31 January 2003

I meant to post this a while ago:
"Well, I'm sure I'd feel much worse if I weren't under such heavy sedation"
--David St. Hubbins
So Britain is not exactly a tropical island (my friend Sam commented recently on how nice it would be if you could push islands around like they do in cartoons), but you wouldn't know it from how they've handled two inches of snow. Apparently both main roads between London and Cambridge were at a complete standstill from yesterday evening, with some drivers (including, Bessie informs me, Amartya Sen) sitting in the same place for 20 hours. Practically the whole city was shut down today because no one could get into work. (Sadly, no math professors seemed to be affected.)

Among the places closed was the music library, which has all of the recordings I need for my show on Sunday, so it looks like we'll have two hours of favourites from Dave's collection.
So Sorenstam is this rediculously good female golfer who has recently said she wants to play in some PGA open tour events (i.e. only men play but are technically open to everyone), cf. this article. Several tournaments have offered her spots and it'll be interesting to see how she does, apparently she's really obscenely good, so if she picks a short course she might be somewhat competative. Anyway I was thinking about this and it crossed my mind what a good PR move it would be for The Masters to invite her, its a long course so she probably wouldn't go and wouldn't make the cut if she did, but offering would be a really good way for the Augusta National club to reverse some of their bad PR (from not having any female members). It won't happen, but it'd be interesting.
Good grief the Kings are deep. Webber goes down so they move Turkoglu into the starting lineup, and gold old Hedo has been playing about 15 minutes a game cause they're too deep to give him more time. Anyway he responds with 22 points in 35 minutes. What do you do when you can knock out three top players from a team (Webber, bobby jackson, and pollard) and they barely miss a step?
Don't blink or you'll miss it, but it turns out that Allen Iverson NBA badboy extroardinaire just did something really really classy: he offered Michael Jordan his starting stop in the All-star game, but did so just by calling him and didn't mention it to the press or to anyone who would leak it to the press in the week and a half since. Recently McGrady made the same offer and Jordan in declining it mentioned that Iverson had made the same offer but in private (see this article for example).

30 January 2003

Snow update: there is now enough to make several snowballs, and in fact a whole snowman, as has been done by some Emmanuel students in Front Court (the place where you're not allowed to walk on the grass). Sadly, the rain will return to wash it all away by Saturday. I did, however, have the novel experience of having to scrape the snow off my bike when I came out of the library.
It's snowing outside. A veritable English blizzard. Enough to make a snowball, even.

29 January 2003

Oh, and I am now the proud owner of a red- and blue-striped secondhand "flippy chair." All are welcome to come visit, flip it, and...sleep on it.

And this time "secondhand" doesn't mean "found in the trash."
I think Noah's right about gender vs. sex. I don't think people would use 'gender' on purpose just to avoid a double entendre. For example, public toilets are definitely sorted by sex, not gender.
Here's an exercise for all you non-mathematicians: draw a graph of log x. No tricks involved. Now you're smarter than my professor, who has a Fields Medal (i.e. the Nobel Prize of math), and who today in class got it wrong twice.
The Volokh Conspiracy has a two posts (here and here) on the distinction between gender and sex. He had used "gender" to refer to a person and got an annoyed email saying "gender" refers to words while "sex" refers to people. The second post says:

Several readers pointed out that in some academic circles, sex and gender have acquired specialized meanings, with sex meaning the biological attributes of sex, and gender meaning the socially constructed ones. That's a point worth remembering for technical circles; but my experience is that this distinction has not dramatically influenced lay usage, and my suspicion is that it probably won't, at least for quite a while.

Now it seems to me that in the circles which I run, this is the standard lay distinction, at least if you think about it at all. That is to say, gender is the prefered term unless you are specifically talking about biology. I even checked asking one of my friends from home to define the difference cold and he said: "my personal distinction would be that sex is the physical aspect.. but gender is more of the mental alignment." Anyway I think this is entering lay usage at least in certain circles an awful lot faster than Eugene Volokh expects. What do you guys think? One other theory is that people use gender almost exclusively so as to avoid double entendres.

28 January 2003

Quote of the day:

"You're even tougher than I am."
-- Norman Mailer, to me, at a reading in Manhattan.
On a happier note, Dave Barry rocks.
Funny you guys talk about drunk driving. Here in New Mexico, or "DWI USA," our lawmakers are tripping over each other trying to look tough on drunk driving. It's really a tough problem to solve without just throwing a lot of alcoholics in jail, and we've actually made inroads in the last ten years, but there's what I would call a culture of DWI that is just tough to combat. Case in point:

A couple of weeks ago, there was a head-on collision at rush hour on a busy highway about 40 miles north of Santa Fe. All we knew at first was one guy was dead. Then, we found out that one of the vehicles involved had been a county-owned van. The van driver survived, and told police his story -- he had finished taking seniors home from the county senior center (this was his job) and had stopped at his cousin's for a few drinks (six) before going home. He missed his driveway and then tried to do something crazy into oncoming traffic, which resulted in him hitting an oncoming car. Then the police did a check on him and found out that he had two previous DWI convictions (the most recent one was in October) and had his license revoked. Keep in mind this guy's job was driving old people around. The county said it was not aware of this development because it had done a check on his record before he got the license revoked. Then we learn about the victim in the crash -- he had nine DWI convictions to his name and was also driving, you guessed it, with a revoked license. They're awaiting toxicology reports to see if he had been drinking, although reports indicate the crash was pretty much the fault of the van driver. So I guess the moral of the story is, ummm....lots of people drive drunk? Oh, and revoking driver's licenses doesn't, in itself, prevent anything.
I don't know if you've been watching Joe Millionaire, but if not, you should. It's great fun watching it with Haiwen, of course, who is both a Marxist and a misogynist and who finds plenty to confirm both of his stances in the course of a single episode. He's convinced that I should be approaching the show as an educational experience, which I suppose I am. (Sample Haiwen comment, while watching the women being introduced one by one: "She's so busted! Look at her! All of these women are so completely busted!") Also, much to my amazement, I think that Haiwen's sense of humor is rubbing off on me. An example from last night's episode, during an awkward date between Evan (Joe Millionaire) and Melissa (one of the four remaining girls):

Evan: "What would you do, if you were given fifty million dollars?"
Melissa: "Well, I think I'd probably go to a third world country..."
Alec and Haiwen (simultaneously): "AND BUY IT!"

27 January 2003

Great quote from Salon at the end of their review of super bowl commercials:
"The current anti-marijuana campaign focuses on the connection between pot-smoking, date rape and teen pregnancy. It's really weird ... like they got the stoners mixed up with the football players and pot confused with beer."
Drunken "cycling" (silly brit) is illegal, but probably not "as illegal" as driving (i suspect its punished a lot less harshly) and for good reason, it is not nearly as stupid. Drunken cycling at the worst will kill you and perhaps hurt a pedestrian badly, but that's only really reckless cycling, really the worst that's going to happen is you get run over, unfortunate but not really such a menace to society. Drunken driving on the other hand results in a whole lot more innocent deaths.

Having had my first semi-drunken biking experience recently i must say it wasn't that bad (despite being on a bike that was way too big for me and having not biked in half a dozen years (but as they say, its like riding a bike...)). I walked it the busy couple blocks and the rest was pretty easy. And the whole wooshing effect was pretty fun. (The story is that I was leaving a grad social and going to hang out at a friend's and someone else who was sober was driving someone's car so i had to take his bike.)
So Dave Barry has a new blog, and I figured Nat would want to know.
I wonder if drunken cycling is as illegal as drunken driving. Certainly it's almost as stupid.
By the way, the most disturbing part of the entire Super Bowl, at least for me, was finally seeing the extended commercial for The Hulk. Given my respect for Ang Lee, Jennifer Connelly, and everyone else involved, I'm sure I'll be seeing this movie no matter what, but still...the Hulk himself looks like something out of a Marvel vs. Capcom arcade game, which is a bit discouraging for a movie that someone spent $120 million to make.
Here's an interesting article from the London Times (courtesy of Bessie's current website of choice) about what our soliders are reading in Iraq. Apparently, just before Christmas, the Defense Department began distributing copies of the following books to our troops: Henry V, The Art of War, Medal of Honor by Allen Mikaelian, and War Letters by Andrew Carroll (the organizer of the project). Great idea, I think, as long as you don't end up sending Henry IV by mistake (Falstaff is the last thing you want motivated troops to be reading, after all). Also fascinating is the idea that it was the similar mass distribution of The Great Gatsby to American troops in World War II that led to that book's massive popular success. And here I thought the Army was only getting our troops hooked on cigarettes....

26 January 2003

Santa Fe was at its incompetent best yesterday as I went to see the highly acclaimed movie The Hours. Before I blast my hometown I will say that it's an excellent film that absolutely shatters your hopes that women are, well, normal creatures. The acting was great, and the makeup was the best I've ever seen (and not just Nicole Kidman, either -- although she looks so different that one wonders why they didn't just find an actress who looked like Virginia Woolf in the first place).

Anyway, back to my rant. Santa Fe's dominant movie chain, United Artists, decided to put all the good movies at one cineplex and all the other movies on the other side of town. By good movies I mean stuff like Gangs of New York and The Hours and not Kangaroo Jack. This is basically to let adults go see good movies at one place and let kids see everything else at the other place, I think. Since all the good movies are at this one cineplex, however, it always has really long lines. And, since The Hours just came out here, I thought it would be crowded and I'd avoid the crowds with Moviefone. Well, I buy the tickets ahead of time, and sure enough there's this huge line, and I go into the theater, only to find that there's no Moviefone kiosk -- you have to wait in line and give your credit card to the people at the ticket window. I almost hit the roof. Why have Moviefone if you're not even going to let people bypass lines?? I'm going to complain to the theater and to Moviefone. Grrr.

I think I've been here too long..."favorite" looks wrong to me.

25 January 2003

So I've picked up a copy of Nick Hornby's Songbook, which is advertised on the packaging as "Your favorite writer talks about his favorite songs and songwriters," which is just about right. I'm taking my time with both the book and the accompanying CD, which I'm working through song by song, but so far it's pleasing in precisely the way one would hope. It's full of classic Hornby observations and one-liners, like the one about an obsessive fan who logs onto a Bob Dylan fansite "as if the website were CNN and Dylan's career were the Middle East," or this bit about "Thunder Road":

One of the great things about the song as it appears on "Born to Run" is that those first few bars, on wheezy harmonica and achingly pretty piano, actually sound like they refer to something that has already happened before the beginning of the record, something momentous and sad but not destructive of all hope; as "Thunder Road" is the first track on Side One of "Born to Run," the album begins, in effect, with its own closing credits.

Good stuff, this. Obviously there are many other bits that I could quote. And I was especially pleased to see "Smoke" by Ben Folds Five included in both the book and the CD, since I remember Noah rhapsodizing about that song many years ago, in very similar terms.
Just to pacify Dave, I'd like to note that of all my favorite songs these days, the least tingly has to be Eminem's "Kill You." I listened to it again just now, and I was right: not a single tingly moment, not one.

Great song, though.
This tingly music thread is getting a bit sappy for me. Can we talk about sports or something?

24 January 2003

Lileks on preschool visiting (for Dave):

"The kids were playing inside today, because the rules stipulate - are you ready? - that when the temps dip below zero, everyone goes inside.

That is a Minnesota preschool."
Oh, and good grief, Dar Williams "It happens every day" if you know the song you know the moment i'm talking about, if you don't know it you should and i don't want to ruin it.
I have to agree with Alec on the tingliness of The River, however for me the moments are before that and after that, the transition "I act like I don't remember, Mary acts like she don't care... but i remember us driving..." and the line immediately after the one you picked: "is it a dream of life that don't come true or is it something worse that sends me down to the river although I know the river is dry." That's the real moment of despair to me "although I know the river is dry." But anyway that's one of the most powerful verses in pop music ever.

Another rediculous tingly moment in music for me is the moment in U2's "wild horses" where it goes from "don't turn around... and don't look back... come on now love, don't you look back... [pause, try to look away, turn back and turn to salt with:] but who's gonna ride your wild horses? who's gonna drown in your blue sea? who's gonna taste your salt water kisses? and who's gonna take the place of me?"

And while we're at it, the slow version of REM's "South Central Rain" where it says "go buy yourself another dream, this choice it wasn't mine... I'm sorry..." Oh, and "out in the distance her order was heard and the soldier was killed still waiting for her word" in "The Queen and the Soldier"

The more of a story the song has it seems the better it is for tingly moments, although that's not so true for the tingliness of the song as a whole.
I was listening to some songs on the way home tonight when it struck me that the tingliest moment in all of pop music, at least for me, is in The River, when Bruce Springsteen sings "Now those memories come back to haunt me / They haunt me like a curse...."

The whole song builds to that instant of unguarded despair, and it never fails to give me the chills.

23 January 2003

I'm trying to figure out what kind of mood one has to be in for Dark Side of the Moon to be the perfect thing to listen to. Maybe just tired.

22 January 2003

Roxette! I miss Roxette.
Can't figure out where to send your pre-schooler? Let the New York Times help -- with its reviews of the top exclusive pre-schools in Manhattan. My favorite quotes:

"Episcopal tries to maintain a balance between support and challenge. But to ready children for competitive elementary grades, the curriculum emphasizes the latter, especially prereading and phonics."

Competitive elementary grades?? Are they trying to get their kids burned out before they hit age 10?

"'Some 2 year olds show up with a c.v. attached to their application,' said Mitten Wainwright, former director of the Park Avenue Christian Day School, a solid nursery school with a long list of graduates placed in good kindergartens. The curriculum vitae might list prenursery classes and participation in the prestitious Madison Play Group at Madison Presbyterian Church."

Do these people realize that the rest of the world is laughing at them? I wonder how many pages those c.v.s are -- at one page, my resume has 320 words. For a three year-old, that's about one word for every 3 and a half days of the little tyke's life. Yes, a child needs a safe and stimulating environment to develop fully, but prenursery classes and prepping preschoolers for competition just isn't necessary. Can't they be kids for a while?
Hmm, tingly songs...I must say that Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" and Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" are up there, and "Bad" and "One" by U2 get honorable mention, but the winner is "It Must Have Been Love" by Roxette -- I have no idea why, but every time I hear that song it gets under my skin. Needless to say, it's near the top of my Guilty Pleasures list too.

Here's a bizarre quote from an ESPN article on Pete Rose
The source also suggested things were pointing toward reinstatement terms being announced as early as spring training after Selig meets with a contingent of current Hall of Famers, but there's no certainty of that. A date for that meeting is still unscheduled but is expected to convene some time in February.

A source told ESPN.com that the meeting could be construed as "a courtesy" to the Hall of Famers, and that it's expected a surprising number will express serious reservations about Rose's reinstatement.

How can it be "expected [that] a surprising number will..."??? If it's expected then it isn't surprising, right?

21 January 2003

Another for the tingly list... "Bookends" by Simon and Garfunkel, I love songs which are very small and perfect.
Oh, of course, "Why Not Smile." (Also REM, from Up for those of you who weren't inflicted with hearing noah's same 100 songs over and over again for four years.)
Maybe i'll just go with REM's "Find the River," although I'll keep you posted if i think of anything else. There's always the Moulin Rouge "One Day I'll Fly Away" in a sort of guilty pleasure but still tingly way.
I haven't come up with a really perfect "guaranteed to make my spine tingle" song yet, but i can say that the only song which i've managed to associate with all the girls i've really cared about is Peter Gabriel's "Secret World." I think I need to break this pattern.
Anyway, here's the song that is "guaranteed to make my spine tingle":

"Get the Message" by Electronic

It's one of the most emotionally inscrutable singles ever released: the vocals are subdued, the words have something to do with the breakdown of a love affair based on money and befuddled infatuation, but they're fused to a crisp, joyous guitar line that makes it all but impossible to pin down how the song is actually supposed to make you feel...which is probably why I've never tired of it, even after listening to it for so many years. As opaque as it is, it's still one of those songs that I've managed to associate with just about every girl I've ever cared about, and it's appeared on more mix tapes than I care to remember, always as the last or penultimate song on a side.

So who's next?
Speaking of differences between Berkeley and Harvard... Remember all the ballyhoo about Harvard grade inflation? Well i got my first semester grades back, and for German I had done quite badly, high 80's or low 90's on most quizes, skipped about a third of the homework, and didn't do particularly well on the final. I was expecting a B, maybe a B+ if i was luck, or a B- if i wasn't. This expectation of getting at least a B in a class I did badly in might reflect poorly on Harvard grading standards. On the other hand at Berkeley I got an A-. And one of my roomates who did even less homework than I got an A. So maybe grade inflation is just worse here at Berkeley or maybe there's something to the claim that Harvard students are really good. I don't know, but grades here are definitely a piece of cake. For comparison I got a B+ in the first semester of French at Harvard and did soooo much better in that class than in this German one.
So the other day i was at the doctor's discussing this chronic problem i've been having for a couple years which is often thought to be tied to stress explaining once again that despite the fact that moving accross the country was a little stressful i'm generally pretty low stress, while the nurse practitioner is trying to push their stress management counselors who can help you deal with the stress of berkeley, and i'm thinking "you're nuts, berkeley is the least stressful place imaginable" and finally interrupt her and say "well, coming from harvard i have to say berkeley is really laid back. i mean last semester was a little stressful for other reasons, but i think berkeley is really low stress," which shut her up pretty quick.
I also wonder about the Noah's ark game how they set it up so that you're guaranteed to be able to win... I guess they start with a blank board and then add legal pairs. But it must be something like that.
It struck me today that about a hundred people have come here from all over the world to talk about things that don't exist and are just figments of someone's imagination, and they all understand each other. It boggles the mind.
Nat, you clear didn't play long enough, it gets rather difficult quickly. Each level adds more blocks and more kinds of animals, its really rather difficult to get past around 8 levels. Try expert where the first level is already reasonably difficult. The point is that combos lower the water level, so on easy levels you don't realize how little time you have.
Looking at my comments again, they seem quite harsh. To clarify, I'm not attacking our beloved Noah or his impressive score (even though for the few minutes I played the game I didn't discover any way to lose), but I am attacking whoever invented that game.

I'll take back what I said -- there are probably worse games out there. And if there were a game named after me, I'd be thrilled about it. (I'd also be angry if they made it bad, however.)
I got 460 points. I'm a stable boy.
Noah, that was undoubtedly the worst video game ever. If I had a video game named after me that was that bad I would not share it with the world.

For those of you who haven't tried it, it appears to be some game for little children...the closest description I can think of is the card game "Memory", except here all the cards are face up and you just have to match two cards that are the same. Quite challenging.
Bessie was kind enough to send me a link to this article from the Observer, which ties in to Nick Hornby's new essay collection Songbook, wherein he discusses 31 of his favorite songs, and even provides you with 11 of them on CD. (Which is possibly the coolest assignment that any writer ever received.)

Anyway, the Observer article asks a cross-section of music lovers to name the one song "guaranteed to make their spine tingle," along with their thoughts on their choice and possible alternatives. It's an interesting read, and I thought it might be fun if we all did the same thing, and perhaps circulated an MP3 to the group once we've made our selection. Obviously the question is rather vague, which is what makes it fun; it could just be your favorite song, or the one that moves you the most, or the one that somehow seems to persist throughout the years, or...

In any case, I'll post my contribution later today.
So far as non-kosher uses for wine go, as usual, you'd better keep an eye on the Wiccans.
I was actually a bit misleading in my post below about the top movie flameouts, because my original source didn't take recent releases into account. When you do, as Haiwen pointed out, you find that the top flameout of all time isn't some bloated special effects blockbuster, but a critically acclaimed and well-respected popular success: 8 Mile, which earned a whopping 44.2% of its final $115,000,000 gross during its opening weekend. That's pretty amazing for a movie that most people actually seemed to enjoy.

As for the other top flameouts, they are, in order: Godzilla, The Lost World, Planet of the Apes, Batman & Robin, and Pearl Harbor, about which no comment is necessary, I think.
As my aunt overheard an Orthodox mother telling her daughter, "You have to be careful about grapes." They're not serving wine at my cousin's bat mitzvah party because there are no winemakers who are careful enough and make something that tastes good and costs less than a bazillion dollars a bottle. (Not that they care, but they're having the party in a synagogue, which does care.)

20 January 2003

A video game about me? Well, sort of. (Scroll down a tad to find it. My high score? 30600, which makes me a meat packer.)
Here's a blog of someone who lived on our hall freshman year who is currently in Singapore. The most recent post (sorry, no permalinks) has some great stuff about the "Romancing Singapore" initiative and "Ally, the abstinent echidna."

On the one hand i really really want to make fun of this silliness... On the other hand I'd really like my city to organize some singles events like they list on the site.
Ezra has an interesting post on a book he read and "the fundamental inaccessibility of another person's mental life," by which he roughly means (read the post yourself for a better explanation) that despite spending years trying you won't understand why someone else behaves the way that they do. This ties in with something i was just talking about a moment ago, which is that i've begun to doubt that most people have a reason for what they do before they do it. That is most reasons are just tacked on retroactively and thus change depending on what's happened since then. In the case of this book, of course she cannot understand why he killed himself, he himself would have only had a reason retroactively, and if he killed himself then he never had a chance to have a reason to have done it. I still don't apply this theory to everyone, but for a lot of people a lot of the time this seems to be the case.
One more note on the mystery hunt, if you figure that an average of 15 people were working on these puzzles over the course of the 68 hours and we got 90 puzzles. Thus, roughly, each puzzle takes over 11 people*hours.
Here are all the puzzles from Mystery Hunt this weekend. The section ones were handed out in shifts over the first couple days. The first section questions had answers and weird two letter non-answers. The non-answers spelled out the phrase "take the red pill" which let you leave the matrix into reality and take the training puzzles and facility puzzles. The training puzzles let you translate certain answers from the section puzzles. The facility puzzles weren't all handed out at once, you had to solve each puzzle before you could unlock the doors from them and go into the other puzzles. Each section has a meta puzzle which uses the answers to the individual puzzles in that round, once you get all 7 metas you can get the meta-meta puzzle and start the race for the coin which required knowing the answers to the facility questions. The team I was playing for remotely (Random Hall) managed to get to the race for the coin but got beaten to the coin by another team.

If you think this sounds complicated try one of the puzzles. To give you an example of how they work, look at section 1 puzzle 4. Each of these trivia questions has an answer which has 9 letters. When you write the answers down in order the middle column spells "erererer..." giving the secret answer "er" (only round 1 puzzles had those). On the other hand, each word shares exactly one letter in the same location as the word after it. These shared letters written out spell the phrase "like movie's comic book gentlemen" which means the answer to the puzzle is "extraordinary" as in "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" a movie coming out this fall based on a comic book. This is actually a relatively easy puzzle, i may post a harder one later if i can find one where i actually know all the steps in the logic (the good part of teams is you just pick up where they left off).
Speaking of Kosher gatorade I did get a couple suggestions from Orthodox (or formerly Orthodox) Jewish friends of Bessie (a short one from Avi H. and longer one from Ezra) (incidentally i think that would make a good acronym OJFoB, kind of like the LFHCfS which came up during mystery hunt). Both of them suggested that perhaps grapes might be used in the flavoring somewhere, this is bad because these grapes might have been offered as sacrifices to a heather idol (which is, for good reasons, not Kosher and which is still considered an issue despite what google says). Gatorade explicitly does not use fruit juice, but it is very plausible that grape extracts of some sort or grape skin extracts of some sort are used in their natural flavors. Another possibility is that some of the flavors are made from insects. Lastly, but not leastly, it is quite possible that Gatorade is produced somewhere that makes other things which are non-Kosher and some sort of cross contamination occurs.

I find these things rather fascinating because when I followed strict rules they were all a lot less fun and complicated and never involved the possibility of heathen sacrifice. (The only rule i know involving heathen sacrifices is that its perfectly ok to eat meat sacrificed to idols if you do so in faith, but if your doing so would cause your brother of weeker faith to stumble then you should refrain from this freedom, see Paul's letter to the Romans in the end of chapter 14.) So I'm attracted to these sorts of interesting rules mostly cause I'm jealous.

Anyway I'm going to include Ezra's answer so as not to be taking it compltely out of context:
"On the Kashrut issue: Gatorade is non-kosher because no one certifies it
AS kosher. One should avoid drinking it (if keeping kosher) because they
may be using grape products in some or all of their synthesized flavors.

Grapes are a huge kashrut problem, because grapes that have been touched
by non-jews (when not supervised) become immediately non-kosher unless
subsequently (or previously) boiled. Why is this? Because in the ancient
days grapes and wine were often devoted specifically to idolatrous
worship, and any Jew dealing with such a product might become and
inadvertant accessory to idolatry.

It was presumed that no boiled products would be used for idolatry, hence
the exemption for them. Some people hold that all wines manufactured in
California go through a process that brings them to the halakhik boiling
temprature. They therefore regard all such wines as kosher, regardless of
rabbinic supervision."

Ezra also suggests this link.
I would say that the most recent Star Wars movie and the Lost World are definitely on the flameout list, but I don't know what else makes it.

Thinking about our upcoming all-pirate Super Bowl, I starting thinking about the last time a major sports championship was played between two teams with the same mascot, loosely speaking. I got hung up on the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Buffalo Bills -- was Buffalo Bill a Cowboy? Going back a little farther, in Super Bowl XI the Raiders defeated the Minnesota Vikings, but I think a lot of people of Nordic origin might object to the classification of Vikings as "raiders." We're still awaiting Redskins-Chiefs and Giants-Titans matchups, as well as my favorite: Steelers-Packers (the Battle of Blue Collar Rust Belt Workers).

As for other sports, I don't know what all the mascots used to be in the olden days of baseball and basketball, but I found these matchups: Cleveland Indians vs. Atlanta/Boston Braves in 1995 and 1948; Cincinnati Reds vs. Boston Red Sox in 1975; and, to stretch things a bit, Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago Cubs in '45, '35, and '08. We're still awaiting Blue Jays-Cardinals, Orioles-Cardinals, and Devil Rays-Marlins World Series matchups. (Which of those do you think will be the last to happen?)

In basketball: The San Antonio Spurs played the New York Knickerbockers in the all-legwear finals of 1999, and the Seattle Supersonics played the Washington Bullets in '79. We're eagerly awaiting the Philadelphia 76ers vs. the Sacramento Kings, the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the Dallas Mavericks (Cavs v. Mavs!), and perhaps the New Jersey Nets vs. the L.A. Clippers.

19 January 2003

By the way, would anyone care to guess which five blockbuster ($100+ million) movies over the past fifteen years had the biggest percentage of their final gross represented by their opening weekend? (Hint: by definition, these would have to be huge "event" movies that everybody flocked to see in the first three days, but which nobody actually liked.)
Looking back over my list, I'll have to concede that Shakespeare in Love certainly wouldn't have made this roster if it hadn't been nominated for Best Picture, and won. Of course, the best way of approaching this question would be to figure out a movie's pre- and post-Oscar percentages. But I don't think I'll be doing that.
By the way, if the Brazilian film City of God is playing anywhere near you, see it. It's the movie of the year by a wide margin.
Noah, your point is certainly correct, but I didn't mention it because I don't think it affects most of the movies on the list. A Beautiful Mind, for example, had already grossed about $125 million dollars before the Best Picture nominees were announced that year (although being proclaimed that year's Oscar front-runner right out of the gate certainly didn't hurt its box office performance).
Alec, hate to point it out, but your logic is a little wrong on the movie thing. Getting a best picture nomination often gives a big box office boost, innevitably well after the movie was released. For example, "A Beautiful Mind" is on that list only because it won best picture.
According to Almea, Gatorade isn't kosher because the salt in it isn't kosher. (And we all know from Noah that you can make Gatorade by adding salt to lemonade, right?)

BTW, I want to register my displeasure at the fact that Look Who's Talking and Home Alone didn't receive Best Picture nominations.
In honor of tonight's Golden Globe awards, here are a couple of movie-related posts:

I'll probably post my Oscar predictions sometime soon, but for starters, here's a sure thing: My Big Fat Greek Wedding will receive Best Picture and Best Actress nominations, and will in all likelihood win Best Actress. I have several reasons for believing this, but as for the most compelling, please take a look at the following list:

1. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (0.25%)*
2. Shakespeare in Love (2.60%)*
3. American Beauty (4.57%)*
4. Titanic (4.77%)*
5. Dances With Wolves (5.15%)*
6. Ghost (5.60%)*
7. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (5.95%)*
8. Home Alone (5.98%)
9. Scream (6.17%)
10. Beauty and the Beast (6.60%)*
11. Good Will Hunting (7.41%)*
12. Forrest Gump (7.42%)*
13. There's Something About Mary (7.79%)
14. As Good As It Gets (8.54%)*
15. Look Who's Talking (8.64%)
16. Aladdin (8.89%)
17. The Sixth Sense (9.09%)*
18. Mrs. Doubtfire (9.34%)
19. A Beautiful Mind (9.70%)*

An odd bunch of movies, certainly. In case it isn't obvious, these are the biggest sleeper hits of the past fifteen years or so, the definition of a sleeper hit being a movie that grosses over $100 million at the domestic box office, with the opening weekend accounting for less than 10% of that gross. (The number in parentheses is the actual percentage of the gross represented by the opening weekend, courtesy of Box Office Guru.)

Obviously, not many movies qualify as sleeper hits; great word of mouth and awards recognition are about the only things that matter. And you'll probably agree that the resultant list is much more interesting than the Spielberg- and Lucas-dominated list of all-time box office blockbusters.

But the astonishing thing is how many of these movies received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture (marked by an asterisk). In fact, whenever a sleeper hit is even halfway plausible as a contender, it inevitably gets a nomination. (The sole exception is Aladdin, which suffered from coming too soon after Beauty and the Beast).

Which is what makes My Big Fat Greek Wedding such a sure thing. The Academy won't be able to overlook what is possibly the biggest sleeper hit of all time (at least since the time when opening weekend numbers became at all relevant, i.e. the late 1970s). The Academy Awards love movies that make money almost as consistently as they snub movies that lose money, so odds are we'll be seeing Nia Vardalos step up to the podium more than once come Oscar night.

(I spent way too much time researching this post, by the way....*@%#ing three-day weekends....)
Actually, what I gave is what we in the bizness call an "answer," not a "solution." A solution would say something like: Assume the circle has radius 1. We are looking for a chord inside the circle such that the chord divides the circle into a piece with area pi/4 and a piece with area 3pi/4. Suppose the chord subtends an angle t. The area of the smaller piece is that of the "pie wedge" containing the chord, minus that of the triangle whose sides are the chord and the two radii drawn to the ends of the chord. The former has area t/2 and the latter has area 1/2*sin t. t thus satisfies t - sin t = pi/2. The distance from the chord to the center is sin t/2, so the distance to the edge is 1 - sin t/2. Scaling by the radius r gives the answer.

This would be easier if there were a picture.

Noah's estimate with the correct number on the right hand side gives t = 2.11, and 2.11 - sin 2.11 = 1.25, whereas pi/2 = 1.57. Not so hot. Presumably the guy wants to know where the quarter mark is on the tank so he can refill it when it gets there. If he's willing to live life on the edge we could give him a better estimate. Noah's is for 1/8; for 1/16 it gives .36 vs. .39, pretty good.

The actual answer is t = 2.30988. Time for dinner.
How could we possibly refuse a request to "deadly mantis" something? Especially when it fits in with our liberal tendencies.
As you've possibly heard by now, the book Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is scheduled for release on June 21, 2003 (the same weekend as The Hulk, BTW). According to the official press release, it weighs in at a whopping 255,000 words, which, assuming that page lengths are approximately equal to those of The Goblet of Fire, is something like 980 pages long. If the film version clocks in at thirty seconds per page, as the previous ones have, we're looking at an adaptation of over six hours in length.

I have a hunch that Chris Columbus bailed out as director of the series because he didn't relish the thought of having to pare down the increasingly lengthly books that follow, and thus face the wrath of rabid Potter fans (who, if you'll remember correctly, were once incensed that Harry Potter's scar was slightly to the center of his forehead in the movies, rather than straight down the center as in the illustrations). I also predict that the film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban will be the first installment to meet with widespread popular disappointment, because it's actually going to be directed by an interesting and ambitious director (Alfonso Cuaron), and odds are will require a good number of cuts from the plot.
I'm sure Dave's solution is perfectly right, and I don't want to think about it too much since mystery hunt is frying my brain. Anyway, I did wonder whether there isn't some decent way to estimate t - sin t = pi / 4 by hand:

the taylor series for sin is t - t^3/3! + t^5/5! - ... Therefore our equation is, pi/4 = t^3/6 - O(t^5). Hence we'd expect that t is roughly the cube root of 3 pi / 2. This gives you 1.7. To check, 1.7 - sin 1.7 = .71, while pi/4 = .79, so it isn't that good, but it also isn't that bad. So, if you happen to be stuck with a table of sines but not a graphing calculator this isn't a bad way to estimate it. Although once you have a reasonable idea around what the answer is you could get it better with guess and check with this table, so its not that useful.

This exercise did do a very good job of calming me down to go to sleep though.

18 January 2003

None of the sports press i've seen has pointed out the most amazing thing about Yao in his matchup versus Shaq... He played 38 minutes and did not foul out. Remember the rap on Yao was that he always fouled out way too fast, and Shaq has a tendency to get you to do that.
Busy all weekend with Mystery Hunt at MIT (no i'm not at MIT, playing by internet) so not much in the way of posting.
Nick Proudfoot managed to dig up the video of the Michael Jordan commercial online.
Dave wins the award. My unsolvable solution was much messier. I will submit this answer to Click and Clack and see if they deign to respond. In other news, reading yesterday's posts from top to bottom makes it seem like the gas tank is full of gelatin.

Oh, and I'm going to try my hand at cooking Indian food this weekend. Wish me luck.
Amusing incident: Today in lecture a cell phone went off...and it was the professor's.
You certainly don't need calculus, but you do need a computer or graphing calculator. If the tank has radius r, the distance from the surface of the liquid to the ground when the tank is a quarter full is r*(1 - sin(t/2)), where t is the solution to t - sin t = pi/2. There's no way to solve this equation by hand.

For an arbirtary fraction f, replace pi/2 with 2*pi*f.

17 January 2003

Before you ask why the guy has a cylindrical gas tank in the first place, the guy drives a tractor trailer and the tank just sort of sits on the side of the truck.
Here's a chance for you to practice your dusty trigonometry skills and appear on the nationally syndicated radio show, Car Talk with Click and Clack. A listener called in and asked if there was a way that he could figure out when his cylindrical gas tank (the cylinder is on its side, not standing up) is a quarter full, since his gas gauge is broken. The hosts (who went to MIT) tried their hand at the problem but gave up, saying that the guy should just find someone else whose gas gauge isn't broken and measure how deep the gas is in that guy's tank when the gauge reads a quarter. According to Almea, a bunch of listeners called in and said you need calculus to calculate where the quarter mark on the gas tank would be.

Now, you don't need calculus to solve the problem, or at least I didn't. I solved it both with calculus and without. But both times I ended up with a hideous trigonometric mess that I was unable to turn into something nice. With Mathematica or another math computer program, I would be able to just plug in my mess and have it spit out an answer. Alas, I don't have Mathematica. This is vexing because the answer should vary simply with respect to the radius of the cylinder. If anyone has a spare few minutes, give it a whirl. (If the problem is unclear to you, let me know and I'll try to explain it better.)
It probably has gelatin in it, which is made form unsavory parts of unsavory animals killed in an unsavory manner. Or at least that's the usual culprit for things that seem to be ok.

16 January 2003

We recieved a mailing from the Berkeley rent control board which said, among many other things:
Rent Board Sponsors Tenants' Rights Poetry Slam... $100, $75, and $50 prizes will be awarded for best poems about housing issues

For more info on poetry slams in berkeley they suggest this helpful website.
Does anyone know why Gatorade isn't kosher? Its easy to find that it isn't, (cf. here, here, or here), but no one will tell me why.
I'm not sure I really understand the idea of "trying someone as an adult." I mean they aren't an adult... If the point is that kids who murder should still get life in jail then make that the punishment for jeuvenile crimes. Why some weird arbitrary ok this teenager is an adult thing? Or is it just that they've drawn the wrong cutoff age?
I'm becoming more of an absent-mided mathematician each day. A couple of days ago I took a shower, got out, dried myself, and realized I hadn't used shampoo or soap. This morning I was about to leave for class and I started to put on my bathrobe.
Does anyone know where i can find this Jordan Gatorade ad online? I find it someone baffling that I want to see a comercial and I can't... Shouldn't Gatorade want to have its comercials available?
Quote of the Day:
"I don't know what's creepiest: the idea of men with pregnancy fetishes cruising maternity stores, the term "prego," or you, Prego Fan."
--i'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count
Matthew Yglesias posts once again on the idea of a moderate party. I really really like this idea a lot. As I commented there: I love this idea more every time you mention it. In fact it may be my favorite idea i've seen bouncing around the blogosphere. However, I do think its a lot more strong when applied to the senate where incumbants have up to 6 years before having to face reelection and are enough of superstars in politics to fundraise on their own.

In important blogosphere news, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has been hired by msnbc to do one of their blogs. In related news, Deadly Mantis is no closer to turning a profit.
Why are people so strangely rude on the internet? My favorite blog, In Spite of Years of Silence, has gone on a temporary hiatus (i should just not try to use words i know i can't spell) as a result of a fight with one of her readers. From what I can gather the reader likes reading weblogs via usenet news because he's on a dialup and it saves time not having to wait for the pages to load. He posted something on a comment like "please please please set up an RSS feed to make life easier for people who read your site on news". According to a later commenter, this is apparently somewhat easy on blogger pro, but i certainly wouldn't have known that and can imagine feeling rather put upon by some random person insisting i do something for them when i'm just keeping a website for my own fun, especially if i were having a tough day or something. I don't know what happens at this point, but Sarah apparently said no, and the reader responded, probably with a rude angry email, but at the very least with this rather obnoxious post. Sarah obviously gets pretty annoyed and the result is her not wanting to have a website read by random people who expect things of her and say mean things if she's not fulfilling their needs. I dunno, its like Adams schmooze all over again... Why do people suddenly become terribly rude when they're writing emails to strangers? If this encounter had happened in real life this guy probably would have asked more nicely and Sarah might have responded differently and we could all just be happy and read each others postings. Civility is nice, and although we haven't had much of it for much of history, let's please not lose it again.

15 January 2003

Watched the Kings-Mavs game tonite at a local pizza place with a big screen television and wow did the Kings put on a show. The first quarter was some of the most beautiful basketball and one of the most amazing schoolings i've ever seen in sports. They outscored the Mavs 39-26 and didn't even turn the ball over until the last 30 seconds. The Kings starting lineup consists of 4 people who genuinely love to make the flashy pass (and one absolute deadeye shooter who runs around waiting for the last pass when he's wide open). Often not just one, but two beautiful passes on the same play. The combination of Divac and Webber especially is amazing, since they're both such amazingly good passers for big men. Speaking of Webber he sure put up a big game tonite: 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists, all game highs. After the Lakers game, the Nets game, and then this, its clear that the Kings are confident and that everyone else is a few steps behind.

14 January 2003

Here's an amazing quotation via espn:

"My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat your children. Praise be to Allah."
--mike tyson

13 January 2003

just saw "Far From Heaven"... Wow I miss New England in the fall. Everyone should see this movie just for the sheer beauty of vivid technicolor fall in new england. Amazing music too, i really quite like it.
My hometown newspaper likes running bizarre stories which I don't see elsewhere, so if you guys have already heard about the Iranian cartoon controversy, I apologize. The whole situation is too weird to be true. I went online and actually found the original cartoon. As you can see, it says "Roosevelt" pretty plainly, so I don't know if the newspaper just deleted that or if people didn't care about historical inaccuracy. I must admit that the supreme court justice looks like he could be an ayatollah if given half a chance. I'm not up on my legal symbolism -- are judges supposed to wield swords?
In my post about the Hong Kong trailers I forgot to mention that gratutious Hong Kong shootouts were among my top guilty movie pleasures.
Via this slate article i've finally run accross a good link to video of the anti-suv comercials.

12 January 2003

I saw Rabbit Proof Fence the other day, and I thought it was a decent movie with a powerful story. It had, however, the weirdest trailers I've seen in a while. The top one: Shaolin Soccer !! It's an unreconstructed Hong Kong movie, as magical and unrealistic as one would expect. What I can't figure out is why they think it'll go anywhere in the US. Soccer isn't exactly huge in this country, but I guess if it catches on with kids then who knows what will happen. They obviously hope to ride on the back of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- the trailer for new Chow Yun Fat movie, Bulletproof Monk, was also shown. Still, I think Shaolin Soccer will be a flop, not a success.
I don't want to offer my comments on the value of a relationship with someone whose first instinct is to stick out a helping hand because I fear being attacked by other readers of this blog. I will just say this: kindness is, indeed, golden. (Please don't hate me.)
Speaking about feeling old and music I'm listening to and another millions things bouncing around:

Insanity laughs under pressure we're cracking
Can't we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can't we give love that one more chance?
Why can't we give love give love give love?
Give love give love give love give love give love?
Cause love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care
For people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way
Of caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves under pressure
Under pressure pressure

(snap... snap... snap... snap...)

--Queen and David Bowie, Under Pressure
I'm thinking perhaps we should have a comment section like so many other blogs (see sarah hatter or matt yglesias for example). Anyone know how to add them?
Speaking of guilty pleasures, I've just been informed that Primal Scream is being run tonight. Suddenly I feel so old....
In reference to Alec's guilty pleasure number 2, however much I like lesbian scenes as much as the next guy, what's really special in that Mullholland Drive is the unexpectedness. I think it'd be almost as amazing if it were just as unexpected but involved a cute girl and a guy. I guess its hard to achieve quite that level of surprise in a heterosexual scene because we're always expecting them, but still if you could it'd still be pretty amazing.
Someone titled a post "the past is gone but something might be found to take its place" and it wasn't me, how disapointed.
Top five guilty movie pleasures

1. Extended tracking shots
2. Unexpected lesbian scenes (see Mulholland Drive)
3. Before the feature, that damned VW Beetle Convertible commercial with the song "Mr. Blue Sky" playing in the background, which I find inexplicably moving only because I just started working in an office for the first time, I guess
4. Would-be tough-guy Mametese, like James Caan's great line from Way of the Gun: "I promise you a day of reckoning that you won't live long enough to never forget."
5. And of course, V.
Right now I'm listening to a lot of cutesy punk rock: the josie and the pussycats soundtrack. Its really fun, in a twisted I should be too grown up and male for this sort of way.
Several months ago i made an interesting observation about why i should never marry a particular girl in my life (as it turns out it wasn't very important because the next day i got a much much better reason not do marry her). That night for the first time ever I'd had too much to drink to the point of throwing up and rather made a fool of myself. I was thinking about how great some of my friends here had been in terms of being nice and taking care of me and not being rude about it (peter and joel playing the finite group game with me, my roomate lionel taking me back, etc.) and that they all knew I was embarassed and didn't try and wouldn't do it again and were just helpful. I realized on the other hand that said girl would not have been so comforting and would basically just been mortified about how bad my behavior would have made her look. At any rate I was reminded of this by the reading the comments on this post which says : "I would seriously consider getting married immediately just so I'd have someone to scratch my back, fasten my bracelets, and help me carry up all the groceries." I must say I'm beginning to agree with that sentiment, but I was particularly struck by this comment (from this weblogger):

not that i didn't know already, but i totally knew marriage was worth it when he held back my hair as i puked in the toilet.

What I wouldn't give right now for a person like that in my life.
In compiling the list of great tracking shots, I can't forget an episode of The X-Files called "Triangle," in which each of the first three acts unfolds as a single continuous take, while the fourth one "wipes" between continuous action. The second act especially, which follows Scully through FBI headquarters while she tries to track her partner down, is close to my ideal of what the extended tracking shot should be: it's suspenseful, it's grounded in the action, and it makes good use of elevators. I should also note that we seem to be in the middle of a sort of real-time renaissance; in addition to Russian Ark, there's the recenct sitcom Watching Ellie, each episode of which covers a half hour in the life of the main character, and of course 24, that really sublime action series where the entire season covers the events of a single day. A mainstream Hollywood thriller that employs the same single-take technique as Russian Ark can't be too far behind. (I'd also like to note that the reel changes, which I'd worried about, turned out to be a non-issue; throughout the entire movie, I only noticed one obvious splice in the film.)
Just got back from seeing Russian Ark, the movie shot in and around the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersberg in one continuous 90-minute take. I'll start by saying the worst thing I can say about this movie, which is that I'm exactly as impressed now, having seen it, as I was when I first heard about it. Which is to say: if you can appreciate the technical obstacles involved in shooting a period film with well over 800 extras in one take through a museum of more than thirty rooms, you can probably skip the movie itself, which doesn't offer much more than a chance to appreciate over and over again how difficult it must have been to shoot. That's a little harsh, actually; it's a beautifully shot movie full of nice art and costumes, and I'm happy to have seen it, but still...there isn't a plot to speak of, so there are long stretches in the middle when you're basically alone with your thoughts and some lovely paintings on the wall.

What did I think about while I was watching it? Well, mostly about the extended tracking shot as a measure of a director's virtuosity. A list of the most famous long tracking shots in the movie history can be found here. It's an interesting list. As usual, Alfred Hitchcock threw down the gauntlet with Rope, basically a filmed play which is nearly (not entirely) shot without visible edits. The opening shot of Touch of Evil is probably the most famous long tracking shot, and perhaps the only one that serves a real narrative purpose: it opens with a closeup of a bomb being placed into the trunk of a car, then follows the car for three minutes through the street, while introducing much of the cast along the way, until the car explodes. Neat. The whole point of the long tracking shot being, of course, that cinematic time coincides for once with real time, which lends itself nicely to a countdown.

The other shots on the list are mostly instances of pure virtuosity, like the famous Copacabana shot in GoodFellas and the amazing long action take in Hard-Boiled (perhaps the most technically impressive of them all, covering as it does two floors, an elevator, a lot of gunplay, a few plot points, several film speeds and the deaths of several dozen Chinese stuntmen). Yet none of them really use a long take to advance the plot, which is really a shame. There are all kinds of beautiful things you can do with a long take that would be impossible otherwise; it would be a wonderful way to shoot a heist scene, for example, given that so many movie heist scenes make a big deal out of split-second timing (like ducking behind the correct pillar just as the guard passes by on his rounds, or dodging a fixed pattern of laser beams). A Gosford Park-type murder mystery would be a perfect movie to film in one continuous take, given that the logic of the shot should make the location of every character in the house fairly clear to the audience when the fatal shot rings out... And so on.

11 January 2003

"Oh goody sleep, that's where i'm a viking!" (via Blake, who has no website, he's just a person).

10 January 2003

I've been playing text twist a lot and just ran accross a word with a bizzare distributions of sub-anagrams:

6 letters:

5 letters:

4 letters:

3 letters:

So there are more 6 letter words than 3 letter words, i find this very odd.

09 January 2003

A few words on airport terminals:

I don't like the international wing of BWI -- I had to spend many hours there waiting for a military space-available flight to Europe. It seemed like the forgotten corner of the airport where you think some janitor is going to tell you you're off limits.

I stand corrected, JFK does have 9 terminals. It also has a customer satisfaction survey. Enjoy.
I think Blake's comment on the Shelob quote is worth repeating: "Freud Surrenders."

The Shelob scene for those without the book is:

Sam sprang in, inside the arches of her legs, and with a quick upthrust of his other hand stabbed at the clustered eyes upon her lowered head. One great eye went dark. Now the miserable creature was right under her, for the moment out of the reach of her sting and of her claws. Her vast belly was above him with its putrid light, and the stench of it almost smote him down. Still his fury held for one more blow, and before she could sink upon him, smothering him and all his little impudence of courage, he slashed the bright elven blade accross her with desperate strength.

But Shelob was not as dragons are, no softer spot had she save only her eyes. Knobbed and pitted with corruption was her age-old hide, but ever thickened from within with layer on layer of evil growth. The blade scored it with a dreadful gash, but those hideous folds could not be pierced by any strength of men, not though Elf or Dwarf should forge the steel or the hand of Beren or Turin wield it. She yielded to the stroke, and then heaved up the great bag of her belly high above Sam's head. Foison frothed and bubbled from the wound. Now splaying her legs she drove her huge bulk down on him again. Too soon. For sam still stoodu upon his feet, and dropping his own sword, with both hands he held the elven-blade point upwards, fending off that ghastly roof; and so Shelob, with the driving force of her own cruel will, with strength greater than any warrior's hand, thrust herself upon a bitter spike. Deep, deep it pricked, as sam was crushed slowly to the ground.

No anguish had Shelob ever known, or dreamed of knowing, in all her long world of wickedness. Not the doughtiest soldier of old Gondor nor the most savage Orc entrapped, had ever thus endured her, or set blade to her beloved flesh. A shudder went through her. Heaving up again, wrenching away from the pain, she bent her writhing limbs beneath her and sprang backwards in a convulsive leap.

Now one should keep in mind that spiders only have two parts: a belly and legs. You are always between the legs of a spider if it is attacking you. And of course he's using a sword, its a battle for heaven's sake. Anyway i think the salon article is really making something of nothing, although its kind of fun to play these sorts of Freudian games once in a while. At any rate with this Freudian reading, "Her vast belly was above him with its putrid light, and the stench of it almost smote him down" becomes a lot more amusing.
I find all the serious articles on the Lord of the Rings really fun to read. A few of my favorite excerpts:

That doesn't mean, on the other hand, that "The Lord of the Rings" is ever fully comfortable with heterosexuality. Its female characters are little more than idealized figures of inspiration or decoration; Eowyn, the warrior-princess of Rohan, is the only real exception. (Was her original a female graduate student who braved the pipe smoke and postprandial glasses of port?) Her courtship by Faramir of Gondor is stylized and awkward but at least has the flavor of real emotion. If you still believe that the book has no more explicit depiction of heterosexual activity than that, however, I suggest you take another look at the disturbing encounter between Sam and Shelob, the huge and evil female spider, at the end of Book Four.
--a salon article

The critics who got worked up about the bugs in Starship Troopers and the Orcs and Uruk-hai in The Lord of the Rings fret over the explicit "dehumanizing of the enemy" involved in these respective stories quite a bit. What they leave out is that the enemies aren't humans being unfairly mischaracterized the way the Japanese were in World War II posters. The enemies in these movies are, in fact, non-human.
--a national review article

In the real world it's much more difficult to identify evil. It would be much easier to argue for toppling Saddam if he were a giant fiery eye ruling subhuman creatures bent on destroying all that is beautiful and enslaving all that is good. But, damn it, that's not the case.
--later in the same national review article

Noah's spelling words for the week:


There'll be a quiz on Monday.
Unforeseen consequence of traveling with a popular person: two different random people have said to me, "Have fun in Barcelona this weekend."

08 January 2003

Airport security rediculousness of the week:

My brother Jesse had a plane ticket friday morning to fly back to school from BWI through Pittsburg (eventually to Chicago I think). My grandfather died and his funeral was on thursday night in Pittsburg. So we tried to get the airline to let him simply pick up the second leg in Pittsburg, and considering it was a funeral and all thought that there would be some way to do this. After all, the airline is losing absolutely nothing by having him not sit in his seat from BWI to Pittsburg. However, we were informed that security regulations forbid them from changing anyone's itenerary once they've begun it (i.e. when he left from chicago to BWI in the first place) and that the bereavement exceptions had been gotten rid of. Now, perhaps I'm just missing something, but what on earth is so insecure about having him miss the first leg of his flight? What's the fear here? I don't understand why we consider security to be equivalent to inconvenience.

On the other hand, the brand new shiny international terminal at BWI is pretty cool. And my discovery of the week is that you can pronounce BWI not as B-W-I, but as "bweeeeee!"

Also airlines are not the only people who no longer make exceptions for bereavement. My grandmother and grandfather (the one who just died) had moved away from their home town near Pittsburg to an assisted living community several years ago. So they closed their account at their local bank at home. The funeral was near this bank and my grandmother needed some more cash and so she tried to go in to change her rolls of quarters into bills. The bank refused to do so because they did not have an account there. My mother explained to the teller that "[my grandmother] and her husband had an account at the bank for forty years and they were back in town for his funeral," but the teller still refused since it was possible that she had miscounted the quarters and the bank would be cheated out of a few cents since they couldn't take it out of their account.
Adictive game of the week: Text Twist. Basically an annagrams game. Thus far my high schore is 42,070. I got stumped on "Mobile."
Want $20 bucks from the evil recording industry?
Listen to Orgy Season on WHRB! Beethoven Orgy all next week! Hooray!
You have editing privileges; go ahead and change it if it annoys you that much. And JFK has 9 terminals; I was right the fifth time.

07 January 2003

I hereby declare that the word "queueing" may be edited at any time and replaced by "standing in line."

I too found JFK to be a time-wasting airport when I flew to Greece, but lucky for me I just hopped on the shuttle from the parking lot, and inside the bus it was posted which airlines flew out of which terminal and I was able to tell right away that there were 8 terminals. There's no rhyme or reason as to which airlines occupy which terminals, and also no express buses like they have at Logan that only go to some terminals so you don't have to stop at every one. Oh, and one more thing: my cell phone didn't work there, and instead it gave off the loudest, most obnoxious beep I've ever heard out of it.
As you might also have guessed, I'm a bit groggy.
As you might have guessed, I'm back in England now. It's strange coming back to a familiar place that takes 18 hours to get to. Now it's time to shower.
I spent four hours in New York yesterday:

Wandering around Terminal 4 trying to figure out where my next flight left from and how to get there since there isn't a single posted sign anywhere as to what airline leaves from what terminal: 15 minutes.
Standing outside waiting for inter-terminal shuttle: 10 minutes.
Riding shuttle from Terminal 4 to Terminal 1, thinking at each stop that Terminal 1 must be next, and being wrong four times: 20 minutes
Queueing to check in and progressing maybe a third of the way to the front before having the good fortune of being pulled out by an agent: 30 minutes.
Queueing for security: 60 minutes.
Queueing to get on plane: 15 minutes.
Sitting on plane while they load luggage and 150 missing pairs of headphones: 60 minutes.
Sitting on plane while they de-ice the wings: 30 minutes.

Traveling through JFK on a future journey: not at any price.

04 January 2003

Moronic act of the day: I washed my wallet. Now I have a clean wallet. And some wet money.

02 January 2003

My New Year's eve didn't turn out so hot. I'll leave it at that.

Regarding The Two Towers, things I liked: Gollum, digital orcs (especially those ones being squashed), Wormtongue. Things I didn't like: it was too long (they really didn't need to show Theoden whining as much as they did, for one thing) and the dangerously comic depiction of Gimli, who as a great leader of dwarves deserved much better treatment. We already have hobbits for comic relief -- why did they have to make fun of the dwarf?? (The dwarf-tossing sequence was nice, however.) Finally, did anyone else think that the wolves looked more like wombats?
Will someone please explain "Customers who wear clothes"? (Follow Noah's links.)
Brilliant indeed. I need to start using that word more.

I hung out with my friend Andy and his wife (!) Kira. All the other single people cancelled so it was just the three of us, but totally comfortable since they're by far the easiest couple to be around I've ever known. We went ice skating, drank champagne, played ping-pong, watched UHF and The Sum of All Fears, and talked a lot.

01 January 2003

So i hit the bookstore (large chain, its york, what do you expect?) to return a gift my brother Jesse already had (a Tolkein atlas) for one he didn't have (far side and calvin and hobbes cartoons), and oddly enough i didn't run into anyone. I did find some rediculous books though. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Interfaith Relationships and the strategy guide to online Sims. I think the latter's humor is in reading it not in its mere existence, the former on the other hand... The table of differences between protestant and catholic beliefs on sex is hysterical.

They've started selling Valentine's cards in the bookstore already. I want to break something.

Happy new year everyone. I brilliantly succeeded in my plan to have a non-new years eve new years eve. I went to see a basketball game with my dad and brother Jesse, and there's no one better to go see a basketball game with than your dad and brother and it was a good close game, the Wizards held on to beat a very sloppy Spurs. Great fun, and the new year passed while we were on the road, saw some fireworks in the distance and that's it. Managed to have an evening that was of a completely different sort than last year and so didn't have to suffer by comparison. Rather brilliant of me I must say.