I first heard about Bad Santa thanks to Pops about a week ago, and it immediately sounded like something that would be right up my alley.

Roger Ebert’s review has just solidified that. This movie will be seen by me, quite possibly tomorrow. Here’s some random choice snippets from Ebert…

Santa is a depressed, alcoholic safecracker. The kid is not one of your cute movie kids, but an intense and needy stalker; think of Thomas the Tank Engine as a member of the Addams Family. … “Bad Santa” is a demented, twisted, unreasonably funny work of comic kamikaze style, starring Billy Bob Thornton as Santa in a performance that’s defiantly uncouth. … You expect a happy ending, but the ending is happy in the same sense that a man’s doctors tell him he lost his legs but they were able to save his shoes. … There are certain unwritten parameters governing mainstream American movies, and “Bad Santa” violates all of them. … I didn’t like this movie merely because it was weird and different; I liked it because it makes no compromises and takes no prisoners. And because it is funny. … When Billy Bob Thornton got the script, he must have read it and decided it would be career suicide. Then he put the script to his head and pulled the trigger. … What I can’t picture is, who will attend this movie? Anybody? Movies like this are a test of taste. If you understand why “Kill Bill” is a good movie and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is not, and “Bad Santa” is a good movie and “The Cat in the Hat” is not, then you have freed yourself from the belief that a movie’s quality is determined by its subject matter. You instinctively understand that a movie is not about what it is about, but about how it is about it. You qualify for “Bad Santa.”

(via Nate)

So what do you do if you’re trying to put together campaign commercials for a President who can’t seem to string together more two multi-syllabic words without stumbling? Simple! With just a little “digital cut and paste”, even Dubya can sound coherent!

When President Bush laid out the potential threat that unconventional weapons posed in Saddam Hussein’s hands last year in his State of the Union address last year, he became tongue-tied at an inopportune moment.

[…]

Yet in a new Republican commercial that borrows excerpts from that speech, Mr. Bush delivers that line as smoothly as any other in the address, without a pause between “one” and “vial,” and the v in “vial” sounds strong and sure.

Republican officials acknowledged yesterday that the change was a product of technology. The line, they said, was digitally enhanced in editing “to ensure the best clarity.”

(via Dori)

Back at the beginning of September, there was a bit of a fuss when Army Captain James Yee, who had been working with (ahem) “detainees” at Guantanamo Bay was suddenly held on suspicion of treason, espionage, and “aiding the enemy”. Well, charges against him have finally been filed. What has the military charged him with that caused all the ruckus?

Two counts of failing to obey a lawful general order, adultery, conduct unbecoming an officer, making a false official statement and failure to obey an order or regulation (the latter two charges stem from allegations that Yee viewed and stored pornography on a government computer).

Okay, so apparently the guy was a bit of a shmuck, not to mention a bit of an idiot if he was using government hardware for pornography, and was definitely breaking regulations (if all the allegations are true). But come on — treason and espionage are serious charges, and I would expect that the government wouldn’t be bandying them about unless they had some definite hard evidence of such behavior. Now, two and a half months later, these are the only official charges that they’ve been able to produce?

Chances are, the stories about Yee’s official charges won’t get nearly as much press, though. They’ll be buried four or five pages back in the newspapers, all most people will remember is how some Filthy Traitor was caught by Our Government, and they’ll never hear how inconsequential (at least in comparison to treason and espionage) the actual charges are. It’s a sadly typical situation these days, really.

Apparently Yee has been released pending trial, but some are wondering about the motives of the new charges:

Huda Sobuh, Captain Yee’s wife, told CAIR-Seattle: “I believe emphatically that my husband is innocent of all these charges. I stand by him. It is clear to me the U.S. government only wants to destroy his reputation and his family. They will not succeed.”

“These new allegations, including as they do serious violations of Islamic moral principles, have the odor of a smear campaign about them,” said Ibrahim Mohamed, CAIR-Seattle chairman. “A cynical person might question the government’s motivation for bringing these charges after having failed to back up earlier leaks pointing to espionage and support for terrorism.”

“To bring adultery into a case that began with public allegations of aiding the enemy is really outrageous, and the type of thing that can give military justice a bad name,” said Eugene Fidell, Yee’s civilian attorney.

Al-Muhajabah’s Islamic Blog provides some advice from the Quran, advice which I find to be applicable in many situations these days.

First, as a general rule, one should never blindly accept accusations from a source with questionable motives: O you, those who have faith! If a corrupt person brings you tidings, verify it, lest you attack some folk in ignorance and afterward repent of what you did. (Quran 49:6). Second, and specifically dealing with accusations of adultery, proper proof is required…: Why, when they heard this, did the faithful men and the faithful women not think better among themselves and say: This is a clear lie? Why do they not bring four witnesses? Whoever does not bring witnesses, such people are liars in Allah’s sight. (Quran 24:12-13)

Troy

Another film I’m really looking forward to seeing — Troy.

Throughout time, men have waged war. Some for power, some for glory, some for honor — and some for love.

In ancient Greece, the passion of two of history’s most legendary lovers, Paris, Prince of Troy (ORLANDO BLOOM) and Helen (DIANE KRUGER), Queen of Sparta, ignites a war that will devastate a civilization. When Paris steals Helen away from her husband, King Menelaus (BRENDAN GLEESON), it is an insult that cannot be suffered. Familial pride dictates that an affront to Menelaus is an affront to his brother Agamemnon (BRIAN COX), powerful King of the Myceneans, who soon unites all the massive tribes of Greece to steal Helen back from Troy in defense of his brother’s honor.

In truth, Agamemnon’s pursuit of honor is corrupted by his overwhelming greed — he needs control of Troy to ensure the supremacy of his already vast empire. The walled city, under the leadership of King Prium (PETER O’TOOLE) and defended by mighty Prince Hector (ERIC BANA), is a citadel that no army has been able to breach. One man alone stands as the key to victory or defeat over Troy — Achilles (BRAD PITT), believed to be the greatest warrior alive.

Arrogant, rebellious and seemingly invincible, Achilles has no allegiance to anyone or anything, save his own glory. It is his insatiable hunger for eternal renown that leads him to attack the gates of Troy under Agamemnon’s banner — but it will be love that ultimately decides his fate.

Two worlds will go to war for honor and power. Thousands will fall in pursuit of glory. And for love, a nation will burn to the ground.

The trailer can be downloaded from Apple’s trailer site, and is worth watching just for the shot of thousands of triremes covering the ocean.

This is so, so, so, so not on my Christmas Wish List:

Talking Ann Coulter Action Figure

Amuse your conservative friends and annoy your liberal neighbors with the brand new Ann Coulter Talking Action Figure. This incredibly lifelike action figure looks just like the beautiful Ann Coulter, and best of all . . . it sounds like Ann, too!

[…]

This highly collectible doll comes in a display box with information highlighting Ann’s unique contributions to America’s political discourse. If you can’t get enough Ann Coulter, you’ll want to order the Ann Coulter Talking Action Figure today!

At first I thought this was a joke or a prank or something, especially given the quotes that are apparently programmed into the doll (“Liberals hate America, they hate flag-wavers, they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam, post 9/11. Even Islamic terrorists don’t hate America like Liberals do. They don’t have the energy. If they had that much energy, they’d have indoor plumbing by now.”), but as far as I can tell, this is completely serious.

There is an entire series of “Talking Presidents” action figures available on this website that all have included quotes that seem to be meant to honor the person in question, including George W. Bush (“Freedom itself was attacked by faceless cowards, and freedom will be defended.”), George H. W. Bush (“I don’t see how you can be President if you didn’t believe in a being greater than yourself. I don’t see how you get the strength that you need at quiet moments, the tough moments.”), and Dennis Miller (“The only way we were going to get the French to go into Iraq was to tell them we thought there were truffles in there.”). There’s even one for Donald Rumsfeld (“The only choice one has is to proceed and use coercion.”), which I find at least as disturbing as the Ann Coulter action figure. The most obvious exception is the action figure for Bill Clinton (“I experimented with marijuana a time or two and didn’t like it, and didn’t inhale and never tried it again.”).

Truly bizarre. I guess you want to keep everyone happy over the Christmas season, right?

(via the usual suspects)

Today marks my three-year anniversary of weblogging. Technically, I’ve actually been at this for a bit longer than that — since sometime in 1998 or 1999 — but at that point I was just updating a static HTML page by hand, and much to my dismay, I lost my archives of those pages some time ago. So, for all practical purposes, I’m just dating back to my first archived post, from Nov. 25 2000.

I’ve been slowly working on moving all of my old archives over into my TypePad account for the past couple months, with a goal of having them all online by today. Thankfully, that happened, and I now have all three years of archives — 1,949 individual posts (an average of 1.78 posts per day) — online and available for perusing.

As I’ve worked my way through them all, I’ve highlighted a few at the top of my archives page as “Greatest Hits”. These aren’t necessarily the most-visited posts on the site. Rather, they’re posts that I find notable or especially worth visiting for one reason or another. Here’s a rundown of what I consider the highlights of the past three years:

1/9/2001: Words of Wisdom
One of the few pieces of forwarded e-mail that I’ve ever liked enough not just to keep, but to post. Just a good list of advice and observations worth keeping in mind.
1/17/2001: Things to remember while e-mailing
Another forward that I found worth saving. A good list of things that everyone should keep solidly in mind before passing on the latest virus warning, plea for help, or urban legend that lands in their e-mail inbox.
4/20/2001: About my tattoo
Some fairly bad pictures of me, but decent pictures of my tattoo. I’ve never been much of one for body modification — no piercings, and this is my only tattoo — but after finding the design years ago and giving it roughly five years of consideration, I decided that I’d found something worth permanently adding to my body.
5/24/2001: Mars needs a facelift!
Pure, unadulterated silliness. After finding some new pictures of the famous “face” on Mars, I decided to go all-out and see how well I could do at coming across as a flaming loony conspiracy theory nut. Apparently I did fairly well, as when I originally posted this on another discussion board, a few people commented that until the end of the post when I admitted that I was just fooling around, they actually believed that I was frightfully serious about what I was writing. There’s not much higher praise than that.
2/28/2002: Where were you?
A list of important historical dates, and my recollections of where I was when they happened and how they affected me. Some dates weren’t overly clearly remembered, most of the ones that really stuck with me range from the Challenger explosion to the Sept. 11 attacks.
3/2/2002: Hippies on Mars!
Another bout of Mars-inspired silliness. A false-color image of the Martian poles that reminded me of tye-dyed clothing patterns inspired this “press release” about Grateful Dead fans traveling across the plains of Mars. As far as I know it’s purely coincidental that I had two Mars-inspired bits of creative writing.
7/20/2002: Best of times, worst of times
Looking back at my experiences with people who went from being friends of mine to being roommates from hell. It’s always an odd time of my past to look back on, as it’s a strong combination of fond memories and things that at times I’d rather be able to forget.
10/28/2002: George
Much as I love cats, my brother’s cat George is the only cat I’ve ever met that I just couldn’t get along with. Completely and utterly psychotic. This is one of George’s more amusing moments in life.
3/2/2003: Sleep — from the painting by Salvadore Dali
A piece I wrote during my junior year of high school, inspired by a Salvadore Dali painting. As can be expected from something written around thirteen years ago, there are definitely things that I would do differently were I writing it now, but I’ve always liked what I came up with enough to leave it unaltered since its original inception.
3/3/2003: Just hang up
I’m not a fan of cell phones at all. I’ll only have one if required and paid for by my job, which has only happened once. One of the things that drives me up the wall is how incredibly rude many people can be when it comes to cell phones, and this rant was born from that frustration.
5/6/2003: Cynicism reigns supreme\
5/8/2003: Darwin has left the building
A pair of posts exploring one of my more cynical beliefs — that the human race is essentially throwing evolution out the window and breeding itself into oblivion. Some very interesting discussion arose out of these posts.
5/29/2003: Glitch
So far, my first foray into ‘fanfic’. Initially inspired by a dream I had after watching “Matrix: Reloaded”, it explores what might happen if someone accidentally tapped into a debugging routine in the Matrix without really realizing what was going on.
6/1/2003: Newly Digital (Back in the Day Redux)
My contribution to Adam Kalsey’s ‘Newly Digital’ project, looking back on my early experiences with computers, technology, and the internet, and some of the wierd and wonderful things I’ve seen over the years since these glowing screens first caught my attention.
7/9/2003: The Purity Test
I first discovered the Purity Tests on a BBS while I was in High School, and have always found them to be quite entertaining. Download the test (100, 500, 1000, and 2000 question versions) and find out just how morally, ethically, and sexually pure you are.
7/31/2003: Blogstop
Wordgame fun. Construct a post from the letters of the last word in the immediately preceeding post. It’s easier just to take a look and figure it out as you go.
10/29/2003: Fifteen Minutes of Fame
I look back on the first day or two of notoriety after news of my brush with Microsoft exploded across the ‘net.

I’m sure there are more goodies buried in my archives that are also worth dredging up from time to time. Some may be of more interest than these, most will be of less. These are just the ones that I find to be most worthy of calling attention to. If you’ve read any of them before, feel free to either just move along or take another look. If any of these are new to you, I just hope you like what you find.

Here’s hoping I’ve got another three years of this — or more — left in me.

Quake shockwave (1.1Mb animated .gif)If you live in the Seattle/Portland/Pacific Northwest — or Japan — you might want to think about moving. At least, think about it if you have plans to be in the area in about 200 years. ;)

Geologists have discovered evidence of a massively powerful earthquake zone beneath the Pacific Northwest just offshore from the Seattle area.

>

They made the discovery by piecing together ancient accounts of a giant Japanese tsunami and a computer simulation of a huge trembler in the 17th century.

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Thought to be inactive, the earthquake zone runs 600 miles up the Pacific Coast from Northern California to southern British Columbia. It appears to be subject to monster quakes every 500 years.

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[…]

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In Japan, Satake created a detailed computer model showing how the tsunami crossed the Pacific before crashing into Japan.

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Atwood said the geological record indicates the fault ruptures about once every 500 years and is capable of unleashing “truly giant earthquakes.”

>

He said only three quakes this century compare in magnitude — a 9.0 quake in Kamchatka in 1952, a 9.5 quake in Chile in 1960 and a 9.2 trembler in Alaska in 1964.

Well, okay, so maybe there’s not great reason to panic just yet. Alaskans have been expecting a repeat of the ’64 quake “real soon now” for years without it happening, and this one isn’t due for another two centuries. Still, it’s nice to be able to plan ahead sometimes, isn’t it?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.

[…]

Herman Schwartz, a constitutional law professor at American University who has written about F.B.I. history, said collecting intelligence at demonstrations is probably legal.

But he added: “As a matter of principle, it has a very serious chilling effect on peaceful demonstration. If you go around telling people, `We’re going to ferret out information on demonstrations,’ that deters people. People don’t want their names and pictures in F.B.I. files.”

The abuses of the Hoover era, which included efforts by the F.B.I. to harass and discredit Hoover’s political enemies under a program known as Cointelpro, led to tight restrictions on F.B.I. investigations of political activities.

Those restrictions were relaxed significantly last year, when Attorney General John Ashcroft issued guidelines giving agents authority to attend political rallies, mosques and any event “open to the public.”

Kind of makes me wonder what might be in my file….

(via Jon)

One of the many reasons I didn’t post much last week (along with training for my new job, which had my schedule bouncing all over the place — when you’re used to getting up between 9:30 and 10:00 am every day, 6:30am is really early) was that I picked up the newly-released Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Special Extended DVD Edition).

First off, and most simply, if you’re a fan of the series, there’s no question about it. This is a must-buy DVD (as is, incidentally, the extended edition of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring). Feel free to stop reading this and just go buy it.

I haven’t even gotten into any of the special features (and there are a ton to get through) yet. All I’ve done so far is watch the new cut of the film itself, and the new cut is incredible. Around 40 minutes has been added to the movie, bringing the total run time up to a whopping 223 minutes — almost four full hours. Lest this sound like overkill, rest assured that the pacing of the movie doesn’t suffer in any way, and it only helps expand and enhance the full story. The insertions are scattered throughout the film, from quick cuts here and there that expand already-existing scenes, to entire sequences that had to be cut from the theatrical version. Every major character (and most of the minor characters) have additional bits added which do wonders for fleshing all of them out. What may be the two biggest additions (for me, at least) were a flashback sequence between Boromir, Faramir and their father Denethor which helps to flesh out their backstory (and explain why Faramir doesn’t come across as “perfect” in the films as he does in the books); and in a nod to the excising of Tom Bombadil from LotR:TFotR, the inclusion of Old Man Willow!

As was the case with LotR:TFotR, the extended edition of LotR:TTT is a far superior film (not that the theatrical release was bad at all — this version is just better). Much as I understand why they couldn’t release movies of this length to the theaters, it’s really a pity. I’m just glad that there will be limited releases of the extended versions of LotR:TFotR and LotR:TTT at the Seattle Cinerama just before LotR:TRotK is released (and that I’ve already got my tickets)!

For those of you that already have the set:

  1. Pop in Disc 1 (part one of the movie).
  2. Go to the last page of the Scene Selections.
  3. Go down to the last scene on Disc 1 (“Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit”).
  4. Press down once more, to highlight a hidden Ring.
  5. Press play.

Gollum on MTV