Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Secret Powers of Time

In this marvellous video, Professor Philip Zimbardo (of the famed Stanford Prison Experiment) “conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. Time influences who we are as a person, how we view relationships and how we act in the world.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Smoking Jacket

CNET story.

Playboy launches site you can ogle at work

The article "7 Signs That You've Given Up on Getting Laid" made me laugh so hard, I almost had a bowel movement! Here are some gems:
  1. Shoes that stay on with a couple strips of Velcro are highly recommended—for the elderly, the retarded or the shitfaced. If you’re none of those three, learn how to deal with a fucking pair of shoelaces. Or a shoehorn, at least. And if your wallet closes with a strip of Velcro, just end it already. What are you, 12? A grown man’s wallet has no hooks or loops, and it’s made of something called leather. Look into it.
  2. If you have missing teeth, rotting teeth, fizzing teeth, teeth that are no longer teeth but disgusting black nubs, make it your no. 1 priority to get to a dentist and have that shit taken care of. You don’t have to go to Elliott Yamin extremes, but the second you stop caring about the condition of your chicklets, you might as well forget about being within arm’s length of a naked woman ever again.
  3. Certain things should never be used inside the home. Gas-powered generators, for example. Because they’ll kill you. The same goes for plastic eating utensils, paper plates and anything else that might be utilized to consume food at a picnic. The sheer sloth of using this stuff under your own roof is beyond comprehension. If you find yourself doing so, go ahead and stick a plastic fork in your dick, because it’s done.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why are we fighting?

A couple of weeks ago, CIA Director Leon Panetta said that there were fewer than 100 al Qaeda members in Afghanistan. Maybe only 50. So why are we fighting a major war against the Taliban???

Last month, 100 NATO troops were killed in Afghanistan. That's more than one allied death for every living al Qaeda member there. In just one month.

The latest estimate is that the cost of fighting this war in 2010 will be $100+ billion. That's $1 billion for every al Qaeda member thought to be living there. In one year.

This sounds completely disproportionate to the threat.

Are we fighting the Taliban simply because they are al Qaeda's ally? Is that a good enough reason?

Is that worth the tremendous time and energy and financial cost, not to mention soldiers' lives, to prosecute a major land and air war against them?

Keep in mind that the Taliban are almost entirely Pashtuns. And Pashtuns comprise nearly half of Afghanistan's population. Is there any reasonable expectation that we can totally eliminate the Taliban?

Why are we fighting? What do we hope to accomplish that is worth all of this?

These are obviously rhetorical questions, but if you actually have a sane response, let's hear it...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Movie Review: The Secret in Their Eyes

What a terrific year for foreign films! First, there was "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and now "The Secret in Their Eyes."

In 1999, retired Argentinian federal justice agent Benjamin Esposito decides to write a novel. For the subject, he chooses a 25-year-old cold case with which he has been obsessed. In 1974, a beautiful young woman named Liliana Colotto was brutally raped and murdered. Her husband, Ricardo Morales, was obsessed with finding the man who did it.

Benjamin and his partner Pablo Sandoval eventually find the culprit, Isidoro Gomez. After Gomez is sent to prison, he is released through a bizarre quirk of politics and works for the newly minted Peronist government as a hit-man. Then, without any warning, Gomez vanishes.

Twenty-five years later, Benjamin learns the staggering truth as he researches his book...

Amidst this tale of mystery is also a love story, as Benjamin secretly pines for his former Justice Department Chief, Irene Menendez-Hastings.

Great story, with an ending that will haunt you. The Secret in Their Eyes is also one of the year's best films, and at this time I'd be hardpressed to say whether it's better than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Movie Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire

The girl with the dragon tattoo is back. She's been hiding and living comfortably under an assumed identity. She returns to Sweden, but a series of murders for which she is blamed has her on the run as the police engage in a nationwide manhunt.

Lisbeth Salander enlists Mikael Blomkvist's help in tracking down the real killer. The key to the mystery is a Russian defector and spy named 'Zala' and a "blonde tank" named Niedermann, Zala's henchman who feels no pain and is very hard to kill.

The story is very convoluted so you have to pay close attention. Overall, it's not quite as good as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but Noomi Rapace's riveting performance (as Salander) is well worth the investment.

Also, the sex scene between Salander and Miriam Wu (her girlfriend) is hot, hot, hot!

This movie is apparently the second of the Millennium trilogy. I can't wait to see the third film!

Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

No, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not about the Sandra Bullock/Jesse James story. It's a Swedish mystery thriller. (And, yes, it's subtitled.)

Mikael Blomkvist is a disgraced journalist who is about to enter prison for libel. Henrik Vanger is the wealthy patriarch of the highly dysfunctional Vanger family. Vanger approaches Blomkvist to investigate the 40-year-old disappearance of his favourite niece, Harriet. Vanger suspects that someone in his family is responsible. Blomkvist has six months to complete the task before he is scheduled to go to prison.

Lisbeth Salander is a computer hacker and all-round 'bad girl' (she's on parole). She resembles a punk, what with nose rings and eyebrow piercings, and a spectacular tattoo on her back. As an employee of a security firm, she investigates Blomkvist and stumbles across the same Vanger investigation that he's on. Together, they uncover the dark secrets of the Vanger family and end up pursuing a serial killer whose trail of destruction is unimaginable in scope.

Lisbeth also has to deal with a legal guardian who abuses her and rapes her. And she has a dark and shameful past that has made her into the violent and disturbed personality that she is.

At 2 hours 30 minutes, the film does not feel overly long, thanks to excellent pacing and direction. Combined with stunning performances and a fantastic script, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has to be one of the year's very best movies. If you miss this one, shame on you.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Movie Review: Predators

Robert Rodriguez may be the producer ("Robert Rodriguez presents..."), but relative newcomer Nimród Antal is the director. And despite a few continuity errors, he does a pretty credible job. I enjoyed Predators.

Adrien Brody plays the hero in this reboot of the Predator franchise, essentially stepping into Ahhnold Schwarzenegger's shoes. When I first heard that Brody was cast, I was very leery. After all, he's always been a bit of a wimp, playing a musician in The Pianist, a playwright in King Kong, a villager in The Village, and a scientist in Splice. But Brody is actually fairly convincing as a mysterious black-ops commando snatched from an airplane and deposited on an alien world.

The story takes place on an alien game preserve where various species, including homo sapiens, are hunted for sport. The denizens of this lush jungle planet are *chosen* for their predatory/fighting nature. So, for example, we find a Colombian cartel enforcer (played by Danny Trejo, soon to be seen in Machete), a Yakuza assassin, a Russian soldier, and a FBI Most Wanted convict.

Laurence Fishburne makes an "interesting" appearance.

The film alludes to the original Predator, and even indirectly references Ahhnold. The picture below supports this (for extra points, can anyone explain why?).

The ending tantalizingly hints at a possible sequel (or franchise!). You may not be aware, but I'm starting to drool as I type this...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Bucket List

A friend of mine told me that I need to pursue life vigorously while I still have time. This is the so-called "bucket list" syndrome. She said that I need to get off my duff and push myself...

I'm supposed to work hard and "sacrifice" to achieve my life goals, she said. Why?

What if I don't have any "life goals?" What if I lack ambition and drive?

Isn't this purely an "ego thing?" At the end of your life, if you've failed to achieve your goals, what does it matter to anyone? Surely, it matters not to anyone but yourself.

And once you've breathed your last breath, it won't even matter to you.

The point I'm trying to make is that this whole bucket list thing is really about your ego and about making yourself feel good (or at least as good as possible) while you are living your life.

In other words, it's all about being in the moment and how you feel about yourself, and your life, in the moment. It's not about making the world a better place -- this would be incidental and a self-justification in the service of your belief system which, of course, would ultimately make you feel better about your life.

No matter how you slice and dice it, it all comes down to how you *feel* about yourself. In the present moment. While you are still living.

Naturally, if other people recognize your achievements, this would make you feel better. This, then, is an ancillary motivation: having others around you *validate* your life by heaping praise upon you.

But in the final analysis, you have to be true to yourself, to who you are at the core. If you can feel good about your life without having accomplished anything, why should anyone else's opinion about your life matter?

I don't have a bucket list. I'm taking life at a very leisurely pace. And why not? The only one who needs to feel good about himself is moi.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Movie Review: The Last Airbender

This film has garnered an astonishing 9% (out of 98 reviews) at Rotten Tomatoes. It appears to be an unmitigated disaster. What the hell happened to M. Night Shyamalan???

Having watched it yesterday (for $7 at Rainbow Market Square -- they raised ticket prices!), I have to say it's not one of his better efforts. The Last Airbender is Shyamalan's first foray into action/adventure, and he hasn't quite mastered this genre yet.

To be fair, I didn't find it that bad. Certainly no worse than The Golden Compass, which has a *very* similar feel. But most everybody who left the theatre did express huge disappointment.

The story is about a young boy who returns from a deep freeze after a hundred years to take his place as "the avatar," a master of the four elements whose role is to keep the peace among the four nations (Water Nation, Earth Nation, Air Nation, and Fire Nation). In each nation, there are citizens who have the ability to "bend" their own respective element.

The Fire Nation is the bad guy here. They are technologically advanced, possessed of great machines and metal warships, and they're trying to establish their supremacy over all others.

The world that Shyamalan paints has a strong sense of Buddhist/Nepalese culture, as the avatar belongs to an order of monks that practice katas to discipline their minds and control their psychic abilities. The other nations resemble Mongolian tribes, although Fire Nation is rather like Imperial China with Terra Cotta warriors.

The story is extremely simplistic and the direction is lacking in any kind of inspiration. The ending, however, is quite spectacular, but not enough to make up for the rest of the film.

Speaking of the ending, it is very obviously set up for a sequel, but I fear the sequel will never be made, as the box office will ultimately disappoint. Who will ever bankroll Shyamalan again?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

More on The Armageddon Factor from TVO

Here's an excellent interview by Steve Paikin on TVO's The Agenda:

The follow-up TVO program is a very good discussion on the book and the issues surrounding it: