July 10th, 2003


Beyond the Nightmare

One of those nightmares where you're trapped in a house, and it's designed purely to take advantage of all of your fears and use them against you. Except I was there with a few friends who were completely falling for it and I was coping with it just fine. I woke up just as I was explaining to the controlling entity that I was well aware I had neuroses, but I wasn't going to let it destroy me with them.

Oh, and another ealier dream of which I have no memory except that it ended up with me in a large pile with scanitly clad Charlie's Angels. Sadly I woke up from that one before it could turn into porn...

Yay me

I submitted my extended piece on Stupid Software to Kuro5hin, it made it through the queue (always a scary process) and is now here, complete with scathing comments.

The comments were actually pretty useful, and I now want to extend the piece to something about 3 times as long, and cover a lot more ground with it.

Maybe when i'm finished testing my COBOL program...

Charlies Angels 1&2 Review (no spoilers for anything post-credits)

I like my action movies one of two ways – uber-realistic, people dying left right and centre and the laws of both physics and statistics firmly in place or pure pantomime fun, with cigar-chewing heroes saving the world by drilling nukes into asteroids while fighting off hordes of acid-drooling aliens, armed with only a fruit knife and so much testosterone it’s coming out of their ears. Films in between leave me feeling dissatisfied, unable to suspend my disbelief on the one hand, and yet constantly pressured to take the film seriously.

So, on the one hand I rather enjoyed Saving Private Ryan and The Bourne Identity, where people die when they get shot, and nobody gets flung 50 feet into the air by an explosion, merely to roll onto their feet and keep running, on the other hand I adored Goldeneye, with it’s scarred bad guy, ludicrous stunts and campy Russian programmer (it’s when I first fell in love with Alan Cumming).

The Charlie’s Angels films definitely fall into the second category. I re-watched the first one over the weekend, just to remind myself what mood I was supposed to be in, and was very pleasantly surprised to find that the film happily stands up to repeat viewings.

The key word for the films is ‘Gratuitous’ – the plot takes up maybe a third of either film, with the rest given over to asides, humorous interjections, dance sequences and ridiculous fight scenes. What’s left is fairly simple – Angels are given a mission, carry it out, are double crossed and then save the day.

What saves the movies from the lack of cinematic weight is that they are so obviously fun. Not only do the cast look like they’re having fun (any movie in which Bill Murray and Tim Curry battle it out in Sumo costumes is an instant classic in my book), but the whole attitude of the director comes across as “Yes, it looks cool, but how can we make it look cooler?”. I’ve seen numerous post-Matrix films make use of bullet-time, but McG is the only person I’ve seen make it look good. There’s an obvious delight in having as many cool ideas as possible in the film, and as it’s _all_ gratuitous you can’t really complain about just one more wafer thin action sequence.

For instance, in the second film there’s a scene on a dam (possibly the same dam as in Goldeneye, it certainly looks similar), where the Angels, in a truck they’ve just stolen, are trapped between a tank and a man armed with a rocket launcher. As both of them fire, Cameron Diaz climbs into the back of the truck and Lucy Liu drives the truck off the side of the dam. The truck hurtles groundwards, dooming our heroines; oh, except for the helicopter hidden in the back of the truck, which everyone else grabs onto as it pulls up metres above the ground and zooms skywards (leaving the rocket team and the tank in huge explosions behind them, of course). This is the third over the top scene in that particular five minutes. And the credits haven’t even rolled yet. Take _that_ James Bond.

The second film isn’t quite up to the standard of the first one, and although there are still some fantastic moments, it could have done with another script rewrite or two, with some plot elements (the Creepy Thing Man, for instance) looking like they were added in at the last minute. Still worth seeing, but not quite as smooth a ride as the first one.

If you like this kind of thing, then you’ll love the first one and like the second. If you don’t like this kind of thing, for goodness sake don’t go!

Scores: 9/10, 6.5/10


[one of Alex's muffins is embedded in the door]
Bosley: What's this?
Dylan: Chinese fighting muffin.
Bosley: That's not funny. A friend of mine once took a Chinese fighting muffin in the chest; they sent him home in four Ziploc bags.
Alex Munday: I'm Alex Munday, and I'll be your rescuer today.
Carter: Do you have backup?
Alex Munday: I've got two girlfriends up in the bar.
Carter: But there's fifty armed men out there.
Alex Munday: I know. Hardly seems fair, doesn't it?
Dylan: And that's kicking your ass!

On 10 July 2103 I ordered from Amazon...

Stolen from yonmei. 10 books people will be reading in 2103. Oh, inspired by this Guardian article.

1) Pratchett's Discworld. He may even still be producing them then, but there is little doubt that the Discworld books are fairly timeless.

2) Gaiman's Sandman. Still selling in hardback and paperback now, and fairly timeless.

3) Iain Bank's Culture Novels. Some of the best SF ever, and becoming ever more relevant as we move forward into a low-scarcity society.

4) Brave New World. Another book that's becoming more relevant, not less. I don't expect to live in this world, but I do expect it's questions to be raised more and more. I expect 1984 to have faded into the "thank goodness the world isn't like that any more" category.

5) Lord of the Rings. It's not going anywhere.

6) Douglas Copeland's Generation X. It may well be seen as a relic of a bygone age, but it captures a certain kind of anomie so well I'd be surprised if it vanished.

7) Stephen King. Nobody captures fear of the dark quite as well as King does. He'll certainly look dated in some ways, but I suspect he'll be with us for a very long time.

8) Illuminatus. It's cult reading now, and I expect it to be cult reading then, but as ridiculous conspiracy theory books go, it's as far as you can take it. I don't see anyone else doing it better.

9) For the same reasons, I don't think that Joyce is going to be superseded. You can't out-Joyce Joyce. It'd be like out-Warholling Warhol.

10) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Because if you're going to read about The Week of Too Many Drugs, it's the best way to do it.

We are all one. One Spider, apparently

Nice article at Wired News: Linux Reconstructing Tree of Life.

Wheeler's team will work to create a massive data matrix containing detailed information about each spider species -- attributes like size, diet and habitat. The matrix will then be processed to spot subtle relationships between the species, and to figure out how spiders made the transition from their family tree's base to the farthest branches.

Demeter will then analyze the data arrays to arrive at the best tree formation, among many possible trees, that could describe evolutionary relationships.

I'm intrigued as to why they're using non-genetic methods of relating them, especially when there's a move to classify species according to genetic similarities.

Good Lord!

Seems to be a hot topic, let's take a poll:

Number of Gods

3 (that are really one)
A pantheon
Infinite in number and kind
0 (ignore all following questions)

Gods are

to be worshipped
just part of nature and need no worship

Activity levels

God(s) acted once at the beginning of time. That's it
God(s) were once very active, but no longer
God(s) are still active, but subtle
God(s) are still openly active all the time.

I found my God(s)

through being born into religion
when a child (under 13)
when a teenager
when an adult

Other people's God(s) are

lies, spread to damn the ignorant
also real. But not as real as mine
just as real as mine