Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I don't hate people, but I hate you.

Several misguided souls (or "dipshits", as we say in the business) keep posting comment spam on this site. I know this is a common thing now, but it's a pain in the butt. And Movable Type's interface makes it incredibly tedious to delete comments. (A list of the last several hundred posted comments, with checkboxes next to them, and a button to delete all checked comments, would be dandy.) Sigh.

The Spine

I really like They Might Be Giants' new album, The Spine. Their most recent album was a kids album, No!. That album turned out to be a big hit with Emma, so I can't really complain about it, but it made me worry that TMBG would abandon their more adult fare. (Their stuff has never been scandalous or obscene, but it ranged freely through all sorts of subject matter. No! is tame--almost uninterestingly so.) The Spine shows that I needn't worry.

There are several gems, and I need a few more listens before I absorb the bulk of it. My favorite so far is "Bastard wants to hit me", a strangely warbled, paranoid-yet-perky piece in which the speaker is convinced that the stranger over there, waving to me, wants me to come over so he can hit me.

AIDS Walk San Francisco 2004

I took part in Aids Walk San Francisco on Sunday. I was part of the Pixar team, though I ended up walking alone, at first afloat in the river of 21,000 people surging slowly through Golden Gate Park, later fighting the current to find my own faster pace. The weather was perfect--a bit foggy but pleasantly cool. And there are worse places to walk than Golden Gate Park, passing the occasional band, orchestra, or dancing troupe set up alongside the river of people.

It's been a while since I've been in a throng, and I've never been in one this big, let alone one this big and happy. It was a great experience. Many thanks to those who sponsored me on the walk.

Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Slip the surly bonds of simulated Earth.

The other day I bought a copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight. My interest in flight simulators ran out somewhere in high school, but reappeared unexpectedly a week or two ago. In part, this is because it occured to me that the relevant technology has improved by a factor of several hundred since I last ran one. FS2004 has clouds, dynamic weather (updated every fifteen minutes from the web!), and fairly detailed geography for the entire planet, including 24,000 airports.

Playing it has also made me realize that I knew nothing about flying. Well, not nothing--I could fumble through the sky the moment I started it--but the built-in training program introduced me to the foreign concepts of coordinated turns and control surface trim--both rudimentary aspects of flight. ("Wait, you're telling me that Wing Commander isn't realistic?")

What's worse, my sudden interest in the subtleties of flight have me eyeing sim-geek accoutrements such as high-end yokes and scenery add-ons. Let's hope I get over this before I start buying add-ons for random aircraft.

Review: Fahrenheit 9/11

I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 a week ago, but never got around to commenting here. As markv says, it's hard to do the film justice, so please see it if you haven't. Here's my take:

Fahrenheit 9/11 is propaganda. It doesn't try to be fair, and it doesn't pull any punches. It's also not easy to watch. Watching it, though, you do get the feeling that something big and new is going on. It's not the war itself, or the politics surrounding it--we've sort of become inured to those. It's not even the Bush Administration Conspiracy Theory on which the film is based. Whether or not you buy into it, we've all heard tell of sinister motives in high places. The big and new thing is, instead, an escalation of the dialogue surrounding the war.

The sentiments in Fahrenheit 9/11 are familiar--a lot of us have been opposed to the war from the start. The "revelations" in the film are also not new, at least to anybody who reads more than the front page. But the beauty and the horror of the presentation, and (it turns out) the scope of the audience it's reaching, are stunning. Considering the impact this film could have in this election year, I would be surprised if similar, opposing films didn't appear--and soon. For better or worse, the gloves have come off.

It remains to be seen if anybody can muster a suitable response. Moore is an incredible filmmaker. If Bowling for Columbine didn't show that, then this film certainly does. In it, Moore paints a picture of a crooked, manipulative, violent administration. He paints it almost entirely with the words and images of others, but especially with those of the administration itself. The funny, the ghastly, and the infuriating alternate and then blur together. He paints a vivid picture.

There are parts of Moore's painting that I believe, and parts that I don't. But the administration has its own painting, which it has fed to us in pieces for several years. Of all the stories I've heard, the official one is the least believable. If this film accomplishes anything, I hope it reminds people that there are other, often more plausible interpretations than the ones we're given.