pertinent to his arguments to note that he also appeared as himself in the 1998 movie 'Junket Whore.'

Taylor keeps his junks on the side of the angels with only slight deviation into self-pity over the oppression of his fellow critics. Three stars.

Posted by mph at 10:20 PM

Arwen: Defender of Rohan

So, one of the huffy fan issues during the production of Lord of the Rings was the presence of Arwen at Helm's Deep which, of course, isn't in the books and which made a lot of people very unhappy. Some enterprising analysts have found what they think is evidence of an incomplete coverup of Liv Tyler's presence in those scenes.

Posted by mph at 5:31 PM

Goodbye, Graffiti

Looks like Palm is dumping Graffiti in favor of "Graffiti 2," which is just Jot. Good. I started using my Palm for my class schedule again just last week and rediscovered my boundless hatred for Graffiti... it's just pesky... especially if you switch between handwritten notes for notetaking and the Palm for entering dates, etc. People have been paying $39 for Jot for a few years now... it must be better.

Posted by mph at 1:50 PM

Music Notes: Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

Part of this term's class load is "Jazz History," which includes the requirement of two weekly jazz CD reviews. They're only supposed to be a page long, but a paragraph or two on every track makes them run on. So rather than wasting my pre-condensed notes, I'm putting them up here, starting with the kickoff album, Charlie Mingus' Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus.

Charles Mingus
Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

Sample track (streaming):

"II.BS" opens this album, and it's one of my favorite tracks on any CD. Each piece of the ensemble introduces itself, from the bass, mic'd close enough that you can hear the player's fingers moving up and down the strings, to the brass, which initially seem to devolve into chaos before the whole ensemble comes back together to drive the piece forward. It's a bustling, urgent track. Volkswagen's use of this was mercifully brief.

"I X Love," the second track, has none of "II.BS" 'uptown traffic' feel, and feels like a melancholic variant on film noir saxophones. It picks its way through the melody, with the saxes providing a quiet, descending counterpoint to the brass. The whole track is daydreamy, with periodic bursts of sax-driven flight.

"I X Love" moves very easily into "Celia," which momentarily sheds the drifting, airy sound of "I X Love" for a more straight-ahead, uptempo sound, then alternates between the two. During the faster-moving periods, the drums are a lot of fun to listen to: they're on-tempo and easily read, but peppered with fills... it's hard not to feel my stomach drop or my heart skip a little when I focus solely on the rhythm section. A saxophone solo at the end recapitulates both the driving and dreamy themes before the track ends.

"Mood Indigo" returns us to the melancholic sounds we heard as background chorus in "I X Love." There's a lovely bass solo, with accompanying brushes on the snares and airy, sparse piano that evoke a rainy day and empty streets.

"Better Get Hit in Yo' Soul" is more upbeat and and even playful, turning the deeper saxophones loose in a chorus that's fast and articulated. The saxes remain all over the place on this track, and much like "II.BS," it's all over the place until the mid-point, when a simple, clapped rhythm and coherent sax work bring it back for a rally and a second flight into complex melodies and counter-melodies that periodically mesh into brass and woodwind joining each other. The last minute-and-a-half moves the piece into a straight-ahead sound, perhaps more reminiscent of swing owned by the saxes and only punctuated by the brass.

"Theme for Lester Young" feels like a much less swirling, busy piece. It's more simply melodic, with much more traditional solos coming and going. The overall sound is once again quiet and melancholy, with the piano providing dissonant background that aren't realized until the final moments of the track.

"Hora Decubitus" once again launches into the same fast-moving, rushing sounds of "II.BS." There's some strong trombone work providing a counterpoint to the sax line and some angry, caterwauling trumpet work going on in the back. A midpoint sax solo is disjointed and squealing before giving way to a trumpet leads the ensemble back into more of the swirling and busy complexity that's marked the upbeat portions of this CD.

"Freedom" opens with an evocation of slave fields and chain gangs, with a brief monologue and backing vocal chorus. The monologue is an overt admonition of the red-baiting opponents of the Civil Rights movement, and a reminder of better days to come. The body of the track launches again into fast-moving, straight-ahead sounds. When it does slow down, it's less melancholy and drifting than earlier tracks, much more robust and direct. Though it might seem like the odd track out, especially to listeners more comfortable with the kitchen sink aesthetics of a lot of pop and college radio, it provides a unification of the two musical themes at work throughout the album.

Posted by mph at 11:13 AM

January 12, 2003

Seven Samurai

Akira Kurosawa's 1954 precursor of everything from its obvious gunslinger retelling in The Magnificent Seven (1960) to The A Team, to the issues of the Marvel Star Wars comic that came immediately after the movie adaptation was complete (though I think they thought they were adapting The Magnificent Seven) is engrossing, detailed, and wonderful to watch.

(Part of the Seven Samurai Legacy, Green Rabbits and All)

Film students love it for its technique, I love it because it takes a good, long time to tell its story from beginning to end, developing things as much as they need, luxuriating in its deliberate pace. I love long movies, and at nearly 3.5 hours, Seven Samurai qualifies: 3.5 hours of being a very well-realized somewhere else.

Most people are fond of Toshiro Mifune's Kikuchiyo (for good reason... it's a great performance), but I think I most prefer Takashi Shimura's Kambei, the leader of the Samurai band.

The Criterion DVD is pretty good, but it's a real pity that better prints didn't exist to work from: as much as the movie still looks wonderful, there are problems with the prints in the form of scratches and distortions that are simply beyond repair. I'm looking forward to the commentary track, which has received high praise for its detail and insights into feudal Japan.

Posted by mph at 11:28 PM

There's Something About Mary

There's Something About Mary isn't for everybody, but I own a copy. It might be because in the Farrellyverse, no one's completely innocent, so what could be cruel in another context becomes a question of justice on a sliding scale, and perhaps gentle justice at that. Beyond fancy-pants rationalizations, this is a funny movie because it's never satisfied with the first iteration of a gag... it always aims for the most over-the-top it can go and usually gets there.

Matt Dillon gets the best lines in this movie.

Posted by mph at 10:05 PM

A Little Too MADD?

TalkLeft says MADD is out of control and needs to be ridiculed rather than debated. If MADD's morphing into a gang of prohibitionists, I'm all for ridiculing it, too.

On the other hand, TalkLeft's chosen source, DUIGulag is offputtingly fond of grainy pictures of Stalin and Hitler, and has a weird way of using the word "only" in conjunction with phrases like "3,803 fatalities."

Posted by mph at 6:20 PM


Epitonic seems like a good place to go to poke around for new music to download. It's fairly fast, friendly, lets you download what you find or just keep track of it with a 'blackbox' page, and has plenty of ways to stream its offerings if you just want to listen to 'net radio.

(Via RRE)

Posted by mph at 5:34 PM

About Schmidt

People grumbled and complained when Jack Nicholson refused to "act his age" a while back, so he is now and it's pretty good to see. The character he plays in this one is newly retired and simmering with a sort of impotent rage that Nicholson's able to bring forward really well. Schmidt is an angry, aging chipmunk.

Outside of Nicholson's performance, the movie does a great job of conveying the alien and sometimes repulsive feel of other people well into their lives. Schmidt is confronted with grotesque in-laws, but their grotesqueries are less an absolute state than they are a reflection on how different other people can be, how uncomfortable it is to be alone in a crowd, and how unlikely it is that our lies to the contrary will go undetected by anyone who knows us.

Posted by mph at 4:59 PM

UnGot Mac?

Hate Macintoshes?

Sick of reading about software you'll never use?

Don't find John Gruber's depthless hatred of the OS X Finder fascinating and link-worthy?

PuddingTime's MacFree Page might interest you, as might its accompanying newsfeed. You get all the PuddingTime goodness, including movie reviews, moping remembrances of the Korean prostitute trade, passive-agressive assaults on ex-Cluetrainers, and sollipsistic commentary on news from the day before yesterday, with no Mac news!

Too good to pass up... tell all your friends.

Posted by mph at 12:52 PM

January 11, 2003

Spattered Like Blurbs

Ed's moved on to obBlog.

Posted by mph at 11:35 PM


Well, I got tired of maintaining two blogs where one will do, so PuddingFlicks has been consolidated into this journal and the rating scheme shrunk to get rid of the half-star ratings. There will be some attendant inconsistency between the review copy and the star ratings, I guess, but I'm prepared to accept the consequences.


If you really, really like just the movie reviews, it was a pretty simple matter to build a movies-only page with an accompanying movies feed for syndication.

Posted by mph at 4:36 PM

Yet More Safari.

Safari continues to provoke some soul-searching regarding Mozilla, this time on Dave Hyatt's blog.

Posted by mph at 3:52 PM

NYT: Meditating on War and Guilt, Zen Says It's Sorry

Zen Buddhism is often cited as "the good religion" based on a superficial survey from people who'd otherwise consider themselves hostile to religion, and it's sometimes shocking to realize how much an apparently pacific thing has been pressed into the service of oppressors, though it shouldn't be much of a surprise considering how much fucking things up in the name of ruining other peoples' days is a long-standing human tradition.

It wasn't a horrible surprise to me to learn of the Samurai caste's embrace of Zen... I kept a copy of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones in my rucksack every time I went out on a jump or out into the field during four years in the Army. It squared with the sort of 'ethical warrior' outlook I'd crafted as a way to cope with my time in the military, and it shared space on the shelf with books like In Search of the Warrior Spirit and Zen in the Martial Arts.

So the NYT's headline is a little off when it implies that "Zen" is "apologizing." "Zen" is doing no such thing... rather, some of its modern adherents are disavowing an interpretation and realization of Zen ideals they (and the rest of us) find repugnant. All the same, it's good to read about major schools of Zen thought coming to grips with the relationship between their beliefs and militarism.

"To many Americans, Zen Buddhists primarily devote themselves to discovering inner serenity and social peace. But Zen has had strong ties to militarism ? indeed so strong, that the leaders of one of the largest denominations in Japan have remorsefully compared their former religious fanaticism during Japan's brutal expansionism in the 1930's and 40's to today's murderously militant Islamists.

"The unexpected apology for wartime complicity by the leaders of Myoshin-ji, the headquarters temple of one of Japan's main Zen sects, was issued 16 days after 9/11, which gave it a particular resonance. But the leaders of Myoshin-ji ? as well as other Zen Buddhist leaders who have also delivered apologies over the past two years ? mainly credit a disillusioned Westerner for their public regrets: Brian Victoria, a former Methodist missionary, who is a Zen priest and historian.

"Buddhist leaders in Japan and the United States said in recent interviews that Mr. Victoria had exerted a profound influence, especially in the West, by revealing in his 1997 book, Zen at War, a shockingly dark and unfamiliar picture of Zen during World War II to followers who had no idea about its history. Keiitsu Hosokawa, secretary general of Myoshin-ji, made a speech to the group's general assembly in September 2002 in which he said that the Japanese edition of Zen at War had been one of several factors that 'provided the impetus' to issue the group's apology."

Posted by mph at 11:25 AM


After noting its propensity for destroying home directories and screwing up /tmp, it seems appropriate to go ahead and note that Safari's been updated to fix the big problems and is available for download.

It's still botching a few things: MovableType bookmarklets don't work, it's hosing up href's in list elements, and PHP cookies aren't working on an undiscernable basis, but it's still crazy fast... not just in the way it renders pages but in how quickly it moves back through the document history and how quickly it can scroll a page up and down.

Also worth noting: Unsanity's free metallifizer does a nice job of dumping the metal look for Safari (and other Cocoa apps).

Posted by mph at 12:02 AM

January 10, 2003

The Third Man (1949)

This pocket review kicks off the Winter '03 season as I have one class on "Spy Movies of the '60s" and another on "Asian-American Cinema."

Not a spy film, and not made in the '60s, The Third Man stands on the cusp of the genre as a Cold War thriller without spies but with many of the eventual trappings of a spy flick: a divided city (Vienna), intrigue, doublecross, faces appearing out of shadows, looming silhouettes on the walls, and a dawning sense of confusion over the new political rules of the post-war world reflected through canted camera angles and bizarre, gnome-like children. Orson Welles is menacing in a chipper sort of way.

The first and second acts are fine and engaging storytelling, but the third act is a gorgeous series of night chases and a remarkable denouement that communicates pages without even moving the camera as the last bit of cowboy pretension our hero indulges is brushed aside by a woman's scorn.

Graham Greene wrote the screenplay and a novella of the same title. The film plays better than the book reads, but the akward and mildly ridiculous main character is lost to a hair too much leading man gravitas by Joseph Cotten, who simply doesn't look like the permanent adolescent Greene intended.

The soundtrack, zither music by Anton Karas, is also excellent.

Posted by mph at 10:01 PM

Salon Stakes Out Some Post-Boom Turf

Andrew Leonard, Salon's resident open source cheerleader for a few of the boom years, is helping his pub stake out some post-boom turf with a takedown of The Industry Standard. There's just a little pawing at the log in his own eye to lend a sense of decorum to the proceedings. Lightweight, but a few entertaining anecdotes.

Posted by mph at 8:58 PM

Nuvo: Vonnegut at 80

Indianapolis indie weekly Nuvo has interview with Kurt Vonnegut, who is 80:

"We have been conquered by psychopathic personalities who are attractive. "

Posted by mph at 5:19 PM

e-Monkey Newsletter -- Volume 1, Issue 4

The latest issue of the e-monkey.org newswire newsletter, Monkeygram, is out.

Posted by mph at 10:51 AM

Safari Alert!

Slashdot reports there are major problems with Safari:

"There have been many problems reported with Safari on Apple's discussion boards. The two most prominent are that option-clicking on a link to download can replace your Home folder with the downloaded file, effectively nuking your Home folder. The other has been reported as a printing problem, but is far worse. The printing problem occurs because Safari deletes /tmp, which is a link to /private/tmp."


Into the trash and here's hoping the team gets it better with the next release.

Posted by mph at 12:13 AM

January 9, 2003

Better Browsing Through Useful Software

So, over the course of getting situated back into school this term, I picked up a pretty cool app called OmniOutliner, which I'm using to recap my class notes each night. Among other things, OmniOutliner spits out HTML(that's a sample of today's "Asian American Film" notes) and an interesting file format called OPML, which is for outlining.

It turns out that NetNewsWire also turns out OPML files, and that Jeremy Zawodny wrote a bit of Perl called opml2html to turn opml files like what NNW kicks out into a simple blogroll. So that, in turn, is what's "powering" my blogroll on the right column of the front page. The orange 'XML' image is for subscribing, the title is so you can check out the page itself, and mousing over pops up a description of the item.

If you're using NetNewsWire, you'll need to tweak a few variable names in opml2html. NetNewsWire names its OPML entities with capital letters, which opml2html doesn't expect, so $item->{htmlurl}; needs to become $item->{htmlUrl}; and $item->{xmlurl}; needs to become $item->{xmlUrl};.

Unfortunately, NetNewsWire doesn't dump its opml file with categories intact, so the end result isn't as tidy as it is when NNW's running on my desktop.

Posted by mph at 11:52 PM

January 8, 2003

Killer App

Wow. Homeland Alert 1.2.1 is out. What's Homeland Alert?

Homeland Alert displays Homeland Security Advisory status in the menu bar using a color-coded Aqua drop, numeric code and text label.

I thought it was a tongue-in-cheek poke at the arbitrary and absurd color code until I noted that, in less than best situationist fashion, the developer expects me to fork over $5 for it. You can, of course, just make The Whitehouse your homepage and find out for free, like all the good non-Mac using citizens.

Posted by mph at 10:13 PM

Adult Supremacism pts 3&4

Sven is back with parts three and four of his Adult Supremacism series.

Posted by mph at 9:52 PM

More on Safari

Daring Fireball comments on Safari and executes a brutal takedown of Mozilla/Gecko along the way.

Chimera's Mike Pinkerton has some comments, too.

Posted by mph at 12:42 PM

NY Times: U.S. Troops in South Korea Encounter Increased Hostility

The NY Times reports violence against US soldiers in S. Korea is getting worse.

The report has some interesting details but misses a few things because the reporter doesn't seem to be spending much time with the Koreans he's happy to speak for.

Is it conceivable that a S. Korean citizen might not want the US military there for reasons besides simple N. Korean propaganda? If it is, the reporter misses that possibility, and I'm happy to point out that he's dead wrong, anyhow... I spent time with a S. Korean soldier who fervently wanted us the hell out of his country, and the Times reporter's assertion that S. Korean youth "sincerely believe what North Korea has taught for decades: that American troops arrived here in 1950 and split the nation in two" is like nothing I ever heard from Corporal Kim or any of the other Koreans I spoke with.

Do they think the US is exacerbating problems in Korea? Yes, a lot of them do. But it's a long haul from "general ignorance" to a belief that the presence of a US infantry division camped out in S. Korea is keeping tensions high. There's plenty of room for debate on the issue, and I certainly don't think N. Korea is Seoul's "jolly neighbor to the north," but the Times reporter is spending too much time in the post snackbar and not enough time out on the streets, where he might pick up a more nuanced understanding.

He's also wrong about the "new" condition signs outside EUSA headquarters. They were there in 1995. The same year, incidentally, S. Koreans were pushing US troops out into traffic or attacking them in alleys; the same year we were routinely encouraged to go out in pairs and stick to the area right outside post.

Posted by mph at 11:56 AM

Peter Jackson Crosses the Invisible Line

O.k... I can take "Aragorn over the cliff," I can take "Agent Elrond," I can take "Faramir the Bastard," and I can take dwarf tossing jokes... but this goes over the line:

"Wellington, New Zealand - A recently leaked trailer for The Return of the King has Tolkien fans outraged over the apparent addition of a new character - Jar-Jaromir. The scene depicted in the trailer shows Jar-Jaromir shouting, 'Gondora gonna fallsa'; he then trips over a corpse and knocks down a couple of Uruk-hai.

"Producers of The Lord of the Rings trilogy confirmed the addition of the half-brother of Boromir and Faramir.


"'While The Two Towers is performing better at the box office than The Fellowship of the Ring, we are worried about a demographic that is skewing much older than desired. More mature fans are very good to have, but it's the younger fans who buy the merchandise. That's really what brings in the bucks on a movie like this,' said producer Tim Wilcox.

Go read the whole story.

(via SGTStryker)

Posted by mph at 11:19 AM

January 7, 2003

The Safari Plot Thickens

In a mail entitled "Greetings from the Safari team at Apple Computer", a few of the names behind Safari made themselves known, many of whom Linux observers will recognize as the leading lights of Eazel.

Darin Adler was Eazel's ex-software VP. I interviewed him a while back when Eazel was getting a lot of press from big media. Don Melton is unnamed in it, but he turns up in a beanbag chair in chapter one of The Joy of Linux (you can download chapter 1 as a PDF).

If there's any irony to be found here, it's in both the return of these prodigals to Apple, which they'd hoped to recreate in their image using Linux during the boom; and the fact that their use of Mozilla for the Nautilus project irked them enough to make them reuse KHTML, instead, which comes from KDE, which wasn't license-pure enough for them when they first set out to build a Linux project.

Well, Safari is much better out of the gate than Nautilus was (I know they aren't the same project... I'm just comparing the sense of quality), and it's a much simpler project. Let's see what they do.

Posted by mph at 10:00 PM

Apple Releases Its Own X11

So, today I was

when along comes news that Apple has released its own XFree package. I was pretty happy with OroborOSX, but this has the benefit of much easier menus for customizing app launchers, a more integrated window manager, and more speed: GTK apps are faster, window redraws seem nicer, the focus policy makes more sense, and window resizing isn't a blind proposition. So it's still a pretty good day, even if Safari needs some time.

The MacSlash comments are pretty helpful for people using fink to handle X11 on their Mac gear.

Posted by mph at 5:58 PM

Real-Lie TV

Noy Thrupkaew of The American Prospect is a little put off by Fox's new Joe Millionaire.

The premise of the show is that 20 women are brought together to vie for the affections of a man they think has inherited $50 million. He hasn't... he's a $19,000/year construction worker who just has to spend his days lying to them about his wealth and, as he puts it, "figuring out who the gold diggers are."

Hint, you big oaf: all of them.

The worst part of the show is knowing that if they have it on the air now, it must have finished filming, and if it finished filming, it must have had an ending that didn't involve any of the concerned parties telling the production team to cram their cameras up their asses. The other worst part is that the cameras choose to focus on the worst of the crew of women out for "Joe's" millions, "demonstrating" that it isn't just the folks on Springer and Montel who are deeply fucked. I'm not quite ready to kill my television, but I'm awfully close to soldering the tuner to the DVD player station and leaving it at that.

Posted by mph at 3:39 PM

Go On A Safari


Apple has released a beta of Safari, a KHTML-based browser. I love Chimera, and think I'll miss tabbed browsing, but here are some highlights:

Oh... it's a Cocoa app, so those beloved Emacs keybindings work in every text editing field.

LinuxToday has the technical details on the use of KHTML, etc. Mark Pilgrim has a rundown of where CSS is working (and not) in Safari.

Update: O.k. I found a CSS bug. The handy little 'bug' icon in the upper right let me send the page, the page's source, and a brief report of the problem to Apple.

Yet Another Update: Alas and alack, it doesn't seem to like bookmarklets, which means no handy Movable Type "postit" buttons. Too bad. Once NetNewsWire has category support, it won't be such a big deal. For now, though, back to Chimera.

Posted by mph at 1:10 PM

Journalists Dying Less, Jailed More

Reporters Without Borders has released its annual report:

"In many countries, authorities used the global fight against terrorism as an excuse to arrest reporters, including journalists accused of supporting rebels in Chechnya or Colombia, Reporters Without Borders said.

"In 2002, at least 692 journalists were arrested, compared to 489 in 2001. In Nepal alone, at least 130 journalists and media assistants were arrested, the group said.

"As of New Year's Day, 118 journalists around the world were behind bars, the media advocacy group said."

(via Editor and Publisher)

Posted by mph at 11:30 AM

NYT: Growing Rowdier, TV Reality Shows Are Attracting Suits

Looks like tv show producers are learning people don't like it when you humiliate them in public:

"Lawsuits against the unscripted entertainment shows known as reality television used to be filed by people who got hurt imitating stunts on shows like 'Jackass' or believed that the rules on shows like 'Survivor' were applied unfairly.

"Now, media lawyers and insurance executives say a new sort of lawsuit, involving claims of serious physical and emotional injury to the participants themselves, is on the rise."


Posted by mph at 9:44 AM

'DVD Jon' scores huge legal victory

The MPAA thwarted:

"A Norwegian teenager who helped crack a code meant to protect the content of DVDs won full backing from an Oslo court on Tuesday. The court acquitted him on all charges, a ruling that comes as a crushing blow to public prosecutors and entertainment giants.

"Jon Lech Johansen was visibly relieved, and vindicated, after an Oslo court acquitted him in a celebrated computer cracking case.

"The case had been widely described as a 'David vs Goliath' battle, pitting 16-year-old Jon Lech Johansen from a small town south of Oslo against huge corporations and organizations including the Motion Picture Association of America.

"'David' clearly won."

Slashdot has some amplifying discussion, but only if you set your moderation threshold to three or higher.

(Via LinuxToday and many other sites)

Posted by mph at 7:40 AM

January 6, 2003

"The Bunk Stops Here"

purportal.com is a one-stop debunking source for anyone who's been plagued by the agitated forwardings of coworkers and other undesireables. A handy form searches Snopes.com, CERT, and others. There's also a nice list of debunking sites.

(Via Editor and Publisher)

Posted by mph at 11:51 PM

I Can'tWait for WikiFormatting

The folks behind Movable Type earn a resounding and loud "yay!" from me for the Simple and Powerful Text Formatting they plan to bring out in the next release. The highlight is wiki formatting, which I came to really love when doing stuff on PuddingWiki.

It all goes toward making this stuff easier for everybody.

Posted by mph at 11:37 AM

But It Is! Smooth.

Apropos yesterday's notes about Internet Explorer's speed and apparent hatred of basic handshaking, Michael B. dropped this line after I lamented to him that the information provided was for Internet Explorer 5:

Our intranet site runs on an ISS server, and I just happen to have a packet sniffer... So I fired it up, set up a filter to capture any TCP/UDP traffic coming or going from my IP, and did a web-request with IE6.

It turns out that Microsoft does indeed stay to the standards:

client  -> server       SYN (SEQ 1)                                             
server  -> client       ACK (SEQ 1) SYN (SEQ 2)                                 
client  -> server       ACK (SEQ 2) *Handshake Complete*                        
client  -> server       HTTP_GET...                                             

Client MSIE 6.0
Server Microsoft ISS 5.0

Time, I suppose, to go off and get outraged over something else.

Posted by mph at 8:42 AM

January 5, 2003

Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can, coupled with Gangs of New York goes a long way toward improving my mood toward Leonardo DiCaprio.

It's a very simple movie that doesn't do anything more than tell the story of Frank Abagnale, a teenager who managed to impersonate an airline pilot, lawyer, and doctor while writing millions in bad checks and trotting around the globe. The parts that work (most of the time) are the outstanding period-piece visuals (the movie's set in the '60s), the pace (which stays sprightly most of the way through), and the sense that even if you hate Spielberg as part of some sort of counter-populist backlash, he's good at setting up a shot and telling a story. Tom Hanks is pretty good, and Christopher Walken is as entertaining as ever.

What doesn't work, as much as it's odd for me to complain about a movie's length, is probably the running time. It's not a two hour and twenty minute movie and it could have been wrapped up more quickly. That's the breaks. It's a pleasant ride all the same, especially if you're a fan of con men and quick-thinking protagonists.

Posted by mph at 11:22 PM

Golly, IE Sure Is Fast

Ever wonder why Internet Explorer seems so buttery smooth? Ignoring TCP/IP's most cherished mating dance seems to help.

Posted by mph at 5:36 PM

January 4, 2003

Not As Demented as Art Frahm...

...but with all the charm, two galleries of Cowboy's cowgirl pinups are worth investigating.


And once you've gotten your fill of buckaroo babes, don't forget to go look at the celery- flavored erotic imagery of Mr. Frahm, either.

Via BoingBoing

Posted by mph at 10:48 AM

January 2, 2003

Back From the Coast

Back from a great New Year's celebration on the Oregon coast at Manzanita. A group of us rented a place and spent several days laying around in the hot tub or roaming the beach. As with most, the pictures are in the process of getting nicer cropping and tweaking. Click the picture for the gallery:

alison on the beach

Michael Burton is also collecting a larger gallery from everyone who had a camera there.

Posted by mph at 12:45 AM