Archive for the ‘Rant-A-Roni’ Category

i know it’s an opinion piece, but the BBC should do better than this.

10 September 2012

BBC presenter Jon Stewart had an article published online today that claims we need a new kind of internal combustion engine, because the Otto cycle engines in common use still have “similar” fuel economy numbers to the Model T.

here’s a link to it. go read it and come back. i’ll wait.

now, let’s examine his argument. first, i’ll compare the Model T (the most popular car of its time) to the Toyota Corolla (most popular car now), instead of his entirely hypothetical “modern car.” this will allow me to use actual figures, rather than generalizations of questionable utility.

Stewart states that the Model T had “a claimed fuel economy of 13-21 miles per gallon” and the typical modern car has “a slightly improved fuel economy of somewhere in the range of 20-30mpg.” the base or standard model US-market Corolla gets 27-35 mpg; using his numbers, modern vehicles get around 50% better fuel economy than the Model T. the Corolla gets slightly better than that. either way is hardly “slightly improved.”

but, according to Stewart, this is not enough. a fair enough assertion, actually, given the environmental state of the planet and the sheer number of vehicles on the road. but is it really the ‘fault’ of the Otto-cycle engine? is it really lacking in ‘efficiency’?

the Model T, according to Stewart, got 20 hp out of a 2.9 liter engine. that’s about 6.9 hp/liter. his hypothetical “modern” car lacks a defined displacement, but produces 200 hp. our base US Corolla gets 132 hp out of a 1.8, for 73 (and a bit) hp/liter. ten times the specific output would seem quite a bit more efficient, depending on how one measures efficiency.

which is where the author throws in a slightly silly curve ball. he points out (via a quote from an engineer shilling the revolutionary new engine we’re supposed to be switching to) that the “efficiency” of the internal combustion engine has been stuck at 33% for “100 years.” well, yes. and at the same time, no.

what this engineer appears to be referring to is thermal efficiency, an entirely different thing from (although not unrelated subject to) fuel efficiency. the Otto cycle (which is really what we’re talking about here) is, in practice, often a bit less than 33% thermally efficient. numbers in the mid 20-percent range are much more rational. these numbers are entirely normal in the real world, particularly given the compression ratios required for spark-ignition petroleum engines. an ‘ideal’ Otto-cycle engine, working in a (nonexistent) perfect environment would have to near 16:1 compression before it approached 70% efficiency. the Model T had a paltry 4.5:1 compression ratio, and our Corolla example has a 9.8:1 ratio. in other words, thermal efficiency is a less-than-entirely useful measuring stick.

where modern engines excel is in the maximum extraction of heat from fuel; that’s why they have a greater specific output and (only) 50% or so better fuel efficiency than the Model T. if your heat efficiency is stuck by physics at 30% or so (as it is), then you would be best served by increasing the amount of heat you get from a specific volume or mass of fuel. modern engines burn leaner and hotter than their predecessors; they use less fuel to produce more heat. they may function at the same level of heat efficiency, but the actual fuel efficiency is much improved.

and, perhaps worst of all, he ignores the elephant in the room of the fuel economy argument: weight. the Model T weighed a paltry 1200 pounds; the modern Toyota Corolla is over 2800. this directly impacts fuel economy (and should impact any discussion of real-world efficiency); the Toyota’s engine must perform 2.5 times the work of the Model T’s. even if we assume the best case for published fuel economy (in miles per gallon) for the Ford and worst case for the Toyota, the modern car is still getting over twice the amount of work done per unit of fuel than the older.

are there still places to make improvements? of course. but that takes baby steps based in real-world observation. unfortunately, the incremental improvement towards a mature technology is ignored or denigrated by Stewart. he seems to seek a eureka solution, some great leap forward. that’s not really how technology works, dude.

quote of the day:

“Statistics are no substitute for judgment.” – Henry Clay

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thoughts on the new gay Green Lantern…

2 June 2012

first off: much of this complaint will be based in issues i have with the DCnU. although several books are very good, the overall tone is rather bleak. many of the changes have seemed intent on changing things that were good needlessly for the bad. and i dislike most reboots on general principle anyway. please keep this in mind as you read on, or take it as a place to turn back. also, i’m going to ignore the obvious jokes about the new/old gay character’s weakness being wood.

so, DC Comics has been telling fans for some time now that they would change an existing, iconic character gay.

i didn’t have a problem with this.

gay or straight, a hero is still a hero. and having one of DC’s existing characters “come out” (even as a retcon) would send a powerful message of acceptance. and DC claims to have have done so.

however, what they have done in actuality is create a new character with the same name as an old one, in a secondary alternate universe. this is not the main DCnU; this is a parallel Earth (Earth-2, in DC Comics parlance), less important than the main Earth-0. although things that happen on Earth-2 “matter,” they are by design less important than events on the primary Earth.

so this new character is already marginalized.

and instead of the iconic Alan Scott, the first character to be named “Green Lantern,” with a cohesive publication history and characterization dating back to the 1940s, this character is a young man in the 21st century. gone is the elder statesman of the superhero community with two children; instead, we are given a young business leader with a power ring.

so we’ve got a faceless cipher of a character in a backwater setting; what was the point of this evolution again?

what DC should have done was keep the pre-Flashpoint time scale for the Justice Society, instead of giving them the same origin (essentially) as the Earth-0 Justice League (albeit on another Earth). the pre-Flashpoint Alan Scott would have had the complexity of having been a closeted gay man in the 1940s; coming out now would have created a multitude of story possibilities. what would the reaction of his friends, family and fans have been? would there have been a public backlash? how would people have reacted to that backlash? this Alan Scott has adult children, a son and daughter. that son, Obsidian, is gay; would GL feel guilt for his son’s orientation? how would the father-son dynamic have been affected? (they didn’t have the best relationship).

there are just so many ways an established character, this one in particular, could have been used to explore real LGBT issues. instead, we get just another character who doesn’t matter overmuch.

rant aside, i do like the creative team working on this, and they seem enthusiastic. there’s just so much better ways this could have been done.

quote of the day:

“Stop the innocent act. You’re aware of the complexities of this world; you’re just choosing to ignore them.” – Alan Scott, Justice Society of America Vol. 3, No. 19

thoughts on marriage…

2 August 2011

first, let me preface this with some information about myself:

i’m a single never-wed heterosexual male who self-identifies as a classical liberal or libertarian. i voted for H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. i was raised Lutheran, and consider myself to be a Christian, even though i am infrequent in my church attendance. i consider myself to be culturally a “Southerner.” i listen to a lot of Rush Limbaugh and NPR.

i’m not a raving left-wing loony (though i know more than a few) or a right-wing Teatard (i know a few of those as well).

so, marriage.

the same-sex marriage debate is raging in this country, and has been since at least 1970 (when James McConnell and Richard Baker applied for a marriage license in Minnesota). but recently, it’s reached a peak with the growth in legal recognition across New England.

this, of course, has social conservatives livid and liberals hopeful.

but nobody really seems to be considering what marriage is, and whether the government has any business in it at all.

we know that marriage – in one form or another – predates written history. there are any number of definitions of marriage, varying widely across cultures, allowing for near-infinite permutations of partners.

what seems common across all of them – including the traditional US definitions – is that a marriage establishes a legal familial relationship, with defined rights and obligations to the members of that family unit. therefore, marriage is essentially a contract between individuals. as a private contract, the state has no business in defining the terms of that contract unless it can prove harm to the community.

it is difficult to imagine how same-sex (or polygamous) marriages could logically be shown to harm the community at large; instead, we are confronted with moral arguments, based in almost entirely in religion.

which again makes one wonder what right the state has to interfere; if marriage is a religious ritual, then the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution would seem to apply. as a religious ritual, the state’s recognition of only one narrow definition of that ritual is de facto establishment.

which brings me to my point: the government, whether state or federal, has no real business defining marriage at all. if it is a purely contractual agreement, then the definition of that agreement is up to the parties involved. if it is a religious ritual, assuming it does not cause harm to innocents, it’s none of the government’s business.

naysayers have claimed that a failure to define marriage as being between a man and a woman will lead to mass insanity; persons marrying inanimate objects and animals. i would suggest that cats and toasters cannot enter into contracts, and a human wedding a turtle could be demonstrated to be harmful to that turtle’s well-being.

but between two men or two women? or three men and two women? or one woman and two men? or a woman and a man?

it’s none of the state’s business.

and it’s not the state’s business to force churches, mosques or synagogues to perform rituals they don’t adhere to, either. so if a church doesn’t want to perform a wedding ceremony for a couple, they shouldn’t have to. the state, however, cannot be so choosy. what is legal for one must be legal for all: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” not “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

quote of the day:

“Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” – Abraham Lincoln, 27 February 1860

just not feeling…

1 March 2011

the new bicycle “guide markings” (a.k.a. bike lanes) along Chapel and John streets in downtown Charleston.

some of you may ask, “Don’t you ride a bike downtown often?”

and yes, i do. in fact, i ride along Chapel and John almost daily. i also realize the new “markings” are an attempt by the city to live up to and improve upon their new status as a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community. doesn’t mean they aren’t a bad implementation of a bad idea.

first, they’re too narrow to actually be bike lanes. this is because the entire street is too narrow to support bike lanes, motor vehicle lanes, and parking.

second, they are going to be fairly inaccessible for much of their length, much of the time due to the aforementioned parking. for example, today i rode along John St. twice in a three hour period; for that entire time, there was a semi rig, a box truck, and a luxury coach parked along the sides of just one block of the road. needless to say, you couldn’t ride inside the “guide markings” there. this ignores all the SUVs and trucks whose owners are unable to park within a parking space, causing one to have to ride around them as well.

third, let’s assume it’s raining. yes, people do ride bikes in the rain. particularly when they use them for transportation. if it’s raining, and the cyclist has to move in and out of the “guide markings,” the wide white stripes – painted with highly reflective paint – will be as slick as black ice to cross. which will only add to the cyclist’s danger.

fourth, bike lanes (particularly as treated in South Carolina law) are terrible. in South Carolina, a cyclist is required to use a bike lane if one exists. instead of reinforcing the fact that bicycles are vehicles, this segregation makes cyclists second-class citizens relegated to the door zone. motorists assume, therefore, that they have primary rights to the roadways and that bicycles are merely toys, preventing the mutual respect that is needed between all road users. bike lanes should be like HOV lanes; reserved to their particular user, but not a requirement for that user.

an additional problem with bike lanes is the lack of directional markings; i can’t count the number of times i’ve encountered bike riders going the wrong way in bike lanes. once again, segregation (combined with a lack of education) causes problems. the unclear status of the lane (is it really part of the roadway) and the bicycle (is it legally a vehicle) makes it more dangerous than no lane at all.

this isn’t to say there aren’t good things municipalities can do; i love sharrows. they’re clear in meaning, provide directional guidance, and reaffirm the cyclist’s right to the road.

but bike lanes? literally, nothing is better.

quote of the day:

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” – Groucho Marx

i want a…

11 January 2011

hybrid automobile.

and those of you out there who have heard me expound on the subject before are probably surprised.

the kicker is that i want a hybrid car that doesn’t exist, and may never exist, due to the peculiar nature of the automobile market.

the U.S. is the world’s biggest market for hybrid cars; Europe is firmly (and wisely) wedded to diesel technology, while South America is likely to follow Brazil’s lead and emphasize ethanol. countries in the Far East, namely China and Russia, are also working to wean off of petroleum and onto alcohol fuels.

the reason the U.S. so likes hybrids is because it’s scared of diesels; ever since the horrendous crap GM produced in the 1970s and 1980s, “diesel” has been a dirty word for anything but trucks. couple this with the way U.S. fuel standards lagged behind the rest of the world in things like sulfur content, and it’s amazing there are many diesel cars in the U.S. at all.

but what i want is a diesel-electric hybrid. diesel engines have some telling efficiencies over gasoline, and diesel fuel contains more energy by volume than gasoline. so let me explain the details, and you all can tell me how crazy i am.

1. i want four-wheel drive. not for performance, but safety. make this thing a plug-in series-hybrid, where the diesel engine turns a generator to charge the batteries. put a motor at each wheel, and cycle them on or off as needed. don’t forget the regenerative braking.

2. i want a 60-mile electric-only range. don’t tell me it’s not possible. make the body and chassis out of reclaimed plastics and composites; make it light and safe. tiny garage companies have been doing it (and meeting safety regulations) since the 1990s… one of the big boys should be able to do the same.

and this one’s the kicker:

3. i want the car to function as a generator at home. in a power outage the charging station should disconnect the house from mains power, start the car, and then run the house grid from the generator output.

a boy can dream, can’t he?

quote of the day:

“If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed and if we are not willing to change, we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau

“Green” Fair rant(esque) spasm…

19 September 2010

the third annual Charleston Green Fair is coming up and, while it doesn’t have any exhibitors quite as derision-prone as the infamous “clean coal” booth, it still seems to be a shining example of how “green” is missing the point.

i’m not a “greenie” or a “tree-hugger,” and i’m certainly no “progressive,” but i do believe that we should be proper stewards of our planet (if only for our own self-preservation).

so i recycle, ride my bike for transport as much as possible, drive a fuel-efficient car, etc. but i don’t have the almost religious adherence to the “green” cause that many of its members seem to.

anyway, i was browsing the Green Fair’s list of exhibitors – and it makes me wonder how obtuse some people can be.

so let’s take a look at some of them, shall we?

the first to catch my eye (but not the one that caused my crankiness) was Bota Box Wines. now, ignoring any virtues of the wine itself, the company stakes its green cred on its packaging – the “box” in the company name. box wine has been around for quite a while now, and there are definite virtues to the package – at least from the point of keeping the wine drinkable. but Bota claims their box is a better environmental choice than glass, which i sincerely doubt. according to their literature, the box is “100% recyclable.” guess what? so is a wine bottle. the internal bag takes up 85% less landfill space than a wine bottle – a recyclable glass wine bottle. assuming a natural cork (and yes, i know there are problems there), the traditional package is 100% recyclable or biodegradable. and while the initial environmental production cost for glass is much higher than for their box, the near-infinite number of times it can be recycled outweighs this.

so, basically, they’re missing the point. don’t throw out your bottles, recycle them. oh, and one other thing: that inner bag? in the landfill forever. the glass bottle? in a few thousand years, it eventually breaks and returns to sand.

hey, look: Costco is a sponsor. Costco has loads of environmental issues, from their office supplies to their seafood. they’re working to be better, but there’s more than a hint of “greenwashing” coming from their actions. sponsoring a local Green Fair seems like it might fall into that category.

Lightning Bugz Electric Vehicles is an exhibitor; they rent electric low-speed vehicles, primarily to the tourist/vacationer market. i have huge issues with hybrid and electric cars (even souped-up golf carts like these); they offer false economy and have huge disposal issues. while i admit that i’d prefer visitors drive one of these instead of a mucking great SUV, what ever happened to bicycles or shank’s mare?

but the source of my vitriol and the sponsor i most have to laugh at? Subaru of Charleston. now, i love Subaru cars. the Impreza WRX STI is a brutal little bullet of a performance car, and the Legacy 2.5GT is (IMHO) a viable alternative to a BMW 3-series. but green? you’ve got to be kidding. their absolute most efficient model gets 22 MPG (combined). Honda and Toyota’s least efficient cars get 21 and 23, respectively. their Tribeca SUV is pretty thirsty, too – though not much worse than other vehicles in its class.

Subaru is easily the least green of the Japanese car companies, and here they are sponsoring a Green Fair. it’s all about image. they sell the image of an outdoor lifestyle and have the reasonable expectation that most of their target market will buy it.

people think they want to be “green.” but they don’t really want to make the sacrifices required. this year’s Green Fair is just more proof of that. so do your research before you buy an image.

quote of the day:

“He who reforms himself has done more towards reforming the public than a crowd or noisy, impotent patriots.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater

thoughts on the proposed City of Charleston bike ordinance:

20 July 2010

so, i didn’t go to the Charleston city council meeting today, and have no idea what was or was not decided at the meeting.

but the proposed ordinance, as discussed here and here (among other places), has some serious issues – particularly given the City’s uneven enforcement of extant laws in the past.

the current bike registration law is flawed, but this new one is actually worse. currently, the law requires all bikes used in the city to be registered with the police. i’m not resident in the city, but i still use my bikes there. under current law, CPD can confiscate my bikes as unregistered. and they have done this to those who have left bikes locked to actual racks in the past, but didn’t have a city decal.

i’m not going to buy a decal from the city. if i had to buy a decal from every jurisdiction i rode my bicycles through, you’d nowt be able to see the paint.

but let’s say i was going to buy their decal for each of my bikes.

of the four bikes i ride regularly, the newest is two years old and the oldest is twenty. two of them were built by me from parts. i am the original owner for all of them. the city requires that a receipt of sale be produced on registration. strangely, i don’t have a receipt for the Trek i bought twenty years ago and 250 miles away. neither do i have a receipt for the two bikes i built from parts; i could, perhaps, provide them with rather thick files on both. and in another case, a friend of mine has personally built two of his bikes from scratch – they don’t even have serial numbers to be recorded!

of course, the city will still register bikes without a proof of sale; they just charge you more.

so i could spend $20 for the dubious benefit of having the CPD record my serial numbers. yeah, sod that.

the new ordinance proposes an increase in the fee. hooray. it also makes parking a bike at any location other than a bike rack a crime, with a $45 fee to get the bike back. now, i can’t find any of my old parking tickets the city put on my car, but i know they were all quite bit less than $45. and there’s plenty of places to park your car, naysayers aside. not so much for bikes.

and i’m not even going to start on the sidewalk riding crap.

but all of this points to a perception of bicycles as toys, rather than valid transportation choices. for a city that supposedly wants to be considered as “bike friendly,” that’s a pretty cruddy attitude to take.

quote of the day:

“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man.  Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish.  Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” – Iris Murdoch

because the intarwebs haven’t been blown up enough,

2 July 2010

here’s my take on the new Wonder Woman costume:

ugh.

to expand:

there are things i really, really like about this costume. for example, pants. i realize that Diana is nigh-invulnerable, often expressed as second only to Superman in power, and therefore could fight evil in a thong back swimsuit. and, as a guy, i can recognize the appeal of the swimsuit look. but she’s the princess of the Amazons; she should have some dignity. not having her cheeks hanging out in the breeze kind of works better for that.

i also like the top (in this image, anyway). it seems to have some sort of support mechanism, perhaps even a cap sleeve or other shoulder/arm covering. once again, i understand Wonder Woman is tough. but indestructible mammaries bouncing around seems like it would get in the way. this top looks as if it would perhaps prevent such things. sadly, in Wonder Woman #600, the neckline is cut lower and the sleeves/straps/whatever are merely thin spaghetti style straps.

oh, and the belt is awesome. except, i’m sure, for whatever poor bastard has to draw it.

but the rest of the outfit? fail.

the jacket and choker are straight out of the bad old days of the 1990s; all she needs are some pouches to finish the ensemble. the jacket in particular is hideous, with its short length and improbable ability to actually close. the round pauldron-like shoulder pads make me think she stole the jacket from a midget MFP trooper as well.

the half-gloves/bracelets are more than a little over-the-top, especially since Diana can now pimp-slap a “W” logo onto dudes’ heads with them. really? how is this supposed to grow the character? plus, the Amazons’ bracelets were intended to forever remind them of their time as slaves; those don’t look like very practical manacles. they look like somebody thought the classic design was too bland and they could bling it up a bit.

i don’t know what to say about the tiara. is that a tiara? it looks like a hair band or something.

the strange strap things on her shoes are, apparently, supposed to be for spurs. really? since the back story reboot has Diana growing up an orphan in NYC, why would she be needing spurs? sure, there are bridle paths in Central Park. i know that. is Diana going to be relaxing a-horseback in her off time? and why leave the straps on her boots? it seems inconvenient.

like a lot of others, i think i would have preferred something closer to Jamie McKelvie’s Wonder Woman design of a few years ago (before he was as big as he is now):

similar to the new costume, but not as fussy, and definitely more obviously “Wonder Woman.”

this new costume is temporary; we all know that. before long, the timeline in Wonder Woman will revert to that of the mainstream DCU, and Diana will get her history and clothes back. but it sure would have been nice if this change wasn’t something i’m looking forward to seeing leave.

quote of the day:

“Bees. My God.” – Batman, Amazons Attack #3

George should have quit while he was ahead.

26 May 2010

because yesterday was Star Wars Day (and Towel Day, and Geek Pride Day), i decided to try re-watching the original trilogy as if i had never seen it before.

needless to say, this wasn’t particularly easy; i saw Star Wars eleven times between 1977 and 1979. which is a lot for a kindergartner. so i’m steeped in the mythos, and somewhat inescapably biased. but i still think i sort of pulled it off.

my “new” opinions of the films are necessarily influenced by which version i watched. i made the choice to watch the 2004 DVD release, as it’s the only version i own of all three films on DVD.

and my overwhelming opinion of the three films is that George should have quit in 1983. or maybe even 1977.

with that in mind, let’s go!

Star Wars:

you know, this is a pretty fun movie. it could be a lot better, but it’s not bad at all.

the plot’s kind of formulaic; even if i hadn’t seen it (many times) before, i would have thought i’d seen it before. but that’s understandable – Lucas borrowed (or stole) much of it wholesale from 隠し砦の三悪人, and then mixed it with the sensibilities of old Flash Gordon serials. there’s nowt wrong with this recycling, though. the universal nature of the plot makes the film approachable; the archetypal characters let the viewer feel a connected to the story without the baggage of having to actually know anything about them. farmboy? check. mysterious old man? check. dashing rogue? check. damsel in distress? check. super-evil badass? check. they’re all instantly recognizeable, and combined with the obvious plot (save the princess – from the dragon/monster/evil king/whatever – and get her home safe) makes Lucas’ at times clunky writing and direction passable.

the actors were brilliantly cast. admittedly, much of this opinion is probably informed by my prior familiarity with them. but even so, Lucas managed to assemble a fantastic group of people for this film. 1970s haircuts aside, Hamill and Ford are tone perfect in their roles – each is instantly believable as their characters. and Sir Alec Guinness? best of all. even though he hated the role.

and then it falls down. the special effects are awful. not the period practical effects; they fit the overall look of the film. but the CGI is terrible. as much as i hate the “go back and change things” movement that colorization started and Lucas has embraced wholeheartedly, i almost hope George goes back and re-does his re-dos. the textures are flat, the light balances are off, the inserted effects “float” on the screen instead of meshing – it’s just all bad. the period effects, while sometimes dated (ooooh! look! wireframe graphics! it’s the futurrrrre!), all look appropriate to the film. it’s dirty and clunky – just like a rag-tag rebellion against a galaxy-spanning evil empire would be. and the insertions didn’t really get any better in the other two.

but this film, i think, may be the point at which Lucas should have stopped – though market pressures wouldn’t necessarily let him. the first film has a beginning, middle and end. Luke and Han’s heroic arcs could be seen as complete; Han has embraced his heroic side over his raffish nature, and Luke has become a man. period. done. good guys win.

but the market wanted more, as evidenced by the facts that Star Wars played continuously in some markets for over a year, and was re-released in 1978 and 1979.

so George made The Empire Strikes Back:

you know, this is a lot stronger film. it’s much better written and directed… oh. that’s why. George just came up with the story.

but it’s missing something; the first film was an innocent romp. sure, there was evil. and even torture. but in this one? wow. chopping up poor Tauntauns because Luke’s to dumb to stay away from the dangerous wildlife? poor Dak getting stepped on by a giant robot camel. Artoo gets all dirty, 3PO gets broken into bits, Han gets pincushioned and frozen, Leia has to learn some strange new hairstyles, Luke gets his hand chopped off…

it’s just so inescapably gloomy. ok, sure, Lucas was making a trilogy by this point, and you needed a low point for the heroes to overcome.

but does Yoda have to be such a jerk? really? he’s an opinionated and greedy little bastard. and perhaps senile.

moving on.

Return (Revenge) of the Jedi:

hey! boobs!

but i get ahead of myself.

back to Tatooine. Luke sure has become a bad dude. but did he go back and study with Yoda some more? (we find out later that he didn’t. or maybe did. it’s not clear). doesn’t matter, really. the mind control thing was cute – i wonder if it’s just Tatooine it works on? we’ve not seen it anywhere else, i don’t think.

so, again: boobs!

i hope Carrie Fisher got a nice paycheck for this film. and the green tentacle-head girl, too.

Luke gets to fight Jabba’s pet monster, wins, and then we get (man-)boobs!

George sure managed to cram a lot of boobs in the first third of this film.

so, anyway, fight-fight-fight. chop up all the funny looking guards. Boba Fett goes down like a chump. fly away.

Luke bops on back to Dagobah; Yoda’s still kind of a jerk. but Luke’s real deferential. that’s nice, i guess. whoo – and then he vanished. just like Obi-Wan. so i guess all Jedi just kinda vapourize when they die. at least you don’t have magic space knight corpses lying around, then.

nifty war council; they’ve sure gotten better displays than in the first film. still a ton of vector-style graphics (you know, because it’s the futurrrrre!). most important, however, is they got the band back together. they need to do one last show to save the orphanage… wait. wrong film.

anywho, our heroes fly down to this moon (moon? that’s a big darned moon. and what is it with George and moons, anyway?) and meet a bunch of cute little teddybear critters that want to eat them and think the somewhat excessively fabulous robot is a god.

seriously.

so Luke lets himself get captured (farmboys; no sense of tactics), Lando (still the only black man in the galaxy. well, other than Darth Vader’s voice) leads a seemingly suicidal attack against the Imperial fleet in a freighter, and our remaining heroes team up with the cuddly bears to beat the lasergun armed baddies with rocks. makes no sense at all, at all. but it does work as spectacle; it’s definitely a Saturday morning serial sort of sensibility.

and the shield goes down, the home hot-rod freighter is faster (and better gunned) than all the purpose-built fighter craft (even those built by the aforementioned galaxy-spanning Empire), and Luke chops his dad’s hand off. take that, dad! and you never remembered my birthday, either!

Dad Vader tosses the evil Emperor down a well (Lassie! Timmy’s down a well again!), so it’s all good again, right?

which makes me want to know, why did Luke have to burn his body? shouldn’t he have evaporated like the rest of the Jedi? we really need to pollute the teddy bear moon with those crazy looking fumes?

and then there’s a party. a HUGE party, apparently; everybody, everywhere is dancing like it’s a crazy rave or something. and i do mean everywhere.

are they all just glad it’s over? how did they know the wicked witch was dead? space Twitter? i really want to know. what do you put in 140 characters for that? what would the hashtags be?

in conclusion;

Lucas should really have stopped in 1977. as much as i love the sequels, Star Wars really should have stood alone. barring that, he should have left them as they were in 1983 (even though he’d already gone back and started re-tweaking). but he didn’t. and we got the prequels. which i refuse to discuss. though they are very pretty.

hope everyone had a good Towel Day!

quote of the day:

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”  – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

i hate this part…

21 January 2010

you know, when you can’t think of anything to write about? i need some sort of note-taking thing that’s wired into my brain (c’mon DARPA, help me out here – i know you’re working on it) so i can “take notes” without having to take notes. clear?

it seems when just wandering (well, stumbling bemusedly) through my day, i have all these little random thoughts that seem really interesting at the time. i carry a notebook, but often these ideas hit me when it’s not accessible. or when it would be inappropriate to pull out and start scribbling. or dangerous; the morning commute comes to mind.

so, all my great internal flowerings of wit bloom and die, unseen by the outside world (that means y’all). you don’t know what you’re missing. and, honestly, neither do i. if i could remember them, i’d write them down.

so, some random space fillers, in no particular order:

1. the HCBC is gearing up for the new decade. we’ve got a work space, and plan to have regular hours for folks to come by and work on their bikes with our tools “real soon now.” we’re also going to move our workshops into the space, making them a “rain or shine” event for the future. keep an eye out for an open invitation to an upcoming open house.

2. i really wish they didn’t have the SPCA bring dogs on the radio that need adoption. not because i wish ill for the dogs or the SPCA, but because it makes me sad. and it’s hard to drive to work or class if i’m bummed out. i don’t have the room or the funds to adopt a dog right now (and let’s not dwell on my antipathy towards cats), but every time i hear about these critters on the radio i want to bring them home. so you have to do it for me.

3. did we really need a remake of Clash of the Titans? i mean, the greatest attraction of the original are the Harryhausen special effects. well, and Ursula Andress. but i digress. the new film will be all seamless CGI, like Avatar and the Star Wars prequels. it seems to me (though this may be my not-well-hidden inner curmudgeon creeping out) that back when the effects guys were actually trying to create a realistic effect in the corporeal world, it gave us a better experience than the “throw tons of cpu cycles at it” approach. i know that the spaceships in the prequels look “cooler” (or, at least, smother) than those in the original trilogy, but they are less “real” because of it. if you’re going to make a film about big blue people, put some dudes in rubber suits.

4. the new Jaguar XJ is hot. i got to check it out up close, in detail at Baker Motor Company‘s launch event (now i just need a test drive). it’s got a very Citroën-inspired feel to the rear quarters. i like it a lot. but why are we only getting the V8 cars? i want the diesel! it’s only half a second slower to 60 mph than the non-supercharged V8 car (6 seconds versus 5.4), and gets 40 mpg combined. combined! did i mention significantly lower (than the petrol) CO2 emissions, with the same top speed (155 mph, in Europe)? and it runs around $11 thousand less for similar trim levels.

5. i’m beginning to loathe the term “graphic novel.” i really enjoy comic books. but not every comic book is a graphic novel. so stop calling them all that. Maus is a graphic novel. Pride of Baghdad is a graphic novel. Watchmen, V for Vendetta – graphic novels. some random storyline, contiguous in nature, collected in a single volume? Excalibur Classic, Vol. 1? not a graphic novel (good comic, though). just because it’s been collected and has a convenient unifying label hung on it doesn’t mean it’s a graphic novel. comic books are ongoing or single issue pamphlet-format works that tell a story without a preordained resolution. one could, perhaps, make the case for some one-shots as “graphic short stories,” but even most of them are beholden to external continuity. a graphic novel, on the other hand, is a story told through the same visual forms as the comic book (whether initially serialized or not) that has a beginning, middle and end. it is a contained story where the author is trying to either tell that story or expand on a larger theme. Maus, for example, tells the story of one man’s life during the Holocaust. it, therefore, is a contained story. Art Spiegelman is using the form of the comic to tell that story and make his points – he could have used other forms to do the same thing. Claremont and Davis really couldn’t have chosen another format for Excalibur, and there’s no resolution. the title ran on another 120 issues or so, through multiple creative teams, until it finally petered out. that’s not a novel, and neither are the smaller chunks – whatever titles you want to hang on them.

whew!

for not having anything to write about, i managed to burp out quite a bit. if you made it this far, i hope you enjoyed today’s maunderings. cheers!

quote of the day:

“Life and love are life and love, a bunch of violets is a bunch of violets, and to drag in the idea of a point is to ruin everything. Live and let live, love and let love, flower and fade, and follow the natural curve, which flows on, pointless.” – D.H. Lawrence