Wednesday, July 23, 2008

- The movie WarGames was released 25 years ago. The accuracy of this movie was absurd! The government would have to be stark-raving mad to allow a single computer to control our entire nuclear arsenal, especially a 1983 computer that is less powerful than the microprocessor running my cell-phone (no joke.) Nevertheless, it was a fun movie. It introduced America to the concept of hackers and hacking. Before Wargames, there were very few hackers. After Wargames, there were plenty of hackers.

You might think Mathew Broderick is my favorite character from Wargames, but in fact I prefer Professor Falken. I want to be the genius computer scientist who writes brilliant new code, gets burned-out, abandons the world, and becomes a hermit in a log cabin (unlike Falken, I would have a tricked-out computer in that cabin.) Yeah, thats me. Come to think of it, Falken is just another version of Obiwan. The old coot in the mountains who gets convinced to come out of retirement and help save the world.

Here is an article about how Wargames got made and its ramifications on the movie-going public:

- I figured I would wait a few days before I wrote my review of Dark Knight, so you kids could see the movie and compare your feelings to mine. Besides, I cannot possibly write a review of Dark Knight without significant spoilers. You have been warned, and here...we...go!

I thought it was better than Batman Begins, but not the life-changing classic many movie critics made it out to be. It was 15 minutes too long. Slice the last 15 minutes with Two-Face, and you have the exact same movie.

Christian Bale was a better Bruce Wayne than in the previous movie. No more pissed-off college drop-out looking for revenge. His Batman was once again very good. Finally Batman did some detective work! It's about freakin time! I have been waiting through six Batman movies to see him act like The Dark Knight Detective (my favorite incarnation of Batman.)

When I see Heath Ledger in interviews before his death, it's hard to believe that he and the Joker are the same person. It's a complete transformation. He can play a very convincing super-psycho nihilist. He should get nominated for an Oscar. The problem is, did he play the Joker, or something else? The Joker is a psycho, no doubt about it, but the Joker has a wicked, non-stop sense of humor, which is definitely missing from Dark Knight. The Joker never shuts-up! Also, the Joker usually kept the money he made from his crimes because he needed to finance even bigger, more spectacular crimes. Ledger's Joker had enough sadism, but he needed more twisted humor. The Joker should be bombing hospitals and kidnapping little boys, but there should be a point behind those crimes.

Christopher Nolan wants his Batman movies grounded in realism, but if you are going to ground super-hero movies in realism, you better stick to that realism through-out the movie. In several scenes, characters seem to magically find the location of other characters. I hate that! I need explanations. I cannot simply accept those kind of plot holes. I know its a super-hero movie, and I should give it plenty of leeway, but Nolan tries to base these Batman movies in reality. I just cannot give him the benefit of the doubt.

Batman's take-over of cell-phones throughout Gotham also drove me batty. Silly special effects like that arent necessary. Simply have Batman do some detective work to find the location of the Joker and his hostages. Sometimes, less is more.

I give the movie an 85 out of 100. That's a slightly higher score than I gave Iron Man. Dark Knight is more ambitious and technically sound than Iron Man, so it deserves a higher score. However, if you asked me which movie I want to see again, I would pick Iron Man first. To me, Iron Man is fresher, and I can relate better to Tony Stark than I can Bruce Wayne.

A few more points related to Iron Man, Dark Knight, and the movies from this summer...

1. Did the bad guys win in Dark Knight? Did the movie end on a sour note? I am leaning towards the bad guys winning in this film.

2. I feel unresolved towards the Joker's character (but maybe that's the point.) Walking out of the movie, I didnt feel convinced that the Joker had even been captured. Some SWAT members are pointing guns at his face, which is suppose to represent him being captured, but so what? He has already broken out of jail once. If the Joker can escape from the middle of Gotham lock-up, then he is gonna get away from those SWAT members too.

3. Is Batman immoral? Wouldnt killing the Joker be the moral thing to do? If the Joker shoots at a cop car, the cops try to run him over. Batman instead swerves around him? How many lives would Batman save if he killed the Joker? Isnt saving lives the most moral thing to do? I have never been a fan of Batman's "refuse to take a life" philosophy, especially in a completely corrupt city like Gotham. Putting the Joker back in jail guarantees nothing. Killing him is your only guarantee of stopping him.

4. Iron Man and Indiana Jones are neck and neck in the domestic box office (Indy crushed Iron Man in the international market.) As of this writing, Iron Man is at 315 million and Indy is at 312 million. Indy came out three weeks after Iron Man, but both movies are near the end of their run. Iron Man made 400k last weekend, Indy made 900k. Both will continue to drop. The safe bet right now is that Iron Man will finish ahead of Indy. Of course, its all kind of moot. Dark Knight is guaranteed of being the highest grossing movie of the year. Iron Man and Indy will fight it out for second. If Iron Man or Indy had a shot at being first, their respective studios might keep them in the theaters longer or re-release them in the fall to make a few extra bucks, but that wont happen now. Why spend extra money on advertising just to claim your film finished second?

5. The executives at Paramount must be extremely disappointed in the performance of Indy. One of the most popular movie heroes of all-time can only muster 316 million at the box office? Compare that to what Dark Knight will do. Indy should have grossed 400 million easy.

By the way, my score for Indy 4 is 62 out of 100. I aint writing a review of Indy because I would be tempted to ramble on forever regarding all the things wrong with that movie.

As with any popular movie, liberals and conservatives try to claim it as their own. My initial impression is that Dark Knight is slightly conservative, but not intentionally so. Here are some articles claiming Dark Knight makes conservative points:

- On a related note, filmmaker David Zucker (of Airplane and Naked Gun fame) has made a conservative comedy film! Read more about it here:

- Ever heard of Bletchley Park? The Enigma Code? Alan Turing? (I mentioned him a few years ago on this website.) Bletchley Park played a significant role in the Allies victory during World War II. Many modern theories of computer science and cryptology can be traced back to this historic British landmark. Now Bletchley Park is in danger of disappearing. In 2002 Doug Ray Scott and Jeremy Northam starred in a movie loosely based upon the events at Bletchley Park. Here is an article about the famous location:
Bletchley Park

- Are people moving back to the cities? With high gas prices, it certainly makes sense.

Friday, July 18, 2008

- What if you were suddenly flung back into the past. Specifically 1000 AD, in the middle of Europe. You, sitting right there, right now as you read this, with only what you are wearing and what you have in your pockets. How would you survive? It's tougher than you think.

You cant just walk into any village, town, hamlet, monastery, etc and start telling people about the future. First off, the English language didn't exist 1000 years ago. A stranger walking into a town and speaking an unknown language is a great way to get killed. Your clothes would also be a problem, but not a serious one. They would eventually become torn and soiled like everyone else. You might not even be able to open your mouth. If you have perfect teeth (like my girlfriend) that's another great way of getting killed. So how would you survive? Here is what I would try to do...

First, like all survival situations, I would try to find water and shelter. You can go weeks without food, but only a few days without water. Since I have very few survival skills, there is a good chance I would die in a few days. If I could find water and shelter, I would then try to find a town or village. I would hang on the outskirts of town, stealing stuff and trying to pick up the local language. After a few weeks or months, depending on how well I picked up the language, I would then wander into town and ask someone where I might find the nearest monastery.

If I can find and get accepted into a monastery, my chances of survival dramatically increase. Monasteries contained the very few places of learning during the Dark Ages. Monasteries, like current businesses, just didnt take anyone, so I have no idea if I could get into one, but if I did, I could start putting my future-knowledge and education to good use. Once again though, the key to survival in the monastery is caution. You cant immediately start showing the monks the secrets behind computer science theory, space travel, or radio waves. They will think you are crazy. You have to figure out exactly what they know, and then add little bits to it. For example, if the priests knew basic algebra, I might show them the quadratic equation or binomial factoring. If they knew advanced algebra, I would show them how to find the area underneath a curve or vector theory (both calculus.) Here are some things I would definitely show them, that probably wouldnt get me killed:

1. Double-book keeping. Hard to believe they didn't do this 1000 years ago.
2. Creating electricity by spinning a magnet.
3. A water wheel.
4. A basic steam engine.
5. 3-D perspective drawing. Artists drew everything in 2-dimensions back then. Shadows and perspective in art hadn't been invented yet.

Even though it was the dark ages, knowledge was still a valuable commodity. If you could prove to the monks that you were smart and can improve their lives, then you would have value, and thus survive. A local nobleman might hear about you, and then who knows where you could take this.

The following two websites hypothesize about what a modern human-being should do if they wanted to survive in 1000 AD. Both websites make for a fascinating read:

I am turning the comments section back on, if you want to voice your opinion on how you would survive in the dark ages.

- Two conservative websites devoted to cinema reviews:

- Current technologies that will disappear in five years:

- Three people who are pushing the edge of science:

- My hero, Bill Gates retired a few weeks ago. Dont let anyone tell you otherwise...thirty years ago Bill Gates was the greatest programmer on the planet. Even ten years ago, when Microsoft was booming and Billy-boy was a multi-billionaire, he still helped write code for Windows. Despite his brilliance (Billy got 800 on the math part of the SAT, but only 780 on the verbal, poor kid) Gates really was a lucky SoB. He came along at the right time, in the right place. A few facts about Mr. Gates that you may not have been aware of:

1. Bill never graduated from college. Of course, neither did Karl Rove nor Albert Einstein
2. Bill came from money, and he obviously is going to leave this life with even more of it. His father was loaded. How do you think he could afford that freshman year at Harvard?
Bill Gates loves spray-cheese. This makes perfect sense to me, and explains everything.

Here is a timeline of Bill Gate's life:

- The ten worst TV sports broadcasters. I like this list, although I do give Bill Walton kudos for agreeing with me that Michael Jordan is not the greatest basketball player ever:

-The roundest objects in the world. Archimedes would be proud:

- The next president of the United States will be left-handed. Five of the past eight presidents have been left-handed, although I dispute Ronald Reagan's left-handedness. He wrote with his right hand, which makes you right-handed in my book:

- I guess I better get use to Robert Downey Jr. He is set to play another one of my favorite fictional characters: