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