Monday, September 25, 2006

What is it like to be a Philosophers' Carnival?

Find out here.

I've got children? How about that

Another one of those damn quizzes. I don't have time for this, dammit! Now where did I put my glasses?

[HT: Siris]

You scored as Commander William Adama. You have risen to your position by being damn good at what you do. Not only that, you have the deepest respect for the people under your command. You may be a little grumpy and unapproachable, but every commander needs to distance himself. Shame that you apply that to your children too.

Commander William Adama


President Laura Roslin


Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo)


Dr Gaius Baltar


CPO Galen Tyrol


Tom Zarek


Col. Saul Tigh


Number 6


Lt. Sharon Valerii (Boomer)


Lt. Kara Thrace (Starbuck)


What New Battlestar Galactica character are you?
created with QuizFarm.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

And now ...

... the graphic-novel edition of the latest work by the ever-dangerous Michael Bérubé. Strike a socialist-realist pose, and check it out!

HT: Crooked Timber, Pharyngula, etc.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I can't win

According to this test, I am "definitely a nerd but low on the totem pole of nerds." Story of my life.

HT: Ed B, who is apparently not a nerd at all. To see the Sciencebloggers ranked by nerdiness, see here.

I am nerdier than 68% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Cinematic travails [some spoilers; but come on, these aren't whodunits]

On Monday, which was Labor Day, I watched a DVD of Laurent Cantet's 1999 film Human Resources, which I had not selected specially, but which turned out to be very appropriate to the day. Young Jalil Lespert is hired as a management trainee at the factory where his father has worked for 30 years. (You can just see it coming, but trust me: there's nothing you can do.) Eager to please, he suggests (not a union-busting but more like) a union-outmaneuvering tactic to his superiors -- but alas, he has overestimated their moral scruples, and they use it to justify layoffs. (I didn't exactly understand this part -- something to do with the 35-hour work week, which was apparently a big deal in France at the time.) Naturally Papa is one of those laid off. This leads to some soul-searching and ultimately drastic measures. Toward the end there is an emotional confrontation during which some long-buried feelings are unearthed. Not an amusing scene, but I couldn't help noticing the characteristically Gallic subtlety of the emotions in question -- not just pride or shame, but the same at second- and third-order (possibly even fourth). For the pinnacle of work-related anxiety, check out Cantet's follow-up Time Out, loosely based on the book which was more faithfully rendered here (haven't seen this but the book is great).

Laborwise, I also saw (though not on the Day itself) the recent Criterion Collection release of Harlan County USA (1976), a documentary about striking coal miners in Kentucky. It's all very Which Side Are You On -- and in fact we hear that stirring number performed several times. The music is very much part of the film -- lots of Hazel Dickens, for example. Emotional confrontations abound here too, not surprising given the circumstances. No higher-order angst here though, just good old American stubbornness. Interesting also to see traces of the 1970's seeping into more traditional, isolated areas.

For comparison we have yet another look at industrial management, this one from Denmark. Arven (a.k.a. The Inheritance) stars Ulrich Thomsen (whom you may know from Festen a.k.a. The Celebration) as a refugee from the family steel business who is browbeaten by his domineering mother into returning and taking it over after his father kills himself according to time-honored Scandinavian custom. This leads to resentment on all sides, and downhill we go from there. A bit melodramatic at times, but Thomsen is excellent. Can his stoic resignation survive the long-simmering resentment and heartbreak? Yes and no, obviously, or there wouldn't be a movie; but this battle, as played out on Thomsen's furrowed brow, maintains our interest throughout. Nice score in a Biosphere + orchestra vein (not actual Biosphere though; for that see the original Insomnia).

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back to school

Appropriately enough, the Back to School edition of the Philosophers' Carnival takes place in the Playground.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Anticipate the following April

There was no real reason for anyone to notice this after that memorable five-pack of games two weeks ago against the hated Yankees (a debacle some locals referred to as the Big Dig 2), but the other day the Boston Red Sox took the diamond without their leadoff hitter Coco Crisp, a man who seems to have it backwards (you're supposed to let them name the breakfast cereal after you, not the other way around). They were also missing their #3 hitter (MVP candidate David Ortiz, out with heart problems), their cleanup hitter (future Hall-of-Famer Manny Ramirez), their #5 hitter (catcher Jason Varitek), their #6 hitter (RF Trot Nixon), and their starting shortstop (Alex Gonzalez, whose nickname must surely be A-Gon). Wily Mo Pena (that's right, one L; what's his nickname, Wile E. Coyote?), who had been spelling Nixon, was also out. This left the team with three starters: 2B Mark Loretta (at DH), 1B Kevin Youkilis (in left), and the sole starter at his original position, 3B Mike Lowell, the usual #8 hitter, batting cleanup. They lost the game, one of 21 they lost in August.

The starting pitcher in that game, David Wells, had been doing well since returning from the DL, but he has since been dealt to the Padres for the proverbial player-to-be-indicated-later (presumably he already has a name; we just don't know what it is yet). Two other starters, Matt Clement and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, have yet to return, and it seems that closer Jonathan Papelbon (he of the microscopic 0.92 ERA) has joined them, not to mention Curt Schilling, who will miss a start due to a strained muscle. Not only that, rookie starter Jon Lester has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Also, Josh Beckett was hexed by a practitioner of the dark arts, such that he would not be able to locate home plate even if it were to be painted bright red, with a spotlight directly above it. Okay, I made that last one up, but you have to wonder what made him walk NINE batters in that Yankee game (that is, that part of it that he pitched before they FINALLY took his ass out of it).

Of course, the Yankees themselves have had a number of injuries this year, but all they do is just go to the bench for another all-star – or, if absolutely necessary, pick one up from another team, with a decent starting pitcher to boot, for a handful of rookie leaguers. (How do they DO that??)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The trolley problem

No, not the moral philosophy chestnut. We speak here of what we would call "shopping carts", and the problem of what to do with them when they end up in the river. Here's an attractive solution.

HT: 3 Quarks Daily

Friday, September 01, 2006

Le rouge et le noir

Last night I saw Samuel Fuller's 1953 noir Pickup on South Street on a fine-looking Criterion Collection DVD (although this library copy was scratched, making me miss the part from 33:03 to 33:25; anybody know what happens just before she leaves the shack?). Richard Widmark is in fine form as a pickpocket (or "cannon") who picks the wrong purse (in the opinion of some), obtaining for himself some curious microfilm. What was funny about it was the infusion of Red Scare attitudes into the noir form; our characters may be hardscrabble denizens of the demimonde, but they ain't no filthy commies, see? (On the other hand, our man would be willing to shake said commies down for $25K rather than, say, turning them over to the police.) See it on a double bill with Bresson's Pickpocket.

Iconic moment: Widmark offers Jean Peters a smoke; he lights it with his own half-smoked one; then he jams that one in her mouth and starts smoking the new one himself. Also Thelma Ritter and her neckties.

Another pairing for PoSS would be Kiss of Death, Widmark's 1947 debut, in which he plays the psycho killer Tommy Udo (love that insane grin). We also see an impossibly young Karl Malden in a bit part. This film was remade in 1995 with Nicholas Cage in the Widmark role and starring David Caruso, who had just quit NYPD Blue after one season in order to be a big movie star. This movie bombed, prompting much humor about the aptness of its title re: Mr. Caruso's career ... and then he went on to make Jade, a movie for which the phrase "godawful crap" is particularly apt. He seems to have found his place though, back on TV as the unflappable Lt. Horatio Caine on CSI: Miami, so we shall not weep for him.