Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 Travel

Vicarage's Post on LJ inspired me to do this. The rules are simply to note those places where one has stayed away from home for a night or more. If you have stayed somewhere more than once, with a gap between, mark it with a star. (Since I moved in the middle of the year I'm counting Denver as my home now.)

Elizabeth*; Limon, Colorado
Pride of Aloha (ship at sea & in port around Hawaiian Islands); Honolulu, Hawaii
Newark*, New Jersey
Rome, Italy
Athens, Greece
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Almost a Review: Sweeney Todd

"Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd
His skin was pale and his eye was odd
He shaved the faces of gentlemen
Who never thereafter were heard of again
He trod a path that few have trod
Did Sweeney Todd
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

What a marvelous dark tragedy, this tale of blood soaked revenge, greed, and madness. This is not the sort of movie for those without a macabre sense of humor or the weak of stomach. Indeed it put me a bit off my feed, though a friend reported a perverse desire to have a meat pie after seeing it. I think I'll sleep with one eye open around him. (ha, ha)

I think after listening to the music from the original Sondheim production that the movie would have been improved by some of the big chorus numbers like the one I quote above. Perhaps not all of them, but one to open the movie might have made the opening credits more interesting. But the music was lovely, funny, and the setting marvelously dirty. Like Chicago it takes full advantage of the set and effect tricks unavailable to stage productions rather than just pointing a camera at the same sort of sets that could build on Broadway. Plus everything is marvelously desaturated except the great messy gouts of blood that are both gruesome and almost comical.

Also very easy on the eyes and ears is the new face of young Jamie Campbell Bower as Anthony Hope. He's lovely in a young Irish/English way and I hope that he's good at doing more than just looking soulful and singing as he does marvelously in this film. Johnny Depp is perfectly suited to the titular role and despite not having a huge voice his singing seems just right for his character. All the music and singing is wonderful, though perhaps a touch loud. Not going to replace my cast recording of Lansbury and Cariou, but hearing it again is not at all an unpleasant prospect.

I like it and recommend it to people who like weird and dark movies similar to Fargo or Little Shop of Horrors (without the happy ending). If you are such a person, give it a chance. If you're much more of a light musical fan, you probably will want to give it a pass. The gore, filth, and evil will probably put off people who like their musicals more in a light Music Man mode.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wellness and Gift Exchange

Mercedonius 3 after AUC 2760, Ides

Well... I think I'm just well enough to head to Elizabeth today. Today is the day of the traditional meal and gift exchange on Christmas Eve. I've had a head cold for the last four days and it has greatly contributed to my disagreeable mood. I've also been more serious about the brushing of my teeth lately and the increase in frequency has irritated my gums. Stars, I sound like an old man, not that I haven't always been a bit of 'present age' going on eighty. I suppose we all are at times, but headaches with other body irritation brings it to the fore.

Reading back on Christmas five years ago brings some of this up. My journal (on live journal) is a lot less lively. I suspect this is because I stopped actively seeking out people to read, people to bring to my journal, and commenting on a regular basis on everything.

So... off to the daily races.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Greatest Hits Test

Right. I'm so completely dissatisfied with livejournal that I'm going to see how much I can post here. It will likely be a kludge, but what else can I do? Moving from one journal service to another is rather like changing operating systems. Nothing works the same way, nothing is simple at first, and half your data will be corrupted in some fashion. But if I don't start trying something new then I'll never be able to delete everything I have up at LJ.

The Disappeared

Mercedonius 2 after AUC 2760, Nones

Going back through my old posts to clean up and tag them I discovered someone who used to comment on my journal, Yonmei, has been suspended. I don't know why, I don't know when, and I cannot remember if we'd stopped reading each other first. Not having her journal there to refer to is like having a bit of my memory missing. This is one of the biggest negatives about LJ. At either personal whim or the whim of the company things I'd like to know can just disappear. I do not like it. I particularly do not like that even her comments on my journal are hidden from me if they still exist at all. If I knew of any company I could trust to host my journal more honestly I would be gone starting today.\

Original Comments from LJ:
Isn't there the internet archive? I know there's supposed to be a website online that keeps records of websites...

But yeah, that does suck how livejournal makes someone into an unperson.
I think it has reached the breaking point for me. I'm investigating options.
It was during the breastfeeding icon upheavals. yonmei is on greatestjournal now if you want to catch up.
Thanks. Don't know if I want to or not... No open ID option over there. That's a point. Better make sure whatever service I migrate to has some form of open ID so that the people I leave behind can come comment if they want to.

Review: The Social Atom

Mercedonius 2 after AUC 2760, Nones

Mark Buchanan has written an interesting book called the The Social Atom. As with most (successful) social science books it presents a very compelling narrative that carries the reader along to its conclusion. In this case that a great deal of Macroeconomic Theory is no different than other postmodernist theories that are intellectual exercises with of no use in the real world. I don't know that I yet buy the rest of his conclusions about computer models telling us a lot about how people self organize or do not as the case may be, but given the widely and wildly diverging views of economists I suspect he is correct about Macroeconomics being bunk.

Beyond the different results depending upon which way you slice the information problem that can turn up in all sciences modern economics seems not to have much in the way of experimental verification. This is not just a problem of not being able to bring the experiment down into the lab, Astronomy has overcome that, but a problem of basic assumptions of what people are like (rational) and political poisoning of scientific discourse.

I think I may want to get a copy of this book. Though not right away. I'd rather get one used inexpensively. But it would be very useful to me in creating realistic social situations in writing because its narrative rings truer to me than many other social theories of why wealth, power, racism, and so on happen.

Book Count: 2

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Change of Direction

"What do we want?"
"A well reasoned and non-ideological solution!"
"When do we want it?"
"In! Due! Course!"

I've been toying with the idea of being more political and making this the record of what I'm upto in this respect. In addition to sometimes posting reviews of movies and things. I doubt that I have any readers here so I won't be foolish enough as to ask what you think of this.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Review: The Astronaut Farmer

This is a movie that everyone's inner libertarian will enjoy. It is too bad for me that I stole my inner libertarian's gun and shot him years ago so that I could join the human race. But I'm going to have a very fun time reviewing this movie.

This movie has the perfect metaphor for a dream, a big rocket ship built in a barn. Well it is a perfect metaphor for the dream that the title character, Charles Farmer, has or the way that Hollywood writers or NBA stars think of reaching for dreams. Unlike an experimental fighter jets rockets cannot have ejection seats, just wouldn't work. Once lit the dream, er, rocket either goes up just fine or something goes wrong and anyone on board or possibly even nearby dies in the tragic accident. And that's exactly the sort of way that Charles Farmer goes for his dream through this whole movie.

It makes sense that Hollywood writers would think this was a good movie. After all they are living the dream. Each one of them is one of the few who made it into the lofty orbit of the movie system while so many of their comrades failed in their attempt to reach the heavens. So naturally they don't think about, "Well what would have happened if I didn't make it?" If Farmer was just a crazy single building a rocket out on his ranch and going bankrupt as a result of his overspending I probably would not react quite as negatively to this movie, but he has a family. And he has put everything at risk for the his dream, offered up all of their lives on the altar of the sacred dreamer, not just his own.

This movie is the epitome of the selfish, irresponsible idiot who believes in platitudes like, "It is important to reach for your dreams." A sane person who was unhappy with his life would not simultaneously try to keep the life he hates and putting it in hock for a joy ride. But he wants his joy ride in space more than anything and he doesn't even try to excuse it, as NASA does, by saying that he's doing science.

Through out the movie he says he never wanted to be a rancher, that was his father's dream. So why the hell is he doing this? Why not sell the ranch and take the money to start a new life working with Burt Rutan? For that matter this movie seems about three years too late. There already has been private space flight, a fact that the movie just ignores in favor of the tired old plot line of the big bad evil government standing in the way of private citizens. And there are a lot of other tired plot devices that are picked up and toyed with for a few minutes before being dropped without being resolved. The overprotective social worker after the children of the big dreamer she doesn't understand. The menacing government agents using whatever law they can to stop the hero. And, of course, the stupid hyperactive 'news' media.

Now for some physics criticisms and spoilers.

First off he tries his rocket and it fails. That isn't so surprising. The fact that he survives is totally surprising since if there really was enough punch to get him to orbit going sideways across the landscape on that thing would have reduced him to a red smear when he crashed to a stop. Secondly, wasn't that barn just a little to close to the house? Wouldn't a real aeronautical engineer have put it far enough away that if the fuel went up it would not reduce his beloved family home to a pile of lumber? For about five minutes after his first rocket failed I thought Farmer was about to grow up, but no his wife becomes as crazy as him and gives him a bag full of money from another plot device to build another rocket in a unrealistically short space of time.

And for that matter it does no better with his injuries and rehabilitation. In classic Hollywood style he ends up with cracked ribs, a broken leg, concussion and so on, but as soon as he's got the cast off and goes through some training/running montages he's right as rain. As with gun shot wounds apparently there are no consequences to crashing a rocket in Hollywood World.

In short I found this movie to be a big ol' pile of steaming clich├ęs and characters I hated. I recommend this movie to no one.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

I Already Have Blog Journal

Yet here I am trying out this one. It's free... It's google. But I already have a Journal that wants to consume more semi-interesting prose than I seem to be able to produce on a regular basis. So what the heck can/should I put here? I suppose this could be a digest. Strip off all the personal things and just publish those things that might bring me something resembling fame. (Leaving aside for the moment if I want to be famous/have lots of people pay attention to me.) But what sort of content is the best of Mishalak?

It wouldn't be a good place to put out my political thoughts. Too much connection to my silly fan life since I used the same name. And there are more than enough people putting out drivel on politics, I don't quite have the arrogance to think I wouldn't be just one more of them.

If I produced just a bit more fannish (as in fantasy/science fiction fandom) content back on the home Journal this could be my 'zine. That idea has a certain merit. But why produce a second one? Why not just be famous because of my Journal?

I have a place to put my fiction. So what then? Food? Alcohol? For now I think it will have to be fan stuff or nothing.