Friday, September 02, 2011

Camera Obscura: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame; Changing 'Star Wars' Again and Again

While it is only slated to play in a handful of cities in the U.S. and Canada over the next month, the epic adventure "Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame'' has already been a film festival hit. Here's the trailer:

J. Hoberman of the Village Voice has the mega-hipster review:

Magnificent and cheesy, the latest and most proudly absurd of Chinese historical spectaculars, Detective Dee is a cinematic comic book for people who are sick of the mode. Arriving at summer's end, this supernatural period fiction sweeps the season's accumulated superhero detritus straight into the Hollywood dream dump. Tsui Hark's tale of China's late seventh-century Empress Wu (Carina Lau) careens from set piece to set piece, distinguished by its nonstop action, emphatic expository dialogue, bird's-eye angles, decorative snow flurries, and cosmic winds (not to mention fabulous costumes and hairdos). As one character describes the so-called Ghost Market to another, it's "a spooky pandemonium."


Movie directors critique other movie directors in what is best described as the "30 Harshest Filmmaker-On-Filmmaker Insults In History" - includes tidbits like:

Ingmar Bergman on Orson Welles:
“For me he’s just a hoax. It’s empty. It’s not interesting. It’s dead. Citizen Kane, which I have a copy of — is all the critics’ darling, always at the top of every poll taken, but I think it’s a total bore. Above all, the performances are worthless. The amount of respect that movie’s got is absolutely unbelievable."

Other insults are more ... "colorful" ... in this list.


Fanboys (and girls) from around the world are up in arms (again) over changes to the "Star Wars" movies on DVD Blu-Ray - such as adding in a line or two for Darth Vader in "Return of the Jedi" so that he yells "Nooooooo!" to the Emperor as he tries to kill his son Luke with evil lightning bolts. I suppose it is meant to echo the laughable "Noooooo!" uttered by Vader at the end of "Revenge of the Sith" and (oh, boy, does this indignant fan reaction get weird). There's also complaints that the original trilogy - as originally shown in theaters - isn't available on DVD.

One blogger points out some comments from director George Lucas himself, in which Lucas seems to hurl accusations at his future self for all the changes the future Lucas is making to his movies:

American works of art belong to the American public; they are part of our cultural history. People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians ....

Why are films cut up and butchered?

Attention should be paid to this question of our soul, and not simply to accounting procedures. Attention should be paid to the interest of those who are yet unborn, who should be able to see this generation as it saw itself, and the past generation as it saw itself.

I hope you have the courage to lead America in acknowledging the importance of American art to the human race, and accord the proper protection for the creators of that art--as it is accorded them in much of the rest of the world communities."

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Harry "Boehner" Potter and the Half-Brained Congress

"If Americans wanted a responsible Congress, ready and willing to act in the nation’s interest, and able to work constructively in response to critical challenges, they made a tragic mistake in November 2010. "

President Obama gets more utter rejection from Republicans - whose number one priority, as they have repeatedly stated, is to get a Republican elected to the presidency in 2012, no matter the cost to the nation. So it was no surprise that Obama's request to address a joint session of Congress on jobs was refused by Republican Speaker John Boehner.

If they can't agree on when to talk and listen, then there is small hope any advances or changes in economic policy will take place. Ever.

The GOP and Rep. Boehner might need to answer the clue phone which has been ringing and ringing for months now - the disapproval rating for Congress stands at between 80 and 84%.

Since the GOP is focusing on their presidential candidate debates next Wednesday, where they'll keep talking about cutting government spending, none of them will speak to the estimated $60 billion in fraud and waste in government contracts for the war and reconstruction efforts cited this week by an investigative committee.

Overall, the commission said spending on contracts and grants to support U.S. operations is expected to exceed $206 billion by the end of the 2011 budget year. Based on its investigation, the commission said contracting waste in Afghanistan ranged from 10 percent to 20 percent of the $206 billion total. Fraud during the same period ran between 5 percent and 9 percent of the total, the report said. Fraud includes bribery, kickbacks, bid rigging and defective products, according to the commission.

“It is disgusting to think that nearly a third of the billions and billions we spent on contracting was wasted or used for fraud,” McCaskill said.

Instead, we're hearing that funds for job creation, for disaster relief, for the poor, for the sick, for the elderly, for education, for the nation's roads and transportation, just cannot be spared.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Video: Seismic Waves Across U.S. From Virginia Quake

Waves of seismic activity from the Aug. 23rd quake in Virginia swept across the country, as shown in the video below (via)

As the blogger writes:

... an enormous number of sensors in the Midwest and Great Plains. These are areas not known for seismic activity, so what are they doing with so many sensors?
They are part of a travelling array (the 'transportable array') of seismometers, part of the Earthscope initative from the National Science Foundation.

The idea is to have a substantial number of seismometers moving stepwise across the US every few years. Then, having a dense array of seismometers, particularly to have them in places that we don't normally, will show us things that we don't normally see. That spectacular wave propagating across the country is one of those things. Get in to the data and you start seeing that the seismic waves didn't travel the same speed in all directions. And that tells us something about what the earth is made of. No idea what is up, but take a look at the Texas-Louisiana area. Early in the propagation of the waves, they follow along with the rest of the US. But later in the animation, that area shows much larger amplitude variations. Why?"

The Streaker and the Raccoon

It is one of those memorable headlines - "Streaker Arrested With Raccoon In Car" - that just begs for more information. Fortunately, WBIR has the skinny. And other than the delightful headline, there was a mug shot of the suspect which was also memorable for the suspect's expression.

Seems 27-year-old Joshua Parker of West Virginia was attending the Bristol NASCAR race and decided, hey, perfect time to go streakin'!!

Once the fellow was nabbed by authorities, they also found his car, his girlfriend and a raccoon in the car with her. WBIR has the full story and also a video. Oh and also some blurred out pics taken by a witness with a cell phone. Nice touch, news crew.

Had the suspect been streaking with the raccoon - well, that's how real legends are made.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Axing the National Weather Service

FOX News and some Republicans want to eliminate the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center, claiming private companies like AccuWeather provide weather information better than the NWS does. But AccuWeather gets their info (for free) from NWS.

Damned Liberal weather!

Called out for Being Really Stupid by Steve Benen at Washington Monthly.

Hurricane Irene obviously has the attention of millions of Americans, but some are handling the threat better than others. On the right, some of the rhetorical responses haven’t cast conservatives in the best light.

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul wants to eliminate FEMA; congressional Republican leaders are reluctant to approve emergency disaster relief; and Fox News is running pieces like these, calling for the elimination of the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service.

As Hurricane Irene bears down on the East Coast, news stations bombard our televisions with constant updates from the National Hurricane Center.

While Americans ought to prepare for the coming storm, federal dollars need not subsidize their preparations. Although it might sound outrageous, the truth is that the National Hurricane Center and its parent agency, the National Weather Service, are relics from America’s past that have actually outlived their usefulness.

The Fox News piece touts private outlets, including AccuWeather, without alerting readers to a key detail: these private outlets rely on information they receive from the National Weather Service. Indeed, the NWS makes this information available to the private sector for free, since the NWS is a public agency and the data it compiles is public information.