Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why the Habs Should Retire Koivu's Jersey

I had posted this on the official Montreal Canadiens message board, here:
Why the Habs Should Retire Koivu's Jersey
35 of 107 people who voted on the poll agreed, 68 disagreed and 4 voted "don't know". The topic generated 149 posts over 8 pages at the time of my reposting it here.


One of my first memories of the Habs is the 1993 Stanley Cup Win. Either way that cup would be something to celebrate, as if it were not the Habs winning it would be Gretzky winning with the Kings. The Habs won, I was 9 years old. I was watching the game at Chili's with my sister, and people were celebrating... I think we really nailed that game five and I remember thinking "oh cool this is historical", or something like that.

In the 1993 entry draft, we somehow managed to draft Saku Koivu at 21st overall. It was widely seen as a good pick, so it's nice if a Stanley Cup winner goes on to get a future. He didn't play in the NHL the following year when the Habs did badly. I remember hearing Saku Koivu described as "the best player in the world not playing in the NHL. Not sure if that was 1993-94 or 1994-95. In his rookie season, 1995-96, he went off to a good start, with 20 goals and 25 assists. He would eventually be the first European captain of the Habs, captaining them for 13 seasons, the longest stretch of any Habs captain.

Earth/Moon would look like twin planets to Mercury-Based Astronomers

Discovery News 

Image taken by the Messener Spacecraft.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I've Now Watched All Nine Seasons of the X-Files

Last November, my roommate, bought a box-set of The X-Files and over the last nine months I've watched the nine seasons. That gives an immediate measure of my assessment of the series -- I liked it well enough to watch the series from start to finish, unlike, say Six Feet Under. However, I did not like it so much to race through it at a non-leisurely pace, it did not take over my life the way Babylon 5 or The Wire did, two 5-season shows that I finished in less than 6 weeks.

The X-Files is a 1990s-era show about two FBI detectives, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who navigate various paranormal cases dealing with elements such as God, the afterlife, demons, magic, mutants, premonitions, and most famously, extraterrestrial life and a government conspiracy of involvement with said extraterrestrial life and the cover-up thereof. The first few nourish the episodic elements of The X-Files, whereas the last one lies at the heart of the show's 9-season story arc(s). It makes for an interesting dual nature. Popular culture's fantasies of yesteryear, such as demons, fulfill the role of antagonists within the more stylistically conservative stream of the show, aka the episodic stream. Our more modern irrational paranoia of extra-terrestrial invasion is what lies sweeping the more contemporary and superior trend of long-form story arc.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Astronomy Decadal Survey

Good Preview at Cosmic Variance:
Julianne Delcanton

Here's the home page of the released documents:
Astro 2010

If they actually manage to put these projects through I'll be satisfied, I wish they'd build SIM.

Gary Kurtz on Star Wars

LA Times

“Star Wars” was born a long time ago, but not all that far, far away. In 1972, filmmakers George Lucas and Gary Kurtz were toiling on “American Graffiti” in their San Rafael office when they began daydreaming about a throwback sci-fi adventure that channeled the old “Flash Gordon” serials as opposed to the bleak “message” movies that had taken over the genre.
“We had no idea what we were starting,” said Kurtz, who was the producer of the first two “Star Wars” films and also a second-unit director. “That simple concept changed Hollywood in a way....”

There was a bittersweet tinge to Kurtz’s voice, and it’s no surprise. This year is the 30th anniversary of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the “Star Wars” sequel that many fans consider the pinnacle moment in a franchise that has pulled in $16 billion in box office and merchandising. But 1980 was also the year that Kurtz and Lucas realized the Jedi universe wasn’t big enough for the both of them.

“I could see where things were headed,” Kurtz said. “The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that’s not the best thing for making quality films.”
 Edited to add:

Gawker - A deleted scene from Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi

Thursday, July 22, 2010

This was absolutely hilarious.

This was absolutely hilarious, a bit high on the profanity though.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review of Inception

Inception cements a lot of ideas in my mind. The first is that Leonardo Dicaprio is possibly the best Hollywood male actor of his generation, with the less active Liam Neeson and Daniel Day Lewis providing the only real competition. The second is that the 39 year old Christopher Nolan is probably the best producer-director right now. Inception is a great film, and it comes on the heels of Memento, The Prestige and The Dark Knight.

Inception might actually be better than The Dark Knight. My impression before the film was that it might be a Final Fantasy III / Chrono Trigger situation (it might have been Final Fantasy 7 rather than Chrono Trigger). At the time, industry observers were wondering how Square Soft could possibly make a better game than Final Fantasy III. When Chrono Trigger came out, the response was that they didn't, but they still made a great game. I don't think this is the case here, Inception is at least on par with The Dark Knight.

Inception has everything you need. A great story, a great cast, cinematographic beauty, a great score and a great use of sound effects. Like The Dark Knight, it feels like the climax of the movie is 2 hours and 27 minutes long. It's not a build-up to the climax the way you would expect from what English teachers lecture about story format, it's simply a consistent and energizing emotional high. I don't really know how he does it, every moment feels like the discovery of something new.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Good Ideas for a Message Board

Something I may try to do in the future is set up a message board, so I'll include some of my thoughts here on how to make a good board, a better board, over time so I have a place where I've tabulated my thoughts. I will be editing this post many times as more ideas come across, including shameless exporpriation of anything from the comments.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Articles on American Soccer

Connecticut Post
Published: 03:05 p.m., Sunday, June 27, 2010
Trick is making US soccer lovefest last
NANCY ARMOUR, AP National Writer

I link to a bunch of good articles below:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Review of Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine"

Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" is a journalistic tour de force. Over nearly 600 pages of text, she traces the rise and implementation of neo-liberal economic ideology in many times and places: 1960s Indonesia under Suharto's coup and his allies in the Berkeley Mafia, in the Southern Cone in the 1970s and in particular in Pinochet's Chile, in Brazil, in Thatcher's UK, 1980s Bolivia, in China following Tiannamen, in Germany, Poland and Russia following the collapse of communism, in South Africa following the fall of Apartheid, in the Asian financial crisis, in post-9/11 USA with the homeland security bubble, in post-9/11 Israel with the same homeland security bubble, in the Iraq war, in New Orleans following Katrina, and in places like Sri Lanka that were victims of the 2005 Tsunami. The cases that get the most attention are Pinochet's Chile, Russia under Yeltsin and Iraq under the USA. As the book was put out in 2007, it does not include the current American financial crisis, it does say later on that the USA is headed toward economic collapse, something Klein might wish she had elaborated on.

The narrative, which is primarily descriptive rather than analytical, is informative if nothing else. Readers will learn of the "Chile Project", a plan to have Chile's brightest economic students receive their graduate education at the University of Chicago. The plan was so successful that Pinochet's finance minister, Sergio de Castro, was one of the alumni, and it would be further implemented to impact the rest of Latin America. The reader will learn that Margaret Thatcher seemed unlikely to hold on to power, up to and until she decided to fight a war over a previously marginalized and neglected piece of land: The Falklands Islands. Following the war, Thatcher would go on to use the same propaganda tactics against coal miners, referring to them as "the enemy within", while the Friedmanite Junta in Argentina lost power.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ironman 2: Unfortunate

 [Originally posted on Ksite as an example of how not to make a movie, some edits below]

I saw Iron Man 2 last Friday.
It was garbage for the most part, and is the exact example of what a superman movie should not be. The best part of the movie was the constant T&A shots of Scarlett Johansson.

The storyline had no complexity, the bad guys were one-dimensional, the good guys were one-dimensional, scenes were constructed around making the biggest explosions, the portrayal of women was sexist throughout (I'm thinking of the birthday party in particular), an annoyingly cartoonish depiction of government and military, the science was cringe-inducing, and the fighting was boring.

Basically, it was a bad version of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with a lesser story but with a hotter version of the eye-candy female lead.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Awesome: CoRoT-9B is 95-day Period Transiting Planet

Background information on CoRoT-9B
Extrasolar Planet Encyclopedia

Nature Paper
A transiting giant planet with a temperature between 250K and 430K
Deeg et. al. 

Smallville season 10 Fantasy: President Lex Luthor

I had posted this on the fan community site, Kryptonsite.

I believe that upon Lex Luthor's return in season 10, the writers need to either draw the roadmap of his journey to the oval office, or show him assuming the presidency.

I have three reasons for this:

1) It completes Lex's Arc.
2) It sets Lex up as an antagonist worthy of superman, and fulfills Dr. Fate's prediction that he'll be his "greatest adversary".
3) It's more current than Lex's traditional power base of a megacorporation.

The completion of Lex's Arc
The series finale must be a notch greater than the usual predicted vision of showing superman flying in his tights, and showing Lois Lane's cover story. It needs to show Lex completing his journey as well.

Most fans think of Smallville as Clark Kent's journey, and it is that, but it is also more. It's the formation of the superman universe. Season 1 and 2 of smallville where set up as a comparative study between Clark and Lex, with Lex getting many storylines independent of Clark. What they had in common was friendship, and strong [albeit different] father figures, tremendous talent, and they were on their way up. The ladder they were climbing was different though, Lex was climbing the ladder of power, and Clark was climbing the ladder of influence.

Similarities between Buffy and Smallville

I had posted this on the Smallville fan site, Kryptonsite, it's somewhat cleaned up here.

My impression watching the show, and I'm a fan of both don't get me wrong, is that Smallville owes a tremendous amount to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and is very much a superman version of Buffy. I bold the most impressive similarities.
  • Start off in high school for a few years
  • Go to college for a bit and then they drop out because of their fantastical duties,
  • Have a female friend that turns into a witch,
  • Have a long and tragic high school romance, but end up hooking up with their true love (Spike, Lois) later on, lovers with whom they started off as "enemies"
  • Start off with a supervisor (Jor-El, Giles) whom they outgrow
  • Have a brief arc of the government getting involved, the initiative in Buffy, and now Checkmate in Smallville
  • Have identical episodes. "Labyrinth" is a direct copy of "Normal Again", both season 6 episodes in their shows. They both have a one-off insect-person hybrid episode in their first few episodes, who goes romantically after one of their close friends.
  • Buffy runs away at the end of season 2 after she kills angel and spends time in Los Angeles. Clark runs away at the end of season 2 after he kills his unborn sibling, and he spends time in Metropolis.
  • The end of Buffy was somewhat confusing due to the presence of numerous potential slayers. Smallville is currently confusing due to all the Kandorians.
  • All the other slayers in Buffy either die or become problem slayers. All the other Kryptonians in SV either die or become problem Kandorians.
  • Buffy's mom dies in season 5 in a predictable tragedy, the other parent is still alive but doesn't matter. Clark's pa dies in season 5, in a predictable tragedy, the other parent is still around but doesn't matter.
  • Buffy focused on vampires and freaks of the week in seasons 1 and 2, expanding to different mythology enemies in season 3. Smallville focused on the Luthors and FOTW in seasons 1 and 2, I think we meet Morgan Edge in season 3, and later on Brainiac, Doomsday, etc.
  • There's a single bar/pub where everybody in Sunnnydale hangs out: The Bronze. There's only one place where SV people hang out: the Talon. Since SV is aimed at the CW crowd it's a fancy coffee shop that serves mocha java frapuccino lattees with whip cream rather than a dive bar.
  • For both shows, season six is season sux.
  • Apocalyptic high school graduations in both shows.
  • Buffy dies in season 5. Clark dies in season 5.
  • In season 5 of Buffy, "perfect" Riley Finn develops addiction problems, and goes to be sucked by a vampire, in part to overcome the lack of intimacy he feels from Buffy. In season 5 of Smallville, "perfect" Lana Lang gets injections of krypto-death, to see her dead parents and in part to overcome the lack of intimacy she gets from Clark.
Please fill in the other 140 items I am neglecting.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Wall Street Vanity License Plates

Images below are taken from Andrew Sorkin's blog.

They're apparently owned by Robert Kindler, a vice chairman of Morgan Stanley.

Palin supporters

A funny video of Sarah Palin supporters.

I got it from this blog post by Matt Taibbi, which is the best analysis I've read:
Taibbi on Palin

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

List and Comments: "Magic Lust" Episodes in Smallville

This list is for reference purposes and I expect to be updating this page with edits several times. I used to think there were only 3 such cases in SV, with Desiree Atkins, Simone and Maxima, but rewatching it I realize there have been many more. I'm not done rewatching :-)

Huxley vs Orwell

This one is very funny, albeit very one-sided in my opinion. It makes Orwell look completely incorrect, I think he deserves more credit.

Click on the image to view it without the right part cut off.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bookkeeping: Links to Tribune, CUPJ articles

Put out for personal bookkeeping purposes.

As of now, my non-academic "publications" are made up entirely of the CUPJ and the McGill Tribune. I'm proud of each of the CUPJ pieces, though there's more diversity in the Tribune articles, naturally, since there's 30 of them. For the more interesting ones, I add comments in bold and in brackets. I couldn't find some of the Tribune articles, such as the 2nd and 3rd conservative leadership race articles. There are probably some other less interesting Tribune articles missing, but if I don't remember them ...

Also missing are the two McGill Daily columns I wrote on facebook, and the the pieces I wrote for the Champlain Edge. I'd show the former but maybe not the latter :P