Friday, March 27, 2009

The telescope for everybody

I am trying to keep this blog from being a collection of things that I find on the internet, but this is too cool. is a non-profit group that is trying to make amateur astronomy easier for everyone. In order to do that, they sell kits for telescopes for $15. These are not assembled, and don't include a tripod, but they are compatible with standard camera tripods (some available from Amazon for less than $20). So the telescope and tripod should set you back less than $40. If that wasn't cool enough, you can donate a telescope to "children, parents, and teachers who can't afford to buy them, especially in less developed parts of the world," according to the website. This is a great way to help bring the wonder of science to someone who might never experience it, and if that person is you, that's ok too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I hate computers

Mostly, I hate the fact that I can't seem to function without them. Last night, my desktop died on me. Now this is already problematic, but I was getting myself worked up for a real bad mood. I tried a troubleshooting guide on the website that sold me the thing, and was looking forward to sending it in for repairs. This is almost precisely 2 months after the warranty expired, by the way. So I am looking forward to a month of using public computers and my laptop with its tiny keyboard. The thing is, just as I started this angry post, my desktop successfully booted. I had tried about a dozen times earlier, but the time I give up, the damned thing starts as easy as you like. Apparently, I need to slaughter a chicken and do a Vodun ritual when I need it to work. Well, it seems that the dark gods of windows and intel have blessed me, because everything seems to work.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Who watches "Watchmen?"

First, I should say that the act of condensing the (god, I feel stupid using this word) epic comic series into a three hour movie must have been a daunting one.  Nevertheless, Zack Snyder managed it admirably.  The action scenes are masterfully done.  The acting, with a few exceptions, was great.  The attention to detail helped bring the world to life.

The movie hits all the key points of the comic.  In fact, it treats the source material with extreme reverence.  Now many, if not all, of the reviews that I have seen and heard have treated this as a negative thing.  Let me be clear, they are not wrong.  For the uninitiated, this rigidity must seem odd.  For one thing, the comic was set in a fictional 1985.  This is understandable, as it was published in an actual 1986.  The movie might have attempted to create an alternate 2009, in order to make it more accessible.  There is a real danger in making a movie set more than twenty years ago that is further influenced by events another decade earlier.  For many people, especially younger viewers, the references and jokes might be lost.  Furthermore, the film cut many of the scenes that help set the stage for much of the later action.  This is understandable, as the prospect of an eighteen hour "Watchmen" might have been a bit intimidating.  

Now, the slavish devotion to a twenty-four year old comic book series was not altogether a bad thing.  For one thing, the source material is frequently praised as the best comic series ever.  Zach Snyder did an admirable job of translating the intricate plot and unique setting to the screen.  There is an illustrated, comic book palate to the film, reminiscent of Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy," without indulging in camp.  Some of the costumes, especially those of the earlier Watchmen, look silly and cartoonish.  From a fan's perspective, this is not a bad thing, as it demonstrates loyalty to the comic.  

By no means did the movie faithfully recreate every scene and moment from the comic series.  Much of the backstory, such as the Keene Act and the original masked heroes plot was removed or drastically condensed.  The comic within a comic, "Tales of the Black Freighter," was completely dropped, while the ultimate plan of the "villain" was dramatically rewritten.  This might seem like blasphemy to the faithful, but these changes generally are benign.  The fight sequences are all extended and quite good.  One or two of the fights are the best I've seen in a comic book movie.  

The acting was generally great.  The real star of the show was Jacky Earl Haley, as Rorschach.  Patrick Wilson's Nite Owl and Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Comedian are both fantastic roles.  The only real acting weak spot for me was the lip-synching for Dr. Manhattan.  Speaking of Dr. Manhattan, there is a lot of blue penis in the movie.  For those who have never read the comic, Dr. Manhattan is a glowing, blue, naked superhero, and he is frequently naked.  Snyder has decided not to use the Austin Powers conveniently obscured nudity trick.  This leaves the audience with more frontal male nudity than any other R-rated film of which I am aware.  The overly prudish should steer clear, but this is not a film about glowing blue penises, and it would be a disservice to treat it as if it were.

As the comic satirized the genre of superhero comics, the movie tries to satirize superhero movies.  There are visual references to "Batman and Robin," the low-point of the genre.  The movie does not succeed to the same degree that the book does.  I would recommend this movie without reservation to everybody who read and enjoyed the book.  I would also recommend it to anyone with an interest in comic-book movies.  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and plan to see it again soon.  Who watches "Watchmen?"  I do, and so should you.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snowed in

Last night, eight inches of snow fell here, and today, another two are supposed to come down. I had planned to run a few errands and take a midterm, but everything in town is closed, and I am not going anywhere.

I know that some of you in the North wouldn't let this amount of snow stop you from anything, but here in the South (just barely, thanks be to Zoltan) we aren't used to dealing with snow. So, our roads are almost completely unplowed and filled with idiots who don't know how to drive in the snow.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I thought I overreacted sometimes,

This is exactly why I am distrustful of cops. I have known a few of them, and they tend to divide the world into the "good guys" and the "bad guys." The problem with this is, it's ok to do bad things to bad guys. Like a fifteen year-old girl accused of stealing a car.

Check this out.

The issue here is simple. This girl could be guilty as hell. She certainly was trying to say "fuck you" to the cop when she kicked her shoe at him. But she is a fifteen year-old girl. Deputy Paul Schene should be stripped of his badge, charged with assault, and run out of town on a rail. I am going to be very upset if he doesn't serve time for this.