29 October 2006

I know everyone has been waiting to hear about the latest celebrity that I've been told I resemble. This time, it's Chachi from "Happy Days" and "Joanie Loves Chachi." I had no idea who this person was, but the real-life actor, Scott Baio, has had a long and distinguished acting career, including an appearance on "Super Babies: Baby Geniuses 2."

I think the similarity is more apt than prior comparisons to Jake Gyllenhaal (before he was popular) and James Frain, a supporting actor from "The Count of Monte Cristo" and the terrible Natalie Portman movie "Where the Heart Is" (that one still puzzles me).

24 October 2006

I was going through some old blog entries, and came across a posting by Dave from April 28, 2003:
I've decided that my goal for the next n years is to explain my thesis topic to my non-math girlfriend, for then I will have both an interesting problem to work on and a non-math girlfriend.
So, Dave, how's that working out for you?

22 October 2006

Oh, and Marie Antoinette? It's a fluffy mix tape of a movie, which means that I loved it. The friend who saw it with me...well, she was less pleased. ("I just wasted two hours of my life.") But it's exactly the movie that the trailer promises, with a fantastic soundtrack and a lineage that goes from Amadeus to Barry Lyndon and Tom Jones. Nice shoes, too.
If anyone offers to spoil the ending of The Prestige for you, make sure that you have a solid five minutes to spare. I'm not even sure that I could manage it, even if I thought it was worth the effort. In the end, it's probably easier just to see the movie. To make the obvious comparison, it's sloppier and flashier than The Illusionist, and arguably more compelling on a visceral level, although it doesn't exactly stick to your bones. (It's also remarkably skittish about its central "surprise," like a bad liar who betrays himself by his own evasiveness.) Still, in a season of astonishing ensemble casts (The Departed, Marie Antoinette, The Good Shepherd), it has the greatest number of faces that I was happy to see. Any movie that finds time for Ricky Jay, Andy Serkis, and David Bowie is probably worth two hours of your time.

20 October 2006

You have to love those New York Times articles that are targeted towards (and seemingly written by) the rich and the clueless. Only someone with a dim view of the real world could say that $40 entrees have caused "populist outrage." Populist outrage is what you call the reaction of normal people to things like job layoffs and gas prices, not the reaction of upper-crust diners to higher prices for lobster.
Someday, I swear, I'm going to start listening to pop music that hasn't been previously approved by Nick Hornby, Cameron Crowe, or Zach Braff. In the meantime, though, the soundtrack to The Last Kiss is pretty awesome. (In unrelated news, I've decided to name my firstborn daughter Imogen Heap N-L. What do you think?)

16 October 2006

Erwin Chemerinsky has more (I lost count but it's certainly over 300), although a lot of the publications are articles in newspapers, which sort of seem like they shouldn't count. Still, he has 131 published law review articles and authoritative treatises on Constitutional Law and Federal Jurisdiction. I'm guessing he doesn't get out much.
This is the home page of the guy who presented immediately after me in Toronto. I was looking for a paper of his, and discovered that he has over three hundred published papers. Given that I started publishing in 2002, at my current rate I will have three hundred papers in the year 2402.
On Saturday, I found myself at Radio City Music Hall, watching a 52-year-old British man in full evening dress croon uncertainly into a microphone while another Brit, of indeterminate age, fiddled with a keyboard while wearing sunglasses, a baseball cap, and a glow-in-the-dark hoodie. Other attractions included occasional breakdancing, several soulful backup singers, some curious sets, and a dancing opera hat. It was the best concert ever.

14 October 2006

And here's a great travel article.

Apparently they just "discovered" the third-highest waterfall in the world in some remote part of Peru. (Is there a non-remote part of Peru?) This writer goes to check it out, and despite pictures that are worse than the ones I take with disposable cameras, he tells a gripping story. The waterfall is only a small part of the story - this guy comes across a pre-Incan ruin larger than Machu Picchu, visits a museum where the employees fiddle with mummies, camps out in front of an Adventist Church and manages to trip the churchgoers with his tent cord, confronts angry drunken villagers...now that's traveling.
Now this is a great poster.

10 October 2006

Forget hypoallergenic kitties: some New Mexicans apparently want to attract cats of the 200 lb. variety.

The most interesting part of this jaguar article (to me, at least) is that the dateline is Santa Fe. There is no defensible reason for this. The events and people in question are 300+ miles away from Santa Fe, and as any visitor to the region knows, Santa Fe does not have its own major airport. In other words, the reporter had to go pretty far out of her way to get to Santa Fe and write her article there. I hope she enjoyed her stay.

The second most interesting thing is how the guy just takes pictures while the jaguar maims his dogs. So much for man's best friend.

07 October 2006

I recently stumbled across an interesting book entitled A Wolf At the Door: Stanley Kubrick, History, and the Holocaust, written by Geoffrey Cocks, a professor of history at Albion College in Michigan. Why is this book so interesting? Well, according to the Search Inside the Book feature at Amazon.com, I'm, uh, cited in the bibliography. Best of all, it's for an article that I wrote when I was fifteen years old. This is so embarrassing.
Random observation: "BTW" has to be the weirdest acronym in the world, because it takes longer to say than the phrase it stands for.
According to the New York Times, a California biotech company is breeding and selling hypoallergenic cats for $4,000 apiece. Apparently, they're great, as long as you don't get them wet or feed them after midnight...
I'm pleased to announce that The Departed is the most satisfying American movie since...well, okay, The Illusionist. But The Illusionist, with its somewhat hermetic perfectionism, is vaguely European, while The Departed is a full-blooded American movie. Released under the old Warner Bros. logo, it's violent, incredibly entertaining, messy and rich in the details, but neat as mathematics in the whole, with a huge cast of stars, most of whom are doing their best work ever. In other words, it's a lot like L.A. Confidential, except that instead of making careers, it gives a new luster to established superstars, including Martin Scorsese. It's always hard to make predictions like this, but at the end of my life, when the tally is made, this may end up being the Scorsese movie that I watch more than any other.

Anyway, you probably don't need my encouragement to see this movie. Moreover, any litany of my favorite moments (Alec Baldwin grabbing his own balls to make a point; the penultimate scene's homage to the last shot of The Third Man) would rob you of the chance to discover them for yourself. Also, there are a lot of them, including the last five minutes, which go from lame to awesome to lame to sublime to awesome to inexplicable so quickly that it's like watching an entire Michael Mann movie in fast forward. My friends and I came out of the theater arguing about this, but for me, the conclusion works. Unlike the original Infernal Affairs, which closes on an ironic note, The Departed ends, as it should, with an elegant severing of the knot. Full stop. Like De Niro says at the end of Casino: that's that.
Torrey and I went to the Twins playoff game in Oakand this afternoon. I didn't have much hope of them taking the series, but I didn't get to see them during the season, and I had to come pay my respects to the team that came back from 10 games behind in August to move into first place on the very last day of the season. It was also my last chance to see Brad Radke and his duct-taped arm, perhaps my last chance to see Torii Hunter in a Twins uniform, and my first chance to see a Justin Morneau homerun. I even got my dad to FedEx us a couple of Homer Hankies.

On a related note, we got to be on TV. A San Francisco news station saw us wearing Twins gear outside the game this afternoon and interviewed us. Of course, they took the sound bite that made me appear to be a complete moron. Or perhaps just a wimp. (Of course, what can you expect from local news...the graphics people couldn't even figure out who I was when they tried to put my name on the screen.)

The last postseason game I had been to was Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. That one ended a little differently.

04 October 2006

Looks like there is someone else out there who is always prepared for international culinary adventures. If you already carry a pepper mill in your travel bag, a cheese grater can't be too far behind.

02 October 2006

Say, if anyone out there has a subscription to this new 02138 magazine, can you tell me if I made the Harvard 100 or not? Thanks!

01 October 2006

A few weeks ago, I snuck out to see World Trade Center, which was moving and impressive, but vaguely dissatisfying. It struck me as too careful, too impersonal a movie for Oliver Stone, the rare director whose craft improves in proportion to his looniness, and who can make complex ideas vivid and exciting. Since then, I've begun to appreciate the minefield that this movie had to navigate in order to be made at all, and I've come to regard it as graceful and modulated, rather than timid. Still, I hope that Stone revisits this story again, as he did with Vietnam, and that he grows more confident and outrageous with time. After all, he seems to have strong opinions on the subject.

In any case, in a fit of nostalgia for the old, devilish Oliver Stone, I rented a bunch of his movies from Netflix, and have been watching them more or less continuously over the past couple of weeks. I made some interesting discoveries. Alexander is a real mess, a muddled, sluggishly paced movie redeemed only by a couple of magnificent battles and (I may as well be honest here) the best nude scene of the decade. (It's Rosario Dawson's, wise guy.) The style of Natural Born Killers seems almost quaint today, but its satire of television feels sharper and more coherent than ever, maybe because its video effects and schizophrenic cuts have entered the pop cultural mainstream. (It's like watching an ultraviolent episode of Behind the Music.) JFK now feels ludicrous as history, but incredible as a movie, a cinematic colossus in a world of pygmies. It's one of only two films made during my lifetime that honestly build upon the legacy of Citizen Kane.

The other legatee of Kane is, of course, Nixon, which is the Oliver Stone movie that fills me with the most awe today. I saw Nixon when it came out in 1995, and have retained strong memories of it ever since, but on watching it again, I realized what should have been obvious: this is one of the greatest of all American movies, with a performance by Anthony Hopkins that grows even more extraordinary with the passage of time. He doesn't look or sound much like Nixon, but whoever this guy is, he dominates the screen for over three hours, creating a character who is heartbeakingly tragic and pathetic, part angel, part vampire. It's one of the most moving performances I've ever seen, and it gets you closer to the events of Nixon's life than you probably feel towards some of your own memories. If there's a lost masterpiece of American cinema, Nixon is it, and the DVD currently costs less than a matinee ticket for All the King's Men. If that isn't a bargain, what is?