Thursday, October 31, 2002

Fascinating. Hewlett-Packard has apparently agreed to help the Vatican put its library online. Read more.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

It's becoming an increasingly obvious and depressing fact for struggling writers today that the lion's share of money available from publishers for "new" books is being doled out in the thousands to—parasites. For a sample, read this dish from the New York Post.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Waiting for official confirmation from the actor's web site, but there's a very good chance that Christopher Lee will replace the late Richard Harris in the role of Professor Dumbledore for the next Harry Potter movies.

Monday, October 28, 2002

The New York Times says today, The family of Richard Harris will remember him at a small private funeral in London before scattering his ashes in the Bahamas, where he had a home, the actor's agent said Saturday.

He is remembered as the roistering star of "This Sporting Life,'' "A Man Called Horse,'' and two Harry Potter films.

There were better films he made that will probably not be mentioned in all the tributes you read about the Irish actor who died over the weekend at the age of 72.

I'll mention two:
The Molly Maguires and
Juggernaut.

The Mollys is an underrated film about the infiltration of the Irish band of insurgents who terrorized Pennsylvania mining companies in the late 19th century in order to improve working conditions. Harris played the Irish immigrant who betrays Sean Connery (fresh out his James Bond straight-jacket and performing brilliantly) and his men.

Juggernaut, lost in the hype surrounding the moronic Poseidon Adventure that came out the year before, was an excellent thriller that featured Harris as a bomb specialist called in to defuse a device planted inside a huge liner.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Arts & Letters Daily has been rescued. Excellent news for one of the best sites on the Internet....

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Google is beginning to eliminate sites from its database. Read more. Could your site be next?
Andrew Sullivan: "Here's what I want to know: why hasn't anyone in the press asked Carter and Clinton what they now think of their legacy in North Korea? Why are these people never ever called to account?"

Indeed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Alert independent filmmakers everywhere:

Imagine this: while interviewing students for a documentary about inner-city schools, a filmmaker accidentally captures a television playing in the background, in which you can just make out three seconds of an episode of "The Little Rascals." He can't include the interview in his film unless he gets permission from the copyright holder to use the three seconds of TV footage. After dozens of phone calls to The Hal Roach Studio, he is passed along to a company lawyer who tells him that he can include the fleeting glimpse of Alfalfa in his nonprofit film, but only if he's willing to pay $25,000. He can't, and so he cuts the entire scene.

Read more.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

What's fascinating to me about this find (below) is—if genuine—it would complement the work of a late French anthropologist whose studies might have had more of an impact had he lived to finish his translations.

The one slim volume summarizing the theory of Jean Carmignac, can, fortunately, still be found at Amazon here. What's striking about it is that no one thought of this idea sooner.

Carmignac's work on the Dead Sea Scrolls exposed him to many 'semitisms' as he called them, Hebraic expressions in Aramaic that seemed strikingly similar to many of the expressions used by Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels.

As an experiment, he decided to try and translate the Gospel of Mark, still believed to have been written originally in Greek, into the Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls period. He assumed, since the two languages (ancient Greek and Hebrew) are so different, that it would be difficult. In fact, however, Carmignac reported that it took less than an afternoon to translate half of Mark into perfect
Hebrew consonant with the period of the Scrolls. To him, this was strong evidence that the Gospel was in fact a pain-staking translation into Greek of a now lost Hebrew original.

If this is true, and I hope some enterprising anthropologists out there are working on this, then it means that the Gospels were redacted much earlier than currently thought. Carmignac himself thought Mark and Matthew were written down before 50 AD (if memory serves). But even John he set down well within the first century of Christ, no later. This makes the events and sayings of Christ appear all the more closer to the real thing....
An inscription in stone, found in or near Jerusalem and written in a language and script of 2,000 years ago, bears the words "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus."

That could well be the earliest artifact ever found relating to the historical Jesus, a French scholar has concluded in an analysis of the inscription being published this week in the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review.


Read more here. And here.

Monday, October 21, 2002

For freedom. There's nothing like it: Seeing watchtowers abandoned and the prison guards standing passively by or actively supporting them as they charged into the cell blocks, the crowd seemed to realize that they were experiencing, if only briefly, a new Iraq, where the people, not the government, was sovereign. Chants of "Down Bush! Down Sharon!" referring to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, faded. In one cell block, a guard smiled broadly at an American photographer, raised his thumb, and said, "Bush! Bush!" Elsewhere, guards offered an English word almost never heard in Iraq. "Free!" they said. "Free!"

Read more of this excellent report on the freeing of prisoners in Iraq by John Burns.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Streisand Democrats: Then there's Barbra Streisand, who seems to have swallowed the post-Clinton Democratic party. Once upon a time, there were New Democrats and Yellow Dog Democrats and all kinds of other Democrats, but now there just seem to be Streisand Democrats. We got a strange glimpse of where the muscle really lay in the middle of Campaign 2000: Al Gore, Barbra told TV Guide, "called from Air Force One for advice. I couldn't take the call. I was in the middle of something."

Read more of Mark Steyn's superb dissection of the Democrats' pathetic dependence on left-wing Hollywood boobs, febes and cretins.

Friday, October 18, 2002

DVDs are becoming the life's blood of the Hollywood Film Industry. This interview with George Lucas' co-producer Rick McCallum, is inspiration for all independent filmmakers.

McCallum says, "I don't think there's a single movie that can survive on box office gross alone; it just doesn't exist anymore," says McCallum. "A theatrical gross can't hack it anymore, and the business is barely surviving right now. This is the biggest potential growth area that we have. Studios need it, or they're gone. They're on the verge of collapse anyway. They are not making money. Anyone who says, or thinks, that they are, is out of their mind."

Read more.
What is going on at Apple? They've known for months that IDG wanted to move Macworld to Boston—and yet on the day the announcement became official, Apple announces it won't be participating.

Is this any way to build an audience?

Thursday, October 17, 2002

The bad news for POD continues, as this sober report in the New York Times illustrates. (That is, bad for the business as well as for the writers who hope to reach an audience on their own dime.)
The Red Sox' No. 1 priority is beating the Yankees. How better to pursue that priority next season than to hire the man who was one of George Steinbrenner's staunchest soldiers, serving as general manager, manager, hitting coach and core player of the 1970's championship teams?

From Piniella's point of view, the idea would be at least as delicious as it would be for the Red Sox to beat their archrivals with one of theirs. Not that Piniella has anything against the Yankees in general or Steinbrenner in particular or has any reason to do them ill, but he would have to relish the challenge to take on the Yankees head to head and attempt to dethrone them in the American League East.


The New York Times' Murray Chass on why Boston should sign Piniella immediately. (registration required) I agree.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Good-bye VHS? "Set-top boxes that could accept hard drives will likely begin to appear next year and become a mass-market phenomenon by 2005 or 2006..."

Read more. From zdnet.com.

David Thomson has a great piece on New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane (one of my favorite writers) in the New Republic. Now that John Simon is retired from National Review, Lane is the best critic in the English language. I did not realize he was English and that he actually flies over to screenings in New York several times a year. No wonder he is so merciless!

Check this out for a veteran journalist's view of how difficult it will be to find out anything in the Iraq of Saddam Hussein.
Michael Kelly, superb as always, on the Nobel Peace prize going to the hapless Jimmy Carter.

I imagine to an entire generation of twenty-somethings, Carter just seems like a nice guy who wants to try and "work things out." They don't realize his zeal for peace has more to do with keeping his profile in the limelight, ever since Ronald Reagan creamed him in the 1980 election.

Speaking of generational familiarity with recent history: Yesterday on the train into work I overheard two recent college grads talking about studying abroad. "I'd love to go to Cuba," said one girl. "But, like, what about this Fidel guy?" (Those were the exact words.)

Yeah, what about him? I mean, like, I hate the way he dresses, you know? Didn't he, like, take over Cuba in a coup, and, like, invite the Soviet Union to install missiles or something?

British film star Christopher Lee was interviewed by Reuters here about his association with James Bond in the movies—and in real life. (Ian Fleming was his cousin.)
At ninety odd years of age, physicist John Archibald Wheeler, who coined the term black hole to describe collapsed stars years before they were discovered, continues to publish engaging papers in the mainstream science journals. His most recent offering, with Daniel Holz of UC Santa Barbara, suggests that scientists could use super-powered lasers to look for black holes throughout the galaxy.

More here.
Gateway joins Hewlett-Packard in dumping Microsoft's expensive Word. Read more. Can't blame them. There are cheaper and better programs. It's annoying especially, now that OS X is here, that users like myself who have been able to get by for 10 years in version 5.1 quite happily feel the need to fork out hundreds of dollars for Word. Corel's Wordperfect is looking better and better to people.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

The Boston Globe's big story last Saturday quoting an MIT physicist as saying that Big Dig officials went far overboard in claiming that 800,000 people crossed the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge on the previous Sunday, when state officials staged the crossover in an effort to take the taxpayers' focus away from the enormous and still-growing cost of the project, was amusing in that it too, like the rest of the media in Massachusetts—was an accomplice in circulating the 800,000 figure to all of its readers. Reporters for newspapers and the electronic media are well aware of the ongoing practice of public officials to exaggerate crowd numbers at parades, political gatherings and other public affairs when it is to their advantage. They shouldn't have swallowed those crowd numbers and if they were naive enough to buy them, their editors presumably have been around long enough to cast a shadow of disbelief on what the overpaid Big Dig PR machine circulated. When one looks at the massive cost to the taxpayers of Massachusetts of the Big Dig, the words of Congressman Barney Frank of Newton who opposed it when he was a state legislator here, come to mind: Rep. Frank predicted, somewhat in jest, that it would be cheaper to raise the City of Boston than to depress the Central Artery!

Can AOL survive? Read today's piece at Salon.
DV editor and columnist Charlie White is glad Apple Computer is dumping Motorola and going for faster chips. But is Steve Jobs too late?
A beloved Milwaukee reporter dies, for the second time. Read more.

Monday, October 14, 2002

When the hell is Madonna going to face up to the reality that she can't act and that no one has any interest in seeing her tired faced and hearing her monotonous voice on film? She should stick to music.
Thanks to Jewish World Review for the reminder: On this day in 1968, the first live telecast from a manned U.S. spacecraft was transmitted from Apollo 7.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

How about this piece on the New Republic:

Reagan's decision to deploy the nuclear missiles--a turning point in the cold war--could not by itself be defended by any universal morality, but it had a vast and profound moral result. The same will be true of an invasion of Iraq, just as it was of our invasion of Afghanistan. Make no mistake: This is a Reaganesque moment. For years intellectuals have pined for simple and consistent moral leadership on life-or-death foreign policy issues, leadership that does not cleverly parse words or twist and turn in the winds of politics and opinion polls for the sake of a tactical career advantage. Well, now they've got it. All of them, not just the neoconservatives, should support President George W. Bush's and Prime Minister Tony Blair's proposed humanitarian intervention in Iraq.

Wow.
Yes, it's fun to make sport of the hapless French, especially when loudmouths in their media resort to grotesque caricatures of Americans. But in all seriousness, the people who actually run things in France are a cut above the baboons that make up their "intellectual elite."

With the possible exceptions of the Belgians and the Dutch, the West Europeans have reacted as vigorously as the Americans, if not more so. The French and the British, both less agitated than Americans about civil liberties in times of stress, aggressively use temporary imprisonment as an investigative counterterrorist tool. France's famous counterterrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière could teach Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Federal Bureau of Investigation many things about using randomness in arrests and detention to sow anxiety amongst the enemy and give the (perhaps justified) impression of effective state power.

This from an excellent article in the Weekly Standard. Read the rest of it.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Sober reading from the always insightful Victor Davis Hanson. At NROnline.
And now for a priceless reminder of the Kennedy intellect:

And when senators did offer new information on the floor it was, as often as not, wrong. On Friday, for example, Ted Kennedy blurted out a startling assertion. "What about North Korea?" he roared. "They've already got nuclear weapons!" Kennedy presumably recognized his error after the fact. Thanks to an apparent airbrushing, the Congressional Record now renders Kennedy saying, "They may have nuclear weapons." (Even that isn't likely.)

Read more.
"During the October War the Department of Defense was willing to deplete the supplies available to American military forces in Western Europe and in the United States to maintain the Israeli Defense Forces. This was done to the tune of $2.2 billion which the United States government wrote off as an outright military grant and then asked the American taxpayer to pay for through government borrowing at 9.5% interest. Israel rightly concluded that there were no limits to the American commitment to Israel."

Sound like Pat Buchanan? Er, no. Actually, it's Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Read more here.
Why does this article bring the phrase white trash to mind?

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Boy, this (from the New York Times) is just what struggling screenwriters and independent filmmakers need. (Not!)

Films under the banners of magazine titles have not been huge hits since the heyday of "National Lampoon presents" comedies like "Vacation" and "Animal House"....

Let's hope it stays that way. Cripes.....
Why I miss Stephen Jay Gould: this piece in the American Prospect by Harvey Bloom. As he writes, Stephen Jay Gould, who died of cancer at the age of 60 this past May, defined a place in American culture likely to remain vacant now that he is gone.

Among scientists he espoused a more creative, human and much less anal view of evolution than what we get blared at us in the megaphone of reductionist blowhards like Richard Dawkins. I like much of what Dawkins has written in the past, but it's obvious from his writing (especially recently) that he has a pole-vault up his rear end, and personally loathes people who do not agree with him in print. Less than a week had gone by after September 11th when the shrew felt compelled to remind the world that the World Trade Center was destroyed by religious fanatics and we can never be reminded enough just how evil religion truly is. (All religions in the Index of Dawkins are the same, and all are irredeemably E..V..I..L.)
...there are no Churchills or Thatchers in Britain today, and any such person who showed up would never be permitted to rise in any current political party.

Read John Derbyshire on the state of England. Conservatives have it better in the U.S. They also have more fun.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

From Today's New York Times:

In a television poll on a postgame show in September, Red Sox fans were asked if the team should sign Clemens as a free agent. Nine out of 10 respondents said no.

I don't know if I'd buy that poll. Dan Shaughnessy had a great column a while back on how smart it would be for the new owners to re-sign Clemens. The way he was let go here by Dan "Baby Doc" Duquette was a major disgrace. I'd love to see him come back, even for just one year, to get his 300th win.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Google may start charging users for its service. From Poynter. Read more.
With Ms. Brown's New Yorker, you had the sense that the world of ideas was up for grabs (sometimes by hands more grubby than manicured, but up for grabs nonetheless); with Mr. Remnick's magazine you feel you are in the stifling embrace of a clerical clique, a kind of Upper West Side ulema, that reflects a prevailing, self-satisfied code.

More here from Tunku Varadarajan at the Wall Street Journal. I couldn't agree more.

Well, how about a little bigotry to go with your coffee this morning? (This link via Andrew Sullivan.) You don't have to be a half-literate Bible thumper to think the Catholic Church is one of the primary sources of Evil in the world today. You can be an "educated" scientist and think that too!

Speaking of science, has Richard Dawkins actually done any lately? Or is he too busy rewriting The Blind Watchmaker for the fifth time and publishing it under a new title?

Monday, October 07, 2002

A sad day for the Web. The end has come for Arts & Letters Daily, a very popular site I had the honor to be listed on when my Salon article on Einstein came out.
This just in via Moira Allen at writing-world.com. Pay Pal scam to be aware of:

PayPal hit by scam
------------------
Online payment service PayPal Inc. has been targeted by scam artists trying to get credit card data, user names and passwords. On September 16, a scam e-mail with the subject line, "PayPal Verification," suggested that users log into their PayPal accounts to confirm they were still active users of the service and requested the users' passwords. On September 25 another e-mail arrived in some users' inboxes claiming it was having trouble with its computer system and provided a link for users to log into their accounts to make sure their information was not affected. Both e-mails took users to an official-looking site that asked for personal data, including user name, password and credit card information. As soon as PayPal learned of the scam, spokesperson Julie Anderson said it contacted the Internet service provider and asked it to take down the spoof sites, and notified the FBI. However, PayPal didn't notify its 18 million users of the scam.

If you use Pay Pal, take note.
More sense from Peter Beinart at the New Republic: Give Ted Kennedy credit. By clearly outlining his reasons for opposing war with Iraq, he's creating the debate that many others in his party have been simultaneously demanding and ducking. But just because he's fostering that debate doesn't mean he's winning it. Or that he deserves to.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

According to John Nadel of the Associated Press: Torre gave the Angels credit, but wouldn't say they were a better team than the Yankees.

"I'm too proud to say that," he said. "We were beaten by a team that played a whole lot better than we did this week."
Full story here.

Why? The Yankees won 103 games thanks much to a schedule that had them playing meatballs like Tampa Bay, Toronto and the Tigers. They were lucky to beat the Red Sox 10 times out of 19 games. Why in the world Joe Torre would ever think this Yankee pitching staff was the best he'd seen in years beats me. They're all old, tired, and familiar. Mike Mussina is a quiet head case, El Duque and Clemens worn out; that left the still young Andy Pettite (having an off year) and geezer David Wells with his skin head haircut that's supposed to make us forget he's about 40 lbs. overweight....


Friday, October 04, 2002

Bad news for Boston-based publisher Beacon Press. According to Steve Zeitchik at Publisher's Weekly, Vivendi's woes have put the little publisher in limbo:

All the press about the Vivendi divestiture has focused on various European divisions and, to some extent, on Houghton. But one of the American companies put in the oddest positions by the impending sale is the Cambridge, Mass., indie publisher Beacon Press.

The house, along with the Old Farmer's Almanac, is among the two distributed by Houghton. Beacon associate publisher Tom Hallock says that he'd love for that to continue. But a sale could lead to the breaking up of the Houghton sales force, which means Beacon has to
start thinking about its future. "We read the papers like everyone else and we know what could happen, so we're having a number of conversations."

Among the options being explored are joining up with a large New York house or signing with a distributor of niche houses like PGW or Consortium. But Hallock said the house is also seriously considering joining a UP alliance, a la the one run by Harvard and Yale. "Because of our size and sensibility we need to think about the best way to
reach our market," he says.

That's not an easy as it sounds. As a kind of distribution tweener - Beacon publishes serious fiction and non-fiction that sell in trade as well as college stores—Hallock worries a new agreement will force a tradeoff. "As with a trade publisher, the fear with [a UP outfit] is
that they'll miss part of the market."

The fanfare around the Vivendi sale has put Beacon in a kind of limbo. Given how little has happened, it's not in a position to switch—and given how much it likes Houghton it doesn't necessarily want to—and yet it knows it can't sit still. Says Hallock: "A distribution client can be a very small cork bobbing on the sea of all these changes, and we can't afford to have a bad nine months."

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Do you think Fox Sports could come up with two bigger jackasses than Tim McCarver and JB Buck to call the first round in the American League playoffs between the Angles and the Yankees? They must have spent the entire second and third inning making fun of the fact that Angels' starter Kevin Appier bought a farm and a couple of camels for his wife.

And could Tim maybe think about having George Steinbrenner in the booth with them next game where he can show the audience how he kisses George's butt so shamelessly? How about a little more bias, guys?

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Here's Michael Kinsley chewing up the scenery over the Bush Doctrine (link thanks to Electrolite). Here's Walter Russell Mead offering some sense about it (via John Ellis).
My editor tells me that Digital Movies with QuickTime Pro will be in book stores in about 3 weeks. You can check it out or order it from Amazon here.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Charlie White complains that certain small production houses are using the new DV tools to edit the smutty parts out of movies for concerned parents. I think he's right to complain, and the Director's Guild does have a beef. Not because Art is necessarily being harmed by cutting nude scenes or violence from their oh-so-deep works, but because some of these companies are doing it for a profit. This is wrong. My feeling, though, is that tools like iMovie and iDVD are great for concerned parents who want their children to see personalized editions of movies they like (give or take an objectionable scene or two).

A lot of people don't realize how easy it is now, and how little time and effort it would take for a creative dad or mom to rework, say, Terry Gilliam's under-rated but overlong Adventures of Baron Munchausen and make it more palatable for their children. More power to the people in that corner, I say. They already do it with books. Why not with home video?
Apparently Barbra Steisand is upset that a memo she sent to Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt got garbled in transmission and was taken advantage of by evil Republicans. Note again that, as with the Harkin campaign, when Democrats "make mistakes", some hapless intern gets the blame.

May I ask why—given its supposed importance to her— Streisand couldn't take the time out of rehearsals for her performance to actually sit down and carefully write the memo, and not simply dish the thing out over the phone? Maybe it's not really that important. Maybe, as is often the case with airhead showbiz liberals, it's really just another opportunity for publicity.