Saturday, December 17, 2005

Handholder - Feh!


You go out of your way to build bridges with people of different views and beliefs and have quite a few religious friends. You believe in the essential goodness of people , which means you’re always looking for common ground even if that entails compromises. You would defend Salman Rushdie’s right to criticise Islam but you’re sorry he attacked it so viciously, just as you feel uncomfortable with some of the more outspoken and unkind views of religion in the pages of this magazine.

You prefer the inclusive approach of writers like Zadie Smith or the radical Christian values of Edward Said. Don’t fall into the same trap as super–naïve Lib Dem MP Jenny Tonge who declared it was okay for clerics like Yusuf al–Qaradawi to justify their monstrous prejudices as a legitimate interpretation of the Koran: a perfect example of how the will to understand can mean the sacrifice of fundamental principles. Sometimes, you just have to hold out for what you know is right even if it hurts someone’s feelings.

What kind of humanist are you? Click here to find out.

Seen at Scrivener's House of Pancakes

Friday, December 16, 2005

Trimming the Wikipedia

(fair warning - some of the linked comics contain nasty language and naughty thoughts)

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it, but some of my written stylings come from a man I know only as 'Tycho.' He's half of a webcomic duo that creates some pretty hilarious comics about gaming and such. The thing is that many of their comics require a pretty deep explanation if you aren't in the gaming 'cool kids' circle - and I left that circle a long long time ago. So, anyway, I like the way the guy writes even if there are (gasp!) spelling errors (I'm done grading. I'm done grading. I'm done grading).

explanations done, the Penny Arcade folks have taken a look at Wikipedia. And it's not that pretty.

A selected chunk from the newspost that accompanies the comic: (persistent link may be here)
Reponses to criticism of Wikipedia go something like this: the first is usually a paean to that pure democracy which is the project's noble fundament. If I don't like it, why don't I go edit it myself? To which I reply: because I don't have time to babysit the Internet. Hardly anyone does. If they do, it isn't exactly a compliment.

Any persistent idiot can obliterate your contributions. The fact of the matter is that all sources of information are not of equal value, and I don't know how or when it became impolitic to suggest it. In opposition to the spirit of Wikipedia, I believe there is such a thing as expertise.

The second response is: the collaborative nature of the apparatus means that the right data tends to emerge, ultimately, even if there is turmoil temporarily as dichotomous viewpoints violently intersect. To which I reply: that does not inspire confidence. In fact, it makes the whole effort even more ridiculous. What you've proposed is a kind of quantum encyclopedia, where genuine data both exists and doesn't exist depending on the precise moment I rely upon your discordant fucking mob for my information.
I note this because I've been fighting a losing battle to keep Wikipedia sources out of students' papers. I really like Wikipedia, but I know that it's not particularly reliable. That's not to say that you can't find good informaiton there, because obviously, you can, especially on techy stuff. There was a recent study comparing Wikipedia with Britannica, and Wiki held its own, with 4 errors per entry vs. Britannica's 3. I think the problem is that many people see Wiki as the answer instead of a tool that you can use to help find the answer.

Now that I write that up, I guess it's not that different from any other source. Hmm... Is Wikipedia legitimate as a source? Do you folks let students cite Wikipedia?

A Quiz Is Not A Dinner Party

Ah, not just the hat trick, my friends, it was the Baker’s Hat trick… er… plus one. That is, two Laupers, two Madonnas, two Billy Joels, Two Stings, and two from Sir Elton John.

The missed ones:

#4 – De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da – Sting (Police)
#8 – Change Of Heart – Madame Lauper

And now, the main event. This one's all over the place. Are you ready to rumble?


Maybe he's no Romeo
But he's my loving one man show


He's a lover boy at play
He don't play by the rules
Oh oh oh
Girl don't play the fool—no


It's a losing proposition,
But one you can't refuse.
It's the politics of contraband,


I like the way your sparkling earrings lay,
against your skin, it's so brown


They're out to get you, better leave while you can
don't wanna be a boy, you wanna be a man


I can see what you want
But you seem pretty young to be searching for that kind of fun


My love for you is way out of line
Better run, girl


'Cause we're living in a world of fools
Breaking us down


If there’s a cure for this
I don’t want it
Don’t want it
If there’s a remedy
I’ll run from it
From it


Got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.

Wha? Post

Dear Washington Post,

Have you decided that 'bootylicious' is a word you are comfortable using? Because I would rather you didn't. Thanks.

Yours in curmudgeonitude,

The quote:

That has given birth to a marketing strategy that combines the cutthroat with the chic. Wal-Mart preempted competitors when it unleashed its holiday marketing campaign in November a week earlier than last year. Advertisements for the first time featured celebrities like the bootylicious girl group Destiny's Child and tweener heartthrob Jesse McCartney.

From here (Registration required)

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

King Kong (link has autoloading movie and sound)

Honesty, I expected better.

On the plus side, it’s an entertaining film. There are lots of creatures and death and thrills and such. It’s also very clear that the filmmakers were truly paying homage to the original film. I happened to catch the original on AMC a week or so ago, and many of the scenes are very lovingly recreated in this remake.

Unfortunately, that may have been the source of some of the things I didn’t like. The biggest problem I had with Kong can be paralleled in the CG for Kong himself. Throughout the film, I was trying to figure out what I didn’t like about him. It finally hit me when he was climbing up the Empire State Building. He’s got no physics. When he had Ann in one hand, he would let go of the building with the other and casually reach for the next window. If they had shown his feet gripping the wall tighter, or maybe made him grasp the next window in a quick movement, it would have seemed more believable. Later when he was at the top, he would reach out and find purchase on a diagonal sheet of metal without any trouble. I’m sure this seems very nitpicky, but bear with me. What was bothering me was that there was no gravity. It seemed as if Kong was not held to the rules of the world in which I wanted to believe he lived.

So here’s my leap – It was the same for all the characters. They didn’t seem fully rendered. I think I can say that I liked the actors, but not one single character. I realize this is an action film (horror film, monster film, whatever), but the actions of the characters didn’t seem to be based on the world that I know. The vaudeville show for Kong on his Pride Rock? The Coke commercial-esque Kong sliding on the frozen lake in Central Park? Those are perhaps the most obvious scenes that I couldn’t get my head around, but if we’re going to make plot-points of this movie revolve around the emotions of the main characters, why aren’t we treated to a better understanding of them?

Jack Black’s character was perhaps the most frustrating. He very possibly could be the most complex and intriguing character in the film, but we never get to know him. Maybe this was an artistic choice, or maybe it’s all on the cutting room floor. Anne and the writer’s relationship was also very underplayed.

But, this is not a love story, so let’s take a look at the action sequences. Most were done pretty well. There was a ‘bug moment’ or two that had the audience squealing (aside - why do people take kids who can barely walk to movies like this?). The problem is that things would start out ok, but then go quickly to the ridiculous.

A great example is the stampede. Everyone is running through the canyon floor and there is a herd of brontosaurus (brontosauri?) chasing after. Ok, well, it seems silly that the people can run faster, but I thought I would let that slide. But then they catch up. And the people are running under the feet of the dinosaurs (being chased by raptor-like things, natch. You can’t have a dinosaur flick without those guys – Thanks Steven). Running underneath a herd of brontosaurs. Ok. Suspension of disbelief. Ok. Move on.

It gets worse though. From the Cirque de Soleil show where Kong, Anne and a handful of Tyrannosaurus Rexes dangle and swing from vines (including the swinging Rex trying to take a chomp out of Anne every time it swings closer), to the very implausible capture to the final scene where our two human protagonists stand without difficulty in a very light breeze on the top of the Empire State Building. Oh, yeah, how did she keep those high-heels on during all this? I understand that they were really trying to capture the feel and glamour of the early movie world, but it just didn’t work for me.

The thing is, I’ll happily follow a movie into the most ridiculous worlds, but they’ve got to be believable. Aliens, Harry Potter, even Narina created worlds were you may not understand how everything works, but the things that work make sense in the context of the film. Kong in New York is placed in a world that perhaps we know too well, and he seemed very much detached – not so much in a fish out of water way, but in an ‘I can see the wires’ kind of way.

One last thing. On Skull Island, there are several scenes with blurred and jerky camera work. It was a bit jarring at first, but as I got into it, I liked the idea that we were seeing the images with the state of mind of the protagonists – unclear, confused, and in bits and pieces. Then it stopped. Did they give up on this idea after a couple of tries and just leave it in the film? If not, why didn’t we get more of that? Sloppy.

Again, I did enjoy the movie. There are lots of fun bits. It’s just not what I was hoping it would be. I won’t say that you’re better off seeing the original, though. Let’s just say that you should see both. I will say that if you do want to see this one, see it in the theater. A lot of what is good about this movie is its bigness. It’ll lose a lot in the transition to the small screen.

King Kong 6/10

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

In the Immortal Words of One Particularly Bright Star,

Don't hate me 'cause I'm beautiful...

hate me because I'm done grading!

There was oh, so much trauma though. The prof wrote a particularly good final, and several students didn't read the questions well at all... boo hiss...

Even though I was the personification of benevolence in the grading, I'm expecting at least a handful of very nasty emails once these grades go live :(

but until then, I'm free!!


Anyone want to go skinny-dipping?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More Fun Than A Quiz Full Of Monkeys

Hehe got a couple on you last time. Let’s take a look. 7 was Your Wildest Dreams by the Moody Blues and 8 was Hot in the City by Billy ‘the Snarl’ Idol.

I’m not-so-secretly happy that you guys got It’s Raining Men and Convoy hehehe!

New stuffings! One or two are kinda hard, but most are easy, and there’s an easy pattern to find. Enjoy!

1 –

A man can tell a thousand lies
I've learned my lesson well

2 –

Been high in the Rockies under the evergreens

3 –

Oh Lawdy mama those Friday nights
when Suzie wore her dresses tight

4 – the spelling might be a hint - hehe

The only cheques I’ve left unsigned
From the banks of chaos in my mind

5 –

Stray cat is crying so stray cat sings back

6 –

You're the one I'm dreaming of
Your heart fits me like a glove

7 –

At least he can polish the fenders

8 –

Here I am
Just like I said I would be
I'm your friend
Just like you think it should be

9 –

Time on my hands could be time spent with you

10 –

How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer's deadly toy

From the Pigeon Trenches

'Military coos'

sounds kind of cute, really.

coo coo

Qafe Quote

"They were stripping over there, but other than that, there wasn't anything to do."

In Which A Final Exam Writer Teaches Me A New Word


Should I ask for a definition?

My guess would be a state of ignoring someone or something, but from the context, it seems to be a state of ignorance.

Write your own snarky comment here.

Mommy, Why Is the Book Blue?

Cafe ran out of bagels, so I was forced, forced I tell you, to go across the street and get chocolate chocolate cake donuts. I had my choice, you see?

A pile of bluebooks
holding hopes, dreams, gibberish
A flashing red pen

Monday, December 12, 2005

Link Dump

Ok, no quiz, but fun links! Alright, I know it's no substitution, but I hope you'll be ok. :)

Santaland Diaries online! Woohoo!

Strange Sand art video - This guy makes fun images out of sand and a projector

Development of the Latin alphabet in one animated gif

Famous folks answer the question "What do you believe but cannot prove?" (scroll to near the bottom and the next pages)

And finally,

The most popular toys of the last 100 years

Blind Update Downrange

Finally met with the prof about the finals.

Finally realize the doom that awaits me in grading these things.

I swear If I just gave everyone a C+, more people would be happy than if I actually graded these monsters.

The deadline is coincidently the same as the next batch of PhD applications (for which I have to select and edit a new writing sample). Can anyone tell me why I'm applying to all these places?

What are the odds that I get right on this and get it all done in the quickest amount of time?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

It Walks Down Stairs, Alone or in Pairs. Everyone Knows it's Quiz-ie

Ah, I fondly remember the Dr. Zaius song from the Simpson’s version of the Planet of the Apes. Although, it’s right up there with the musical version of Streetcar. They may have gone a bit downhill, but that was hilarious stuff.

Ok, back to the quizzing (which may become a every other day kind of thing)

This group may be a touch too easy for you folks, but don’t worry. The theme runs out after #5 :)


They say that the road
Ain’t no place to start a family


Like a band of gypsies,
we go down the highway


Yeah, them smokies is thick as bugs on a bumper.
They even had a bear in the air!


I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the new jersey turnpike


Miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky


God bless Mother Nature, she's a single woman too
She took off to heaven and she did what she had to do


And when the music plays
And when the words are
Touched with sorrow


'Cause when a long-legged lovely walks by
Yeah you can see the look in her eye


Cool cat looking for a kitty
Gonna look in every corner of the city


That’s when sport was a sport
And groovin´ was groovin´

Hello Doggies

Originally uploaded by Overread.
Oh, doggie troubles!

Chronicles of Narnia

Another movie review, hopefuly a bit shorter

Chronicles of Narnia

I have to admit I don’t think I read this book until I heard the movie was coming out. I grabbed a copy, read it in the bookstore and enjoyed it a lot.

It was hard for me to watch the movie without looking for the heavily mailed fist of the Christian Right dangling over the heads of the audience (hmm, that should be a dangling sword, shouldn’t it?). From all I’ve heard, this movie is an insidious tool that evil fundamentalists are going to use to get kids hooked and lead them into the temptation of banning science and them blasted free-thinkin’ liberals. I should be an anthropologist for a moment and explain that I’m a moralizing atheist, but, having grown up in the deep pit of a nasty form of oppressive religion, I have a knee-jerk reaction against blatant religiosity.

Well, I was going to post something facetious, like how I found all these connections (Remember in the bible, when after the resurrection, Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ mom went out the battlefield and Mary shot a bow and arrow and killed that ogre? That was cool, right?), but frankly, I don’t think it’s needed.

I don’t think it’s warranted because I didn’t think the movie was particularly biblical at all, really. I mean, sure the Lion is a pretty blatant Christ-figure, but for crying out loud, if we’re going to see an underhanded attempt at brainwashing in every Christ-figure in film and literature, we’re going to have to condemn most of the western canon. Or maybe Joyce was proselytizing Greek Polytheism.

In any case, while I worry a little bit about the marketing in the fundamentalist churches, I can’t blame the marketers for trying to game an excellent market. They’d be fools not to use Lewis’ ideology to turn a couple of box-office tricks. It’s a bit seedy, but that’s marketing.

I honestly hope, damned heathen that I am, that if kids get a little mixed up by what they’re hearing about all this, that maybe they actually pick up the bible and try to dig through it, or at least the fun parts. It’s a good book, even if I don’t think it’s The Good Book.

See, I told you the review would be short. The ranting was a bit long, but if you look back there, there’s almost no review at all. :)

Well, ok. CG was passable. Acting seemed alright – I especially liked Lucy and Susan. Writing was decent. It helps a lot when you’re making a movie from a book that’s not Potter-length, ain’t it? It’s a pretty entertaining flick, really. The downsides are in pacing and some huh? issues. (the vast land covered there and back in the space of a couple minutes. If he can really run that fast, let us see that speed, otherwise it just looks like the timing of the entire climax is shot.) I didn’t like the voice of Liam Neeson for Alsan, although I have to admit, I thought it was Sean Connery at first. Despite my confusion, he’s just too recognizable right now, and it was distracting.

One final note - I think the blooding scene is just awful. Alsan making Peter kill the wolf (hehe that's funnier than I thought it would be) before he can be knighted borders on the cruel. It smells of gangland morality to me. I know that's how it was written, and it's a true reflection of the way testoterone sometimes works, but I don't think that needed to be in this film.

All in all thoguh, a pretty good movie, I thought.

Chronicles of Narnia 7/10

Best Line on the Application

Sex: optional [HELP] M o F o

I think the application seems a bit, ah... conflicted...

Third and Long

I mentioned that I wasn't going to look at the finals until I got together with the prof and the other TA, but I kinda lied. I peeked at a couple today. Oh, dear... It's going to be ug-ug-ugly. I'm thinking that we're going to have to come up with some seriously creative grading to save some of these people from the sad-file.

On that note, I finished my dining book (remember that I try not to do any 'real' reading while I eat, otherwise, I'd never read anything but work-related stuff, and that's just not healthy).

The title is "I'm the Teacher, You're the Student" by a Patrick Allitt, a prof at Emory. I'm so embarrassed that I can't remember who recommended it, but it was a blog-buddy... Ah, well, if you recommended it and you read this, let me know. I'll give you 5 bonus points on the next quiz :)

I really liked the book a lot. I'm going to hand it around at Christmas to see if any of the family wants to read it and get a better idea of the insane world for which I'm spending a gawd-awful fortune and the better part of what's left of my youth.

I don't want to do a full review, but there was one thing I wanted to write about. He writes about what once was the 'gentleman's C,' and has become the 'professional's B.' he ties it with the unbelievably favorable letters of recommendations that profs are supposed to write ("student is the best I've ever had. I'm quite sure that even though he studies English Lit, he could quite easily cure cancer. I've also noticed that he can see through walls. I think he should date my daughter.") As a PhD hopeful who (crossed fingers) is getting those kinds of LOR, and as a TA who is battling the 'professional's Bs' (and frankly, I'd be happy to toss the 'gentleman's Cs' while we're at it.), I completely understand the reasons behind all this, but I'm torn between being envious of how he seems to have come to terms with the situation, and anger at his complacency about the situation.

My experience is very very limited, but I've seen students who should not get a degree from my university. But, they will. Heck, I'll probably even pass some of them myself.

I'm not really sure what my point is [no thesis - FAIL]. Maybe jut looking at the final where a student couldn't answer what the capital of a very well-known world power and long-time US ally was made me a bit sad because I think that student will probably pass the class. I think this is something I'm going to be wrestling with for a long while.