You Got to Be Kidding Me!

What I’m Looking At, Jan. 15, 2009

Posted in Entertainment, Going Green, Politics by Stacy McMahon on January 15, 2009

* Six months of solar power (via Slashdot) – A nice writeup of the actual effects of a modern household solar panel system on electric bills (note that the installation cost isn’t mentioned). The past year makes a pretty good case for investing in alternative energy as a hedge against fluctuating fuel prices.

* AutoblogGreen shows us a vaguely steampunk-looking electric bicycle.

* Wired blogs about the rise of pervasive video surveillance in the US (via Instapundit). I’ve been against things like GPS or RFID tracking of children, and I’m against this for the same reason – no good can come from teaching people to live in a Big Brother world. At any rate, I guess we can’t give the Brits crap about their cameras anymore (“Remember remember the fifth of November…”)

* The new season of American Idol is starting, and as usual we’re watching the auditions. No William Hungs sofar, but bikini girl inspired this line: “She’s just clothes away from being average”

* John Kay in the Financial Times says something I’ve been thinking for years now: Telling people what they want to hear, or ‘going along to get along’ isn’t just lame, it’s dangerous and can lead people to ignore or even participate in everything from minor inefficiency to mass murder.

* Ann Althouse thinks reactions to Joe The Plumber as war correspondent in Gaza “will range from idiot to genius”. But mostly idiot.

* And speaking of teaching people to live in a Big Brother world…

* Glenn Reynolds likes to cruise Amazon.com clearances, and finds some neat stuff like the Eyeclops Bionicam. I like the concept. It’s basically a digital camera with a magnifying glass lens, that can take pictures. I can think of a lot of uses for that.

* And finally another link to Ann Althouse, this time to discuss Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino, and how he is or isn’t like Archie Bunker. Interesting thoughts, if your religion doesn’t get in the way. Either way, you should definitely go see the movie!

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Movie Review: Doomsday

Posted in Entertainment by Stacy McMahon on October 19, 2008

So my father-in-law and I are flipping channels yesterday afternoon, and we spot something neither of us have heard of before: Doomsday. The guide listing said the magic words – extreme violence and nudity – so we decided to check it out, in spite of the 1-1/2 star rating.

After the first 45 minutes, we were scratching our heads. This movie is good!!! Sure, the super-contagious death virus sounds familiar, but it’s no small achievement to take the done-to-death ominous voiceover opening and get it onto the screen with so little cheese. And we can’t complain about Rhona Mitra in a tank top, with guns and an awesome removable/remote-control eyeball (another detail that could easily have come off seriously dumb, but didn’t)

So what about that 1-1/2 stars? Well, we both noticed it was reminding us of various other movies. A lot. First it was, jokingly, wow it’s just like 28 Days Later – is this going to be another Alien v. Hunter? Then ‘hey, this is like Escape From New York‘. Oh, now we’re in Bartertown – mutant henchmen, fire show and all. It’s at least worthwhile as a popcorn movie, and because of that I won’t spoil it for you – but let’s just say that even the awful Timeline shows up as an …inspiration later on. And I’m not the only one who noticed all the ‘homages’.

Summary: like Scary Movie, it ‘parodies’ a dozen or more examples of the sci-fi action/zombie genres, but it’s not a comedy.

Drinking Game: Pick out scenes recognizably ripped off from another movie (for example, the totally random train chase as in Resident Evil)

No Way!

Posted in Entertainment by Stacy McMahon on October 6, 2008

So I’m fighting sleep and flipping channels, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but Katee Sackhoff, playing a teenage mother lecturing other vacant-eyed teenage girls on how awful teenage mom-hood is in the ’98 afterschool special flick Fifteen and Pregnant. So if you want to conjure an image of Starbuck as a teenage redneck with a baby and a future on skid row in small-town USA, now you know where to go. By the way, this was her film debut (and you can tell)

Edit: and I should have actually looked at the cast list, because the female lead is …drumroll… a very young-looking Kirsten Dunst!

A Movie for Engineering Geeks?

Posted in Entertainment by Stacy McMahon on September 25, 2008

So Greg Kinnear and Lauren Graham are in a new movie about …the invention of the intermittent windshield wiper! The plot is a lot like ye olde “Detroit buries 100mpg carburettor” rumors, but is apparently a true story based around the seemingly incredible facts that a) somehow no automaker’s engineering staff was able to make an intermittent wiper work, while b) one guy in a college lab did it by himself. Anyone for a movie night? (trailer on the linked page)

Do You Watch Every Netflix Movie?

Posted in Entertainment, Sociology by Stacy McMahon on September 7, 2008

Ann Althouse, coining a nice new term, “regretflix“:

Netflix rentals that sit there for months. What were you thinking when you ordered them? That you’re the kind of person who watches movies like that? But you’re not so why did you get yourself into the situation where a little piece of plastic has invaded your house and taunts you for not being the person you think you should be? Or do you like to be reminded of your lofty aspirations… by objects in your house? There are many worse things you might have around than an unwatched copy of “Hotel Rwanda.”

I have often let a DVD sit on my TV table unwatched for weeks, because it arrived and I wasn’t in the mood to watch it, or because I watched ten minutes and couldn’t stand it. Either situation can make me feel pretty dumb, because often these are critically acclaimed and/or cult films that I kind of hate to admit I didn’t like. Then again, isn’t that just another form of conformism? Pop culture says that people like me should like Dark Star, so what does it say about me if I turn it off without even getting to the crazy conversation between the pilot and the smart bomb? It’s like I’m dumb if I don’t like it, and lame if I do!

I Want My MTV!

Posted in Entertainment, Snark by Stacy McMahon on January 29, 2007

Especially when they show “My Super Sweet 16”. Yes, my guilty pleasure is pointing and laughing at assholes.

Fun Videos and Funky Weather

Posted in Aircraft and Flying, Entertainment, Miscellaneous, Social Life by Stacy McMahon on January 15, 2007

I found these gems while staying indoors with the blinds closed yesterday (this was the morning after a party, so you can guess why)

Doing an outside loop in a small plane (zero-g simulation) but someone forgot to warn one of the passengers! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SN77b9DqEbc

Flying Stuart Little-style. This has to be in the top ten coolest things in the world: http://youtube.com/watch?v=mlNF6e2wxss

And speaking of R/C aircraft …well, just click: http://youtube.com/watch?v=zT60SkXN1UY

I felt quite a bit better today, but my plans were scotched due to teh gf being sick, so I decided to open the windows, go outside* and enjoy the weather instead. Yes, in mid-January I am walking around outdoors in shorts and a t-shirt. Also, the neighborhood across Four Mile Run (once you get past the ugly apartments along the highway) is absolutely gorgeous and I am going to start keeping track of real estate over there. It’s all 40s-era bungalows, most of which have nice-looking additions or in some cases teardown replacements. Unlike some of the painfully-chic older neighborhoods in the DC area, this one simply looks lived-in and loved. Now I love it too!

* No, I did not go outside through the windows.

Ugly Betty and Small Aircraft

Posted in Aircraft and Flying, Entertainment by Stacy McMahon on January 11, 2007

This afternoon I was pondering the idea of designing a single-seat airplane around a BMW ‘R’ motor. This is the classic 2-cylinder “boxer” motor that is to BMW motorcycles as the v-twin is to Harley-Davidsons. I figured the way to go would be to base it loosely on the BD-5, but with a modern carbon-fiber monocoque instead of the aluminum stressed-skin fuselage. I wondered how light it could be, keeping mind that an F1 race car’s CF “tub” weighs under 200 lbs and is designed to stand up to a 200-mph meeting with the wall. Turns out the 1960s-vintage BD-5 weighed just under 400 lbs empty, so a CF version could probably come in around 300. Of course this is all academic, but it’s fun to dream.

And, who knew America Ferrera had a new show? She’s traded her trademark curves for braces and hipster-frame glasses in Ugly Betty. Sort of a SoCal version of Just Shoot Me, and not bad!

The AK or the Avada Kedavra?

Posted in Entertainment, Guns, History, Politics by Stacy McMahon on January 10, 2007

I just made up the title of this post, but now I wonder if JK Rowling deliberately gave her killing curse the same initials as the most important automatic rifle in history. Bitter ponders the role of firearms in fantasy stories and concludes that the literary downside might outweigh the practical benefit for the gun-toting character.

It seems to be a common plot device in film fantasy to pretend things like guns don’t exist, usually combined with treating them like something morally akin to WMD if they do turn up. Think of the episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where after failing to defeat Buffy with androids or dark arts, Warren finally just shows up at the back gate and shoots her. This is the final rung in his slide down the ladder, IIRC coming after he murders his girlfriend (i.e. we’re to see using a gun–even if it fails to kill the victim–as worse than some sort of ‘garden-variety’ murder)

Alternatively, firearms exist but are magically useless against magical people or creatures. In the Harry Potter books, this is carried out further to have the good guys suffer drastic casualties while still limiting themselves to nonlethal magical weapons. I think this all mostly comes under the heading of suspending disbelief in support of the plot, but of course there’s a well known current of anti-militarism in western art and literature dating at least to the First World War.

The explanation could be simpler though: It just wouldn’t be the same if, say, Lucy and Edmund stood around discussing kill zones and the relative range and effectiveness of catapults, trebuchets or the weight of stone projectiles an eagle could carry, as opposed to finding the key to bring Aslan back at the critical moment to defeat the White Queen. Not that you can’t write a techno-thriller about ancient weapons (Micheal Crichton does this spectacularly in his novels Timeline and Eaters of The Dead/The 13th Warrior) but as the commenter on The BitchGirls says, good old-fashioned firepower would have a boring tendency to dominate fantastical confrontations.

Hitting Ned Devine’s

Posted in Entertainment, Social Life by Stacy McMahon on November 12, 2006

We came on the sloop John B., my grandfather and me,
Around Nassau town we did roam

Drinkin’ all night, got into a fight
Call up the captain, I wanna go home.

No, last night doesn’t truly compare to that song, but it reminded me of it. D&D (a couple I know), their friend E and I went out to Ned Devine’s in Sterling last night. I’d never been there before, but it’s in the same building as the old two-screen dollar theater from when I was growing up in that area.

I like the layout. You show your ID outside the door to a guy who looks like Steve the bouncer from the Jerry Springer show, and pay the cover ($10–this better be good!) at the box office. Once inside, the “quiet room” is where the projection rooms used to be, and the auditoriums have been combined into one big space, retaining the movie screens a la the late, lamented Bardo’s. They have lasers and everything, even fog to cover up the awful geeky white people “dancing”. Both because of that, and because the music was monotonously the same soundtrack from those days, we were all reminded of high school dances. That was good for some funny conversation, but sort of left me feeling like I should be wearing a cardigan and walking with a cane.

Luckily around that time the dance floor finally provided some entertainment. A couple guys and some girls got into a fight, complete with shouting (inaudible over the worse-than-normally loud music) and getting thrown out the back door by multiple bouncers. We’d barely started making fun of the ‘fighting irish’ when several bouncers ran past us heading for the front door, where the dumbasses were apparantly trying to come back in. Since we were waiting for the girls to come back from the bathroom, D and I got a slow start heading out to watch the fun, but I did manage to hear a very slurred voice yelling “what’d I do!”

When we finally gave up and left, vowing to go to DC to a real club next time, the parking lot was full of cops, with some scantily-clad girls in handcuffs getting misty in the summer rain and trash-talking the officers, who looked like they missed the good old days when Loudoun County didn’t have a bar to its name. Call up the captain…