November 30, 2004

21 and 28 Up

I watched the next two installments of this series and continue to find it an amazing, seminal piece of film making, exactly what something like PBS in the US should exist for (not of course that this series has any connection to PBS - it doesn't). The meta-effects were more, as expected, than in the previous ones but not as much as I expected. Nobody in the series seemed to have significantly had their life influenced by being in the series. This despite the fact that in one case (Simon) I had the feeling that the show's interviewer was actually pushing him in the 21 episode to find a better job but this was not successful as he was in the same job at 28.

I could make more particular comments on the individuals but for the most part feal a bit squeamish about doing that - these are real people after all. Unfortunately, at least in England, the starting proverb of "Give me a boy until he is 7 and I will show you the man" seems to hold true. Almost all of the children have kept within their class of birth. The only semi-exceptions are Neil who had dropped out of society and Nicholas, who (without surprise) by virtue of his intelligence has become a college professor in the US at 28. Nicholas, however, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is something of an exception anyway as he is 'rural' more than he is 'lower class' and I think this is much less of a binding situation for someone with his intelligence and he obviously also got lucky in getting the scholarships he did.

Nicholas remains my favorite overall I think but Tony was the one who most impressed me in these two episodes. He successfully realized his dream of being a Jockey even if he wasn't good enough to stay one and then moved on from it to go all out again to be a cab driver and realized that, as well as getting married and having kids like he wanted. He definitely has the strongest work ethic of all of the kids and really impresses me.

Well, I should have the next episode by the weekend when they will all be the same age as I am now which should be interesting. Of course, even by 28 almost all of them are already married and most with children.

Posted by aarondf at 12:30 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

November 24, 2004

Destitute lottery winner story

Well put! Dan Gillmor nicely expresses my disgust for newspaper stories purely positive spin on this lottery winner.

The article says "Good thing he wasn't pinching pennies" except of course that may very well be the reason he had such financial problems in the first place. Its also a bad sign that he opted for the lump-sum payment. I guess $88.5 million is enough that he may not manage to blow through it all but I'm not sure of that. The annual payments is a good way to force compulsive spenders to be more sane with the money.

Posted by aarondf at 11:49 AM | Links | Comments (0)

November 17, 2004

The Apprentice prediction: Kelly

I have continued to watch The Apprentice this season even though I don't think the contestants are as good in general as last year or that Trump's decisions are as reasonable. However, I'll make the prediction now that Kelly will win as he seems head and shoulders above most of the others; I was particularly impressed with him in the fashion design episode, which seemed so outside the norm for this military guy. Wes is probably the second best.

Posted by aarondf at 02:36 PM | Television | Comments (0)

Movies of Late

Well, first and best (or at least funnest by far), I finally went to see The Incredibles late last night after games and it really was incredible, despite my high expectations from all the great reviews I've been avoiding reading but got the gist of. There is really not a wrong step taken in this, not surprising from the consistently superb Pixar team combined with the amazing talent of Brad Bird, who previously did the wonderful The Iron Giant. I didn't find this story quite as emotionally powerful as tIG but the characters (incredibly faithful to superhero culture), animation and great lines make this still a great film. Edna Mode (voiced as it turns out by director Brad Bird) steals the scenes she's in with ease and every character from Dash to Elastigirl to Violet to Buddy/Syndrome is superbly realized ****1/2.

Over the weekend I saw Blind Zaitochi (subtitled Japanese Samurai movie) which was pretty good but incredibly bloody (probably over 100 deaths graphically shown) and almost all the battles (even the one invincible swordsman against 10 incompetent thugs fights) were incredibly unbalanced ***. Van Helsing, on the other hand, was absolutely horrible despite starring the very talented Hugh Jackman. I had to fast forward through significant sections it was so horrible and just in so many ways didn't make any sense *.

Finally, I saw Seven Up and 7 Plus Seven, the first two episodes in an amazing British documentary series by Michael Apted, tracing the lives of 15 or so British children starting at the age of 7 - they are now up to age 42. The insight into the children, the British class system, how people change and stay the same, are all incredible. This is just an amazing piece of work and I am going to be getting the other episodes over the next few weeks. From the first two episodes, the rural, introverted Nicholas is definitely my favorite of the children, starting with his direct but polite refusal (the only one in the age 7 episode I believe) to answer a question as too personal. He seems both the smartest of the children and the least affected by the powerful English class system, perhaps because he is a child of the country while basically all the others are more easily identified as poor vs rich. Nicholas's family almost certainly is poor but he somehow escapes this as a primary idenitification, which I think is not so uncommon among rural children. His answer to the question about racism in the age 14 episode also seemed the most positive of all the children, some of whose comments were pretty awful. I assume as the later episodes progress we will also see more of what we glimpse in the second episode of the meta-effect being filmed for this series has had on their lives. In the age 14 episode, a couple of kids refer back to their comments in the age 7 one and another mentions that the only time he has been to London is for the group meeting at the end of the first episode. I expect these effects will only get stronger and more interesting as things progress. I'll comment again once I've seen more of these but get out and rent these! To quote the Amazon user review of "Seven Up!",

The effect of the series upon the viewer is enormous, perhaps best reflecting what film can do at its most patient, at its most insightful, at its quietest.


Posted by aarondf at 01:06 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

November 12, 2004

Holiday Games

Went over to Cthulhia's yesterday, taking advantage of the day off, and chatted about games and puzzles before playing a few games, including two new to me, with her and DougO who was also there. While we chatted, Cthulhia worked on her Pysansky project (very pretty wax painted egg shells).

The first game we played was Snap which really should be called Snap Dragon as the game is all about connecting domino like tiles (2x1 shape that is) with Dragon graphics of body segments, tails and heads in three colors. The tiles are neat in that they only snap together when the colors of the dragons match correctly so the physical game components nicely enforce the rule of keeping dragon colors matching. The game is somewhat too tactical and defensive so not too many big dragons are made but it is pretty enough that I may still buy a copy and try to think of variants to improve the gameplay a bit.

Later, we played the newly released Sid Sackson game Buy Word which is basically a multiplayer solitaire version of Scrabble. Despite the solitaire aspect, I still quite enjoyed it. The only real negative was the downtime while others were trying to make words but you weren't ready to yet, but we managed to parallelize this a bit more than the game called for, which was good. This game really encourages making very long words (and also using lots of rare letters), which can be as long as 14 letters in the most extreme case. I drew a lot of the high-scoring letters and made the word "Muzzles" to score a very large number of points and carry me to the win.

We finished with a game of Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers which is a fine game but I significantly prefer the basic game with the two main early expansions (Expansion and Builders & Traders).

Posted by aarondf at 04:43 PM | Games | Comments (0)

November 08, 2004

Movies over the weekend

Due to the Netflix reduction in pricing of the basic plan (but not altering my deprecated plan), I decided to upgrade to it so had 3 movies for the weekend, but all ended up being pretty average. The first was Taking Lives with Angelina Jolie. Pretty good, although I am not quite sure the twist really works and Jolie is really gorgeous looking in this, particularly something with her hair I think ***. Second was Shrek 2 which was fun but nothing really special ***. Finally, I saw A Home at the End of the World which was interesting for the first half but then kind of lost its way **1/2.

Posted by aarondf at 05:11 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

November 03, 2004


I may write something myself later but for the moment I'm too depressed. I am also really surprised (and of course completely disgusted and scared almost to tears) with this result. I think yesterday will end up being one of the worst days ever for this country. In 2000, people may not have known what they would be getting - now, there is no excuse. It is hard to live in a country where more than half the people would vote for this group of people and what they have done to civil liberties, our standing in the world, the environment, etc... At least I live in a section of the country that doesn't support this but I'm not sure that's enough.

Anyway, there is a nice article by Dan Gillmor. I think his point about the Democratic party in many ways now being a failed alternative is correct but is there a way to shift this trend when 50% of the people seem to me pretty much unreachable based on yesterday's result. Even if we manage to survive the next four years, what then?

Posted by aarondf at 01:20 PM | Links | Comments (0)