Saturday, June 26, 2004

Somebody Smack The Press: Is there some point at which we can stop calling them Al-Qaida prisoners that are being beheaded, and just admit they're kidnapping victims who are being murdered?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

70's Fiction: I'm currently reading Gregory Benford's Timescape, a classic Sci-Fi work written in 1979 and published in 1980. It always shocks me how bleak and hopeless literature was in the late 1970's--how bad things must have seemed then.

By contrast, so much of 80's literature and film was the opposite--it said that there were horrible, nasty, evil things out there, but they were nothing a cocky sneer and an uzi couldn't handle. As for the secrets of the universe, well, they could easily be cracked by any nerdy college kid with a good looking party-boy roommate.

Reality, of course, is somewhere in the middle--times do get hard, but determined and intelligent people can overcome the difficulties. I'm also sure that's what Benford will get around to saying by the time the book is done.

In the meantime, it's interesting watching him make politicians, religious people, rich people, poor people, parents--pretty much everyone except scientists--look inept and incapable of tying their shoes, let alone solving the world's problems without help from scientists.

It's plain why the Sci-Fi community likes the book so much.

What Movies Has the Doc Seen?: The game is, you take the top 100 movies of all time, bold the ones you saw in the theatre, italicize the ones you saw on video or edited for TV (via Freespace).

Yeah, I've seen nearly every one of them.

1. Titanic (1997) $600,779,824 - My advice to moviegoers after seeing it was to go see a regular movie first, then sneak into this one--it would just be getting good!
2. Star Wars (1977) $460,935,665 - Yes, I know I was only two when this came out. Why bold it then? Well, as some of you young whipper-snappers may not remember, before VCRs became domesticated, groups could rent projectors and show movies themselves--I saw this one on the big screen in the church cultural hall around 1981.
3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) $434,949,459 Back when the Carousel Mall (Then the Central City Mall) still showed first runs.
4. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) $431,065,444 - Better than you thought it was, whoever you are. But don't get me started on it's flaws.
5. Spider-Man (2002) $403,706,375 - Deserves to be the highest grossing comic book movie of all time. Oh, wait! It is!
6. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003) $377,019,252 - These were all great.
7. Passion of the Christ, The (2004) $370,025,697
8. Jurassic Park (1993) $356,784,000 - Didn't see it opening night--I was working.
9. Shrek 2 (2004) $356,211,000
10. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002) $340,478,898
11. Finding Nemo (2003) Great film.
12. Forrest Gump (1994) $329,691,196 - I was in Brazil for this one. My Grandma showed it to me before we went to the Bubba Gump restaurant in Monterey.
13. Lion King, The (1994) $328,423,001 Hamlet Redeux
14. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) $317,557,891 - When my speech to the women at BYU praising the book and telling them what a hit it would be was vindicated.
15. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001) $313,837,577
16. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) $310,675,583 - A far cry above the original, this one had a love story as obnoxious as people thought Jar Jar was in the first one.
17. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) $309,125,409 - I really did see this one in the theatre. The theatre is now a stereo store on Orange Show road.
18. Independence Day (1996) $306,124,059 - Second movie I saw after getting back from Brazil.
19. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) $305,411,224 - When I read about this, I swore I would never, ever, ever, ever watch it. It sounded ludicrous. Ironically, the movie that sounded the best that year was League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
20. Sixth Sense, The (1999) $293,501,675 - M. Night is the greatest filmmaker of the new millennium.
21. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) $290,158,751 - no, the church didn't rent it. I saw the re-release. Yes, that counts. I saw it at Mann's Chinese in Hollywood.
22. Home Alone (1990) $285,761,243
23. Matrix Reloaded, The (2003) $281,492,479
24. Shrek (2001) $267,652,016
25. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) $261,970,615
26. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) $260,031,035
27. Jaws (1975) $260,000,000
28. Monsters, Inc. (2001) $255,870,172 - We're just preparing for the company musical.
29. Batman (1989) $251,188,924 - Yes, it was opening day. I still have a purple hat just like the Joker's.
30. Men in Black (1997) $250,147,615 - Opening day.
31. Toy Story 2 (1999) $245,823,397 - Funniest. Cartoon. Ever.
32. Bruce Almighty (2003) $242,589,580 - Liked this more than I thought I would.
33. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) $242,374,454
34. Twister (1996) $241,700,000 - First movie I saw after getting back from Brazil. By this point, the Carousel Mall theatre was a dollar theatre.
35. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) $241,437,427
36. Ghostbusters (1984) $238,600,000 - This one rocked. Bill Murray could read the phone book, and I'd be holding my sides laughing.
37. Beverly Hills Cop (1984) $234,760,500
38. Cast Away (2000) $233,630,478
39. Lost World: Jurassic Park, The (1997) $229,074,524 - Opening Night.
40. Signs (2002) $227,965,690 - Better than you thought it was, whoever you are. I see no flaws.
41. Rush Hour 2 (2001) $226,138,454 - Jackie Chan finally makes the list.
42. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) $219,200,000 - Turning off the Dick Van Dyke show is reason enough not to like this movie.
43. Ghost (1990) $217,631,306 - Mike Jittlov, whose movie The Wizard of Speed and Time is where I get my "DocMagik" monniker, did the shadowy demons for this movie.
44. Aladdin (1992) $217,350,219 - Robin William's best. Also, best film featuring a cast member of Full House.
45. Saving Private Ryan (1998) $216,119,491
46. Mission: Impossible II (2000) $215,397,307 - Bring on John Woo.
47. X2 (2003) $214,948,780 - The X-Men get better
48. Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) $213,079,163
49. Back to the Future (1985) $210,609,762 - Probably still my favorite movie. This trilogy shaped my teenage years in a lot of ways.
50. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) $205,399,422
51. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) $204,843,350
52. Exorcist, The (1973) $204,565,000
53. Mummy Returns, The (2001) $202,007,640
54. Armageddon (1998) $201,573,391
55. Gone with the Wind (1939) $198,655,278
56. Pearl Harbor (2001) $198,539,855
57. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) $197,171,804 - X marks the spot.
58. Toy Story (1995) $191,800,000 - Fantastic idea, brilliantly executed.
59. Men in Black II (2002) $190,418,803 - I think the trailer for this movie was longer than the movie itself.
60. Gladiator (2000) $187,670,866
61. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) $184,925,485
62. Dances with Wolves (1990) $184,208,848 - I pride myself on having avoided it all this time. For a while, I think this movie was more popular than eating.
63. Batman Forever (1995) $184,031,112 - Hmm... Who would have thought the Riddler and Two Face had the exact same schtick as the Joker?
64. Fugitive, The (1993) $183,875,760 - Still one of the best suspense movies ever.
65. Ocean's Eleven (2001) $183,405,771 - I had no idea this had done this well. It was cute.
66. What Women Want (2000) $182,805,123
67. Perfect Storm, The (2000) $182,618,434 - Pointless. The Cliff's Note version is something like: "Hey, that's a big, deadly storm." "Why yes. Let's go sailing."
68. Liar Liar (1997) $181,395,380
69. Grease (1978) $181,360,000
70. Jurassic Park III (2001) $181,166,115
71. Mission: Impossible (1996) $180,965,237
72. Planet of the Apes (2001) $180,011,740 - I don't know why.
73. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) $179,870,271 - The ugly stepchild of the Indiana Jones world.
74. Pretty Woman (1990) $178,406,268
75. Tootsie (1982) $177,200,000
76. Top Gun (1986) $176,781,728 I didn't see this for about 15 years after it came out, after I came to own the video through marriage.
77. There's Something About Mary (1998) $176,483,808
78. Ice Age (2002) $176,387,405
79. Crocodile Dundee (1986) $174,635,000
80. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) $173,585,516
81. Elf (2003) $173,381,405 - People keep telling me to see it, but I haven't yet.
82. Air Force One (1997) $172,888,056 - Get out of my plane.
83. Rain Man (1988) $172,825,435
84. Apollo 13 (1995) $172,071,312 - First movie I saw after I came back from Brazil. Slept through most of it. I was tired.
85. Matrix, The (1999) $171,383,253
86. Beauty and the Beast (1991) $171,301,428
87. Tarzan (1999) $171,085,177 - Saw this opening weekend, the day I was supposed to get married. My wife had open-heart surgery two days later.
88. Beautiful Mind, A (2001) $170,708,996 - Great film. Loved it.
89. Chicago (2002) $170,684,505
90. Three Men and a Baby (1987) $167,780,960
91. Meet the Parents (2000) $166,225,040
92. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)$165,500,000 - The movie didn't last nearly as long as that obnoxious Brian Adams song.
93. Hannibal (2001) $165,091,464
94. Catch Me If You Can (2002) $164,435,221 - Great movie. I work in check cashing, so for me watching this was sort of like what it must have been like for the President to watch Air Force One.
95. Big Daddy (1999) $163,479,795
96. Sound of Music, The (1965) $163,214,286 - Deserves to still be on this list.
97. Batman Returns (1992) $162,831,698 - Where we all remembered that, oh yeah, Tim Burton really is a weirdo.
98. Bug's Life, A (1998) $162,792,677
99. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) $161,963,000 - Best Harry Potter so far.
100. Waterboy, The (1998) $161,487,252 - This is the right way to use Rob Schneider in a movie. Very, very sparingly.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Never Mind: Actually, I won't be updating this much, if at all any more. Maybe once a week. Maybe. You may want to pull me from your blogrolls if you have any care at all about their quality.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Moore VS. Bradbury: Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors. His fiction rings so true to me and his metaphor is so powerful, it sometimes leaves me emotionally drained.

Michael Moore is one of my favorite filmmakers. His films (which also contain a lot of fiction) are very well done, and despite the fact that he and I agree about little, he really does create effective and entertaining polemic.

Now, Bradbury is upset about Moore's having copped his title for his new documentary.

Moore, I'm sure, could care less.

Adware Removal: Lots of people who come to this page find it doing searches for adware removal stuff.

Here's another good one, courtesy of my brother.

I don't think he wrote the program or anything. He just emailed it to me.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

On Set With The Guide: No, I don't know who Margrathea is. But I do know Margrathea has seen the set of the new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Roger, Roger: Looks like they're getting ready to launch the world's first commercial spacecraft. (Thanks to Becky for the link.)

Watch This Space: For those of you who have been hesitant to check out my blog, on the basis that the updates are so sporadic, I will let you know that it will now be updated daily, usually between 9 and 9:30 pm Pacific time on weekdays, with something.

Most likely Atkins rants.

Getting It Out Of Iraq: The big UN Report everybody's talking about, the one that talks about the missile parts and even entire buildings that were shipped out of Iraq as scrap metal is located here, if you want to read it for yourself.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Doc On Writing: Over in the newsgroup for Writers of the Future (sff.writing.writersofthefuture), a debate rages on about whether the contest needs more judges, since the current judging will be tilted towards the sole coordinating judge's personal tastes.

This, to me, is a crack-up and sour grapes. It's a way for people who haven't written winning stories to rationalize that theirs was, in fact, good enough, but the judge's taste was simply different from theirs.

This, of course, is nonsense, the mantra of writers who have no interest in writing good stories, only in being told they're good writers. These writers do not seek to entertain, but seek validation. They join writer's groups not to see how to better reach an audience, but to find an audience to sing their praises.

There's a saying in Hollywood--write a killer script, and it would be filmed even if it was kept locked in the trunk of a car. I firmly believe this. I will be published regularly when I deserve to be, and not before. My job is to become that good.

So enough with the websites full of rejection letters for great works, as if that somehow means that my hackneyed, warmed-over, recycled Heinlein or Anne Tyler could possibly be great literature. Enough with the lists of "tricks" and "tips" and "insights into the editors mind." Those help with pitches, but not with individual stories.

Write a fantastic story, and no editor will be able to resist publishing it.


Saturday, June 12, 2004

A Reason To Visit Seattle: Up until today, the only reason I had to visit Seattle was a giant omelette I saw on Food Network.

But no more.

Now, Seattle is home to the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Peruvian Fishermen Saved by Turtles: Am I the only one who pictured nunchuks when he saw this headline?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Metamorphosis: Okay, are you ready?

My friend Froggie asked me to comment on this post Neil Gaiman made about this article from the Guardian. And before I could, I knew I had to go listen to NPR's take, because Gaiman references Teller's answer, which I knew would turn out to be exactly the same as mine.

And I was right, about 1/3 of my answer. This is the third--exposing Houdini's version of the Metamorphosis will only make the modern version of the Metamorphosis (aka the Substitution Trunk) seem so much cooler. The awkwardness of the Houdini method doesn't explain the lightning-fast version of the trick done these days by magicians like the Pendragons--in fact, Houdini himself may just be scratching his head.

This is true of a lot of the Houdini-era magic. Speaking of Teller, he performs a version of Houdini's Needle Swallowing trick that transcends the old version completely. I've performed Needle Swallowing Houdini's way, and I have to plead ignorance as to Teller's method. Knowing what I know about Houdini's version just makes Teller's that much more impressive.

But what about the guys like me? What about those of us who can't do Metamorphosis at the speed of light, and who still do needle swallowing the old-fashioned way. Is it fair to us to have the secrets to magic hung before the world for all to see?

The argument offered by the lady in the NPR interview is ridiculous--she says the signs and warnings posted about their having exposed the trick (Do Not Enter If You Don't Want To Know!) are meant to "appease magicians." That's so funny it's ridiculous. She admits candidly at the start of the bit that non-magicians find the museum boring--signs promising "secrets revealed" and "tricks exposed" are undoubtedly meant to instill some hype.

What's not so obvious is that the reverse is true as well--arguing over secrets generates a lot of free publicity for magicians. One trick being exposed in one museum in one backwater town really isn't that big a deal--to be perfectly honest, the answer is probably sitting in the library down the street. It's definitely available with a quick google search, if people really want to know.

But by generating controversy, David Copperfield, The Society of American Magicians, and Penn and Teller all got some free air time here. And internet time, as more people talk about it, as evidenced by all the articles and blogs linked to above. The attention guys like the Masked Magician and people like him generate for magic helps the business a lot, resurrecting interest far more than it disillusions people.

And no competent magician is hurt.

Shortly following Houdini's death, a newspaper began running a series where, each night, they would expose different tricks the master had been famous for.

Magician lore says one magician pulled out the newspaper that night, showed the article to the audience, read them the secret, swore they would witness that his version didn't resort to such simple deception, and then proceeded to do it exactly as explained in the newspaper. None of the audience was the wiser.

The fact is, the small-time magician is benefited by the controversy that results from ranting about the exposing of secrets far more than he is hurt by the revealed secrets.

Sadly, many small time magicians do not understand this, and become genuinely angry when exposing like this happens. Part of this is because they think the ranting of guys like David Copperfield obligates them to feel the same--not understanding that guys like Copperfield are really jumping on the bus to get all the media attention they can out of the controversy. The small-town magicians would do well to learn from this.

Yes, I am actually suggesting that local magicians should raise a stink over magic books in the local library, so as to get a few lines of attention in the local paper, maybe a picture of the local S.A.M. chapter. And maybe even drive a few kids into the library to read some of those books and begin a lifetime love affair with the art.

Yeah, it's a little underhanded, but so what? That's magic.

I Shouldn't Joke: I joked a while back that since my first entry had been an honorable mention/semi-finalist, and my second entry had been a quarter finalist, that according to the resulting chart, this entry should be a "thanks for entering!"

Mathematics prevails.

But it does make sense. My placement in the contest has been directly proportional to the ambitiousness of the stories.

So this time, we're taking out all the stops.

Why I'm Not Libertarian: I like a lot of Libertarians. Penn Jillette, Dave Barry, Timothy Sandefur, Mark Skousen, Larry Elder--you get the point.

Also, when I take Liberatian-designed tests like this one, I show up on the border between centrist and libertarian.

But it seems like every time I hear an actual card-carrying Libertarian politician, I get the heebie-jeebies. No exception was listening to Michael Badnarik as a guest on Art Bell's Coast to Coast.

Bell's program is basically the radio equivalent of the Midnight Star or any of those supermarket tabloids with the six-headed aliens. Just being on this show undermines anybody's credibility--if somebody went on this show and told me to brush my teeth after every meal, I might start having second thoughts.

And then, their platform is a strange mix of radical ideas from both ends of the political spectrum, guaranteed to alienate everybody one way or the other (So the plan is to legalize drugs and prostitution and eliminate regulation of the health care and pharmaceuticals industry? The government should keep its nose out of every citizen's business, with no exceptions, but should be monitoring who's a citizen and whose a non-citizen, so as to boot out the non-citizens?).

The worst, though, is his violent opposition to the Iraq war. End of story, for me. As I've said before, I'm a one issue voter for the first time in my life, and that issue is the war on terror. If this guy's going to let the terrorists do what they want right along with everybody else--forget it. I'm scurrying back to the tent with the conservatives.

Why is this, though? Why is the Libertarian "leadership" so much less likeable than individual libertarians?

My guess is, and this is purely conjecture, that the reason why Libertarian politicians are such kooks is because wanting to be a "Libertarian Politician" is such a contradiction anyway. That's like wanting to be an agnostic priest or a unobtrusive cheerleader. When you've joined a political party based on the idea that you want the government to leave you alone, your last inclination is to want to make the government a part of your daily life by running for office.

On Reagan: Reagan is an almost mythological creature in my mind. He's somehow mixed up in my head with Hawk from GIJoe and Optimus Prime and all the other stuff from my childhood that exemplified greatness and nobility. I realize the idealized picture I hold in my mind is probably as distorted a caricature as the puppets made of him on the old Spitting Image and DC Follies TV shows, but it's still noble and great to me.

I realize that lots of kids who grew up with me probably have the opposite view. In their minds he represented the Emperor from Return of the Jedi, the wrinkled old man who wanted you to do bad stuff.

I don't think I knew too many of those kids. To all of us he was cool, he was funny, he was tough, he was everything we thought a president should be.

So now that I'm older, and I try to sort through all the data and books and articles that have been churned out about him, try to filter what's true and what's written by people whose glasses are tinted as red with blood as mine are by the rose, I find a noble, courageous, optimistic man, idealistic and caring when needed, but firm and unrelenting when necessary.

I'll miss him.

Still Kickin': Wow. Has it really been that long?

Ah, you probably didn't even miss me.