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Thursday, March 28, 2002

Bleat 101 for newbies
James Lileks is an interesting fellow and, if nothing else, an excellent writer. If you're one of those net-savvy people who are constantly crawling the web looking for something fun or interesting to read, chances are you've seen something from his site. In case you're not too familiar with him, he recently wrote a piece on his regularly updated pseudo-journal, The Bleat, in which he gives a good overview of his site and what he likes to write about. One of the regular features of his site is called a Screed, which is where he'll take an article he disagrees with and systematically tears it to shreds. For example, his most recent Screed takes on an article written by Nick Kristof of the Times. Kristof is of the opinion that instead of invading Iraq, the US should sue Saddam. This sequence nearly made me pee myself (italics are from the times article, followed by Lileks' comments):
It also turns out that a British organization, Indict, is already pursuing an indictment against Saddam for war crimes.

And the Belgian organization Frown is already drafting plans to mount an international campaign of scowling, which will force his regime to divert precious resources to rubber chickens, joy-buzzers and Singing Telegram Gorillas to improve their standing abroad. Meanwhile, the French organization Surrender is drafting plans to cede Marseilles to whomever wants it, just in case.

Need I mention the plans of an American organization, Depose? They�re known informally as the Armed Services.
Funny schtuff. Also funny is Notes from the Olive Garden, in which he rips into a Guadian article. Its priceless. I would like to think that even people who don't agree with his political views would find his work entertaining, as he really is quite talented. Read him.
Posted by Mark on March 28, 2002 at 02:51 PM .: link :.

Monday, March 18, 2002

Evil Rodent Empire?
The Story of George by James Grimmelmann : An interesting Median Strip piece concerning the design and construction of the famous Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Its a great read. Disney is notorius for pissing off its employees (or, rather, ex-employees) once their job is done. There is a legion of graphic artists whose grievances against Disney are great; this is perhaps why you see so many wierd hidden offences in their animated movies (such as this new one, pointed out by xmark). There is also rumoured to be a painting in the Magic Kingdom bearing a cartoon Hitler amidst a large ensemble of Disney characters. In relation to the post below, grenville pointed out that Mirimax (owned by Disney) is buying up riights to Hong Kong films, changing the stories, dubbing, editing, bastardising and then suing anyone who releases the original art. There is an online petition, but I doubt it would do any good...
Posted by Mark on March 18, 2002 at 01:36 PM .: link :.

Friday, March 15, 2002

Old Man, Your Kung-Fu is Useless!
Nova Express is a Hugo Award nominated zine covering the entire spectrum of speculative fiction. Issue 14 is the highlight, containing, among other things, an interesting discussion of Hong Kong cinema, including the superbly titled Old Man, Your Kung-Fu is Useless! (don't forget to read part 2), and a few top ten lists. Author Walter Jon Williams does a resonable job categorizing and giving examples of the various genres within the Chinese action film (though he excludes the more recent Honk Kong Gangster genre typified by John Woo and Ringo Lam). If for no other reason, its good for finding some good examples of Chinese action movies. I'll be checking out some of the Wu Xia Pian films... if I can find them...

Also, in the same issue, is an interesting article entitled Why Lovecraft Still Matters: The Magical Power of Transformative Fiction. The author, Don Webb, examines some of the things that make Lovecraft so pervasive, and gives a brief overview of his works. Lovecraft's Mythos was an ingenius creation, as he was somehow able to slowly evoke a subtle emotional reaction on readers' minds. The Mythos itself was almost self reinforcing; most of Lovecraft's stories were published in the pulp magazine Wierd Tales, and Lovecraft was able to secure a secondary source of income by revising manuscripts for other Weird Tales authors, which enabled him to add references to his own imaginative universe in other authors' works. Further, he encouraged his friends to drop references to them in their own work. For example, one of his best known creations, the Necronomicon (the magical book of the dead), is often thought to be real because sometimes Lovecraft would reference other well known books of the occult alongside his fictional Necronomicon. Other authors also referenced it in a similar manner, thus lending to the illusion. Fascinating stuff.
Posted by Mark on March 15, 2002 at 01:43 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Spotting the Losers
Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States by Ralph Peters : A fascinating and somewhat prophetic essay that, in pointing out how other countries fail, actually highlights the successes of US culture. Success is eccentric, but failure is predictible. Peters has selected some excellent "signs" of non-competitive behaviour; I find that there is little to add. It very clearly defines some of the differences between us and our enemies in the "war". There are lots of keen observations to go along with his signs, like this one:
Information is more essential to economic progress than an assured flow of oil. In fact, unearned, "found" wealth is socially and economically cancerous, impeding the development of healthy, enduring socioeconomic structures and values. If you want to guarantee an underdeveloped country's continued inability to perform competitively, grant it rich natural resources. The sink-or-swim poverty of northwestern Europe and Japan may have been their greatest natural advantage during their developmental phases. As the Shah learned and Saudi Arabia is proving, you can buy only the products, not the productiveness, of another civilization.
Interesting stuff, and so true. Saudi Arabia's future, in particular, is very uncertain because of their reliance on the oil industry (and their reluctance to create any other national industry). I believe that even they recognize this problem, and are trying to fix it, but I think it may be too late. I found the article at USS Clueless a while back, and Steven Den Beste rightly recognizes that there are those in America, on both the far right and the far left, that seek to (re)impose several of the signs of failure on our nation. Indeed, some of them haven't been abolished here very long, and a return to these destructive ways would be disasterous...
Posted by Mark on March 13, 2002 at 03:45 PM .: link :.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

My Shifting Paradigm
Well, I've done it again. Not two weeks ago I apologized for not updating frequently enough and promised to keep on top of it. Of course, here I am again, apologizing for a lack of posting. My recent lack of progress has prompted me to take a look at what I'm doing here, why I'm doing it, and how I'm going to continue (or if I should continue). With this weblog, I've mostly concerned myself with things like film, literature, and technology. It might be time for a change. I had a good time finding and posting things I thought were under-represented in the mainstream (as well as commenting on the things in the mainstream), but I find that my interests have shifted a bit lately. This is not to say that I no longer enjoy those things which have previously occupied this space, just that there might be some new areas of interest popping up, namely, politics. In case you didn't notice, there was a distinct drop off in the quantity of posts after the 9/11 attacks, and this is mostly due to the fact that I now find myself spending hours reading up on things like Israel and Iraq and military history. In any event, those things didn't really fit into the scope of this weblog, so the posting here went down. Of course, there are other reasons, too (*caugh, caugh* Everything2).

So far I've tried to keep my weblog "timeless", so to speak; rarely did I comment on "timely" news, and when I did, it was usually accompanied by what I thought was its relation to the bigger picture. So I don't indend on becoming another warblog; there are plenty of those already. I don't want to focus on the latest bullet being thrown at terrorists, and if I do, it will probably be used as a segue for something more general or, rather, more relevant (ie, focusing on the bigger picture). I argue about timely events on the message boards at 4degreez; I don't intend to do the same thing here. Time will tell if this will be a worthwhile addition to the weblog, and I certainly don't intend to neglect my film/literature/technology interests in the mean time. Good day, and hopefully you'll be reading something relevant here tomorrow.
Posted by Mark on March 12, 2002 at 04:07 PM .: link :.

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