February 23, 2004

Movies: Lost in Translation

This has been out on DVD for a few weeks and at the top of my Netflix cue but they haven't sent it to me and I wanted to see it before the Oscars on Sunday so when my mother suggested we go to it in the theatre, I said yes. We both really enjoyed it and it was incredibly evocative of modern Tokyo, making me not want to visit but for some it would probably have the opposite effect. The presentation of the 'fish out of water' feeling of alienation in a foreign culture was extremely well done, as was the acting by both of the leads. I definitely could see Bill Murray winning the Oscar for it. The film is too 'small' to have a chance in the Best Picture race but it is nice that it was nominated. ****1/2

Posted by aarondf at 02:29 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

TV: The West Wing and Angel

Both of these episodes were excellent which is kind of bittersweet in both cases.

The West Wing has definitely not been as good this season after the depature of Sorkin, with meanness and conflict for its own sake that the show didn't have before. This episode, however was back to the high standard of previous seasons, with smart, devoted people doing their best at a very hard job of great importance, in the most extreme spotlight. I hope this continues but don't think it likely.

The Angel puppet episode was hillarious again and again (hiding under the desk, attacking Spike, vamp transformation, attacked by werewolf, etc...) and reminds me why I watch this show which is often not that great but has some really fine moments. Too bad it is ending after this year for no more moments like these. This might have been my favorite episode of the entire series so far.

Posted by aarondf at 12:02 PM | Television | Comments (1)

February 17, 2004

Movies: Touching the Void

Wow! I went to see this 'docudrama' at the theatre on Friday and thought it was amazing. The movie tells the story of a climbing accident in 1985 and is primarily about how one of the two climbers manages to survive after horribly breaking his leg and then falling a massive distance into a crevice and needing to get back to camp on his own, with his partner sure that he is dead. One knows the people both survive the whole time as they are cut to continually in interview segments discussing what happened. Climbers who can act are used to dramatize the action but rarely ever speak except curses and other things which need to be in the moment, leaving all the real talk to the people who were really there. I thought this was stunningly well done and massively recommend it to anyone who can handle watching this level of painful ordeal *****. The cinematography is also incredible and amazing they were able to get it. The only thing I regret is that this wasn't filmed in OmniMAX.

Posted by aarondf at 03:27 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

February 12, 2004

Reforming Elections (Hare ballotting)

I have long been a supporter of Hare/Australian/Instant Runoff ballotting and figured I should post something here especially as a friend pointed out a nice site on the issue. The concept is perhaps best expressed in that everyone has a single transferrable vote which is excercised by ranking all or some of the candidates on a ballot. The effect is that you are voting for only your first choice candidate unless she is eliminated in which case your vote gets transferred to your second place candidate and so on. For eample, in 2000 probably most voters for Nader would have chosen Gore as a second choice so if Nader were eliminated (due to none of Gore, Nader or Bush having more than 50% of the vote [this can be on a per-state basis or nationwide] and Nader having the least votes of the three), his votes would have moved to each of his voter's second choices (probably overwhelmingly Gore).

I am a strong supporter of having a political system involving more than two parties where parties could advocate on real issues rather than just shifting around to try to be in the middle and get 51% of the vote as our current system is. Third parties will continue to fail horribly with our current system for exactly the reason of what happened in 2000. People who voted for Nader and got Bush will now switch to the Democrats. With the Hare system, they could support Nader in all good conscience, knowing their votes would transfer if he lost. With a good 3rd party, votes would then probably increase at each election. With our current system, no 3rd party has almost any chance, in the short or long term. Of course, for this very reason, this change will likely never happen as there will be broad agreement among the Republicans and Democrats to fight it and maintain their power.

Both the Hugo awards for SF and the International Gamers Awards also use the Hare ballotting system so at least my hobbies are on the ball.

Posted by aarondf at 05:33 PM | Miscellaneous | Comments (1)

Trivia Again

Went to Trivia again last night at a new place in Somerville. I lobbied to stick with the Overdraught but was outvoted. The new place was ok but by no means great and the DJ running it was certainly no better than the guy at the Overdraught and there was a problem with the waitress at the end so we won't likely be returning. If others want to keep checking out new places, I may just let them until they find a really good place and THEN try it. We also ended up being 6 last night and this place had a 5 per team limit, the result of which was we were disqualified from 1st place but could win 2nd.

The first few questions were way too easy with almost all of us knowing almost all of them but they got much harder in the second half. My guessing was really on last night and scored us a lot of extra points which we otherwise had no idea on with soccer goalie Tony Meola, Best Supporting Actor winner Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Nevada as the fastest growing state. All of this was just enough to take the theoretical win over the other 6 person team and get us the 2nd place prize ($15 gift certificate and an added on pitcher of Bass). Richard came for the first time and knew several questions (on poetry and golf) that none of the rest of us were sure of, which was also really helpful.

We did also submit one of our stupider guesses on ANOTHER golf question asking what a "stimpmeter" is for. Mark had us go with "counting the number of dimples on golf balls" which I thought was pretty crazy although my random guess ("measuring the distance to the hole") was also wrong. The answer was that it measures how fast the greens are.

Posted by aarondf at 11:37 AM | Events | Comments (0)

February 03, 2004

TV: Survivor All-Stars

I was quite impressed with the first episode and will definitely be watching this season. I hope all the previous winners aren't immediately blasted off but fear they may be. I think the producers did help them out by spreading them out 2-2-0 rather than 2-1-1 so at least each has one ally. I was diappointed in Rupert not going with Ethan's proposal but wonder what he is up to (if, that is, it wasn't simply a bad IMHO move). Perhaps he will change his mind next time and ally with Ethan but giving his stronger alliance with Rudy a 2-1 advantage. Alternatively, he may have wanted to go along but had Rudy refuse for some reason and feel bound to stick with Rudy and not create a 3-3 vote. What happens in the case of ties these days? Is there a scheme by CBS to force there not to be ties? This theory requires a major discussion to have happened off-camera but I don't see how that discussion didn't occur. It is definitely very annoying realizing they don't show us everything of importance.

Posted by aarondf at 04:58 PM | Television | Comments (0)

Movies: Jet Lag

This French movie was very, very good with excellent performances by both of the leads (and really only characters). Juliette Binoche is certainly gorgeous and it was wonderful once she finally got rid of all the horrible makeup she was wearing for most of the movie. The only trouble I had with the movie is that the characters speak so quickly that it was at times difficult to keep up with reading the subtitles. It was nice that DVD is easier to rewind than VCRs but too bad that you can't see the subtitles when in any mode other than normal play speed. ****

Posted by aarondf at 03:38 PM | Movies | Comments (0)


Congratulations to our New England Patriots. I'm really not much of a football fan and have no particular liking for this team but it is still nice for the local team to win. The outcry over the Janet Jackson thing is pretty crazy and stupid, given all the other stuff that goes on. I thought the whole halftime show which I only watched in the background was pretty horrible, not that I care about the nudity other than I agree that it would have been better if people were warned who do care.

Posted by aarondf at 03:34 PM | Sports | Comments (0)