Monday, April 28, 2008

Space Viking by H. Beam Piper

I haven't read this novel. I bought it because I like the cover. Before I read it, or read anything about it, I'd like to invite the readers of this weblog to join me in extrapolating a brief synopsis of the book from the cover alone. Afterwards, we can all read the novel together, and figure out whose idea came closest to the actual text, and if any of our plots are any better than the late H. Beam Piper's.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So, I just want to say

BURN MICROSOFT VISTA IN EFFIGY. So I know that one of the readers of my blog uses a Mac. The other guy who reads it is using like, Windows 98 or something. I think that someone once complained that it wasn't optimized for Mosaic. Anyway, anyone who reads this, please join with me in trying to come up with a physical avatar for Microsoft Vista that I can lynch from a lamppost and set aflame. I spent about four hours tonight having an utter conniption fit because I accidentally opened a *.exe file with a text editor, and my bitchface OS decided that "Oh, you prefer to experience programs as scrambled masses of incomprehensible text? Allow me." And lo, every single fucking program on my hard drive would only open as a text file. Yes, it apparently made a global change to my registry to this end. I was able to start my web browser by clicking on the Help and Support section of my start menu (Microsoft wants $60 before they will even consider helping you fix their shittily-designed product after 90 days activation), and thence found my way to a blog post where someone posted a registry fix, and things are better now. But what was crazy was that there were so many other people with the same problem thanking the poster. I guess when you have global dominance over a market, you stop giving a shit about quality.

Okay, I lost some things I was working on, and I'm a little upset. Microsoft Vista blows donkey and makes appreciative slurping noises.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Not if I Kill You First, Orphan Bitch!

I sat through the closing credits of Rob Minkoff's The Forbidden Kingdom in a state of amazement that so many people in at least five different countries combined forces to midwife this stinking heap of dogshit into the world. Who gave these guys so much money? It seems as if a little dust had settled on the junkheap of pop culture history, and so they decided to toss another on. I mean, I would say that this movie must have been written by a brain-damaged donkey with too much of a fondness for crème de menthe, but I have more respect for donkeys--Grasshopper-addled or not--than to make that statement. It was so bad that I imbd-ed to make sure it wasn't a vanity project. Minkoff is apparently responsible for The Lion King, and the writer John Fusco is the man who brought you such gems as Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Loch Ness which I'm sure we all remember fondly. Okay, okay, he also wrote Young Guns and Thunderheart both of which films are not entirely awful. These guys are perfectly respectable laborers in the more commercial, more lowest-common-denominator mines of Hollywood. Bad work, maybe, but Hollywood-standard bad, not insultingly, monumentally, jaw-droppingly bad. How could they have made this film, this movie that stars both Jackie Chan and Jet Li so intensely bad? So bad indeed, that Chan, not exactly known for his great range as an actor, was quoted as saying that the script was nonsense, that he did it mostly for the experience of being in a film with Jet Li.

It's bad because it's a kung fu film strapped into a rejected little-boy's-fantasy-comes-to-life movie from the 80s, like The Last Starfighter or Cloak and Dagger. Cloak and Dagger had Dabney Coleman in dual roles, much like both Chan and Li in this film, but I gotta say, they just don't have the panache that old Dabney had. Scrolling down to the very bottom of John Fusco's list of accomplishments, we see that he wrote a little thing called Crossroads. Crossroads was a movie about a geeky East Coast white teenager (affably played by Ralph Macchio, who reprised this role in The Karate Kid) who is guided through the Land of the Blues by a Magical Negro (wonderfully played by Joe Seneca, who was replaced by Pat Morita as a Magical Nip in The Karate Kid). This movie is about a geeky East Coast teenager (played with slack-jawed ineptitude by some teenaged schlub called Michael Angarano) who is transported into a weakly-imagined fantasy China, guided by a duo of Magical Chinamen. These super-powered people that happen to not be white are in both films dee-lighted to help the white kid out in his hero quest, and happily step aside when it comes time for folk of European descent to shine. The big difference between the two films is that Walter Hill was a director with a knack for turning what could have been utter schlock into cinema with weight and power. Mr. Minkoff directed Stuart Little.

Mr. Chan and Mr. Li are awesome when they're fighting, and at they're best when they are brutalizing and humiliating their young student during the inevitable training sequences, with what I hope seems to be real relish. Chan moves with a sturdy grace that's amazing for a 54 year-old man, and Jet Li is his usual balletic bad self. As actors, well you know. Li is at his best looking determined and noble, and when he strays from this things can get a little hinky. His performance as the Monkey King is really annoying and giggly, but it seems that that's how Sun Wu Kung is usually portrayed. Jackie Chan is just being himself, you know, charming and one note, this time wearing an awesome wig. The plot is horseshit, and really really badly written. Angarano's character has a line during one of the training sequences where he blurts, "And you're just sitting there on that horse like the King of England!" at Mr. Chan. Not only has no contemporary teenager ever lived during the reign of a King of England, no one of any age would ever have used such a shitty simile. Why is a guy on a horse anything like the King of England? Golden Sparrow, the young lad's love interest (gamely played--against unspeakable odds-- by Liu Yifei), for no good reason whatsoever talks about herself in the third person for the whole goddamned movie. Mr. Chan, Mr. Li, and the rest of the characters who interact with Agarano's character inexplicably switch between Mandarin and English. Now people, I know the plot wouldn't have worked if nobody could speak to the fucking kid, he's the main character and all, but really, you could have made a joke about it at least, I mean gone a little metafilmic with it. Or not. You could have him drink a magic potion. Or that people with Kung Fu superpowers automatically have like a universal translator that gives them crash courses in language, like a super-Berlitz. Whatever. They don't do shit. The movie is a clinker, and not worth the time I've spent writing about it. But Jackie Chan and Jet Li have a great fight scene or two. Watch for it on YouTube.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yuri's Night 2008

My friends Erik and Lisa build robots with Swarm and so they were at Yuri's Night at NASA Ames in Mountainview, and they invited me. I gotta say: a party in a NASA hanger is a pretty bitchin' idea.

Yeah! Beer and uh, candy cigarettes next to jet fuel! If that's not living, I don't know what is.

I have this thing about taking pictures of people taking pictures.

The orbs are pretty damned rad. Gyro-stabilized, radio controlled, with user-triggered light and sound effects.

Eventually, they are to be software controlled, so that they can be programmed to move in formation, possibly with coordinated music and light shows.

They look pretty intense at night.

How many Garfields do you have to kill to make a coat like this dude's?

Erik wanted a Buckaroo Banzai shot. We were really too tired to make the effort.

Can I say that Jesse is a champ?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

I know it's because I am old

I am old. As far as the internet is concerned, I'm like 70. I'm old enough to have used Lynx on a VAX/VMS network. I was there when Al Gore made the internet out of wattle and daub. I remember when people had homepages. So, maybe it's just that that makes me want to strangle people when they talk about shooting each other emails. Just think about that phrase: "I'll shoot you an email." The blueshirt shitbag who coined that ugly idiom deserves to be dragged into the street and shot. People who use it sound like they discovered the internet last week and are trying to make up slang so they can sound hip. When you say, "I'll shoot you an email," you sound like a small town middle school guidance counsellor who was forced to start using a computer last year. Seriously people, don't say it.