Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Irish pubs are a great place to go for the New Year's celebration. Just ask humorist Larry Miller:

"Now, God knows, I've done some stupid things in my life. Seriously stupid. How's walking into an Irish bar on Second Avenue at three in the morning singing "There Will Always Be An England"? I was punched out immediately. (You know you're drunk when you go to brush something off your shoulder, and it's the floor.) Then they picked me up and bought me a pint."

Happy New Year to all.

Monday, December 30, 2002

As the year comes to an end, one is tempted to generate a "Best of..." and "Worst of..." list for 2002 as so many other web sites and newspapers do.

I will content myself instead with providing this link to what is not only the (unintentionally) funniest piece of web "reporting" I've seen all year, but also damning proof that there are "Catholics" out there who make Pat Buchanan and Father Charles Coughlin seem like models of Thomist rationality and moderation:

From the Cardinals remarks about coal and oil, however, we on the Kolbe team realized that the Vatican simply does not have enough correct information in order to make an intelligent decision. This is no surprise, since the Pontifical Academy of Science, which has 88 members, only two of whom are Catholic, and all of them avowed evolutionists, is the body that provides information to the Vatican about the Creation/Evolution issue.

That's right. According to this crowd, Pope John Paul and Cardinal Ratzinger are hopelessly confused and misinformed about scientific issues because they don't grasp the latest "research" indicating that in fact the world was created in six days. Scroll through their web site and you will not be surprised to discover that the Earth in fact is at the center of the universe and there is no proof that it actually revolves around the sun.

Check the bios and you'll see the staff could fill out a veritable stage-one clinical trial for pharmaceutical companies testing drugs for the alleviation of attention deficit disorder. The front man for this outfit was apparently a guest on a regular show on EWTN until he started ranting about Jews. He's drifted from one religion to another, unhappily now insisting he is a Catholic apologist.

Hopefully, after a few more months, these bozos will "leave the church" and decide to become Scientologists once they find out that is where they truly belong.

(Did I forget to mention that these so-called Catholics are classic Jew baiters?)
There's talk that the upcoming Macworld Conference in San Francisco (Jan6—10) will be the last. According to Wired News, Apple finds the huge conferences increasingly expensive to entertain. Add to that the pressure of having to introduce new products at each one. Apple has indicated it would like to concentrate on running smaller and more frequent regional conferences.

I for one would like that. Macworld is just too far out of my range in terms of expense. Even the vendors who go are cutting back on their displays and parties. Super conferences for geeks, like so many other aspects of the dot com era, seem like a thing of the past. It's time for a more austere and efficient approach to building the new media world.

Friday, December 27, 2002

John L. Allen at National Catholic Reporter has a good piece reminding us why "conservative" isn't exactly the right label to apply to Pope John Paul II:

As a thought experiment, translate John Paul’s priorities into a secular political program: a strong United Nations, promotion of social justice, an end to war, environmentalism, human rights, inter-religious tolerance, and a special option for the young. Throw in a couple of the other stands for which the pope is well known, such as staunch opposition to the death penalty and the concept of a “living wage.” Such a candidate could not get nominated for president by the Democrats in the United States, let alone the Republicans, because he would be seen as too liberal.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

It wouldn't be Christmas without mention of at least one item of Scrooge-like proportions. This, courtesy of Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner:

Regular readers of the Corner will remember that, in a gesture of unusually crass political correctness, the British Red Cross banned Nativity scenes from its shop windows. The organization is now paying the price. The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the Red Cross is “facing a sharp drop in donations.”

And I thought that kind of nonsense only took place on this side of the Atlantic. Sort of makes my Christmas a little merrier.

Monday, December 23, 2002

The placing of former FBI Agent John Connolly---convicted of racketeering and other charges earlier this year---in virtual isolation at the Kentucky prison to which he was sent appears to be part of a move by the Justice Department to get Connolly to "talk" in exchange for a possible reduction in his 10-year sentence.
The assumption behind this is that Connolly knows much more about the notorious Whitey Bulger case and it is only a question of time before the embittered ex-agent coughs up one or more others the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston has targeted in its ongoing pursuit of the South Boston mobster.
Yep—this is pretty much the way I've always viewed the Democratic party's most famous bigot.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

The highly controversial Pete Rose issue which has been bubbling on Major League baseball's back burner in recent weeks, hopefully was taken care of once and for all by the New York Times today in a strong editorial which touched all bases. "We'd all like to see Mr. Rose rehabilitated and forgiven (for gambling on baseball games)," the Times said.

"But he has shown no particular remorse and has never admitted to betting on games. And even of he did confess, the ban should remain. Nobody should be encouraged to think that he can trifle with a fundamental obligation and escape permanent sanction." the editorial said.

"On the related question of Mr. Rose's eligibility for baseball's Hall of Fame, there is room for more flexibility," the newspaper said, adding two "firm " conditions: Mr. Rose make a full confession and any plaque in Cooperstown commemorating his remarkable achievements "must also take note of the darker side of his career."

Friday, December 20, 2002

Marty Peretz pays a nice tribute to his friend Al Gore. I don't agree with all of it (although his assessment of New York Times airhead Maureen Down is dead on).
Major news today from Charles Wiltgen:

Walter Murch—the editor of movies including Apocalypse Now (for which he won an Oscar for Best Sound and a nomination for Picture Cutting), The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The English Patient (for which he won Oscars for both Picture Editing and Best Sound) and The Talented Mr. Ripley—has switched to Final Cut Pro for his next film, Cold Mountain (which stars Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger).

Cold Mountain will be Final Cut Pro’s first major motion picture. Especially if successful, Cold Mountain could mean a huge sea change for the industry and for Apple’s—not to mention Avid’s—place in it.

This is a big wake-up call for Avid. Read the news from Hollywood.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Just came from the opening of the Two Towers. Still digesting it all. As with my first view of Fellowship of the Ring last year, I spend too much time worrying about how it differs from the book. Tomorrow, I'll see it again.

But the fact is, it's great. Almost overwhelming. Again, as with the first movie, you're left after three hours wondering why it ended so soon....

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Charles Wiltgen notes that Microsoft is getting in Apple's face with it's new media applications. The software giant announced today it is releasing it's new Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition (basically to coincide with Macworld on January 7th).
This is good news on the DVD front:

The digital versatile disk format, better known as DVD, is only six years old, but it has already claimed 29 percent of U.S. households, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

For the second year in a row, DVD players are poised to become the holiday season's hottest-selling electronics item, CEA said. So many players will be sold that analysts expect 40 percent of American households to have one by the end of this year.

Great—just don't take the title of this article seriously. I can't imagine anything dumber than throwing
out your VCR. If you have 8mm and Super 8mm films, you're certainly not going to throw out your projector, even if you've had your footage transferred to video.

One of the biggest myths I've heard in this business is the alleged fragility of video tape. Probably a tactic employed by manufacturers to keep tapes selling to nervous customers. As you can see from our
What does it tell you when Roger Clemens' super agents actually tell the press their client is open to a return to Boston?

According to the Boston Globe's Bob Hohler today:

Since Yankees GM Brian Cashman has said he would not re-sign Roger Clemens if he obtains one of Montreal's front-line starters, the Rocket has kept open the possibility he would return to Boston, according to his agent, Randy Hendricks. ''It's the longest of long shots,'' Hendricks said, ''but it's possible.''

It's not such a long shot if his agents are actually saying this. The Yanks obviously want to get Bartolo Colon from the Expos much more than they want Clemens.

This Blog has made no secret we'd love to see the Rocket finish his career back in Boston. The idiots who let him go are long gone from the Fenway organization now, and Clemens could still easily win another 15 to 20 games in the coming year.

Monday, December 16, 2002

I used to think that Jane Austen was a little hard on English clergymen—most of them, like Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, are portrayed as boobs of the first order.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for this item, revealing that things have not changed much since Austen's time.

(Last week, some Anglican drip told a bunch of 5-year-olds that Santa Claus was dead.)

My favorite quote:

"If we are brutally honest, Christmas is probably a real chore. For some, it is more than a chore—it is the most painful time of the year."

Most Americans realize that this is the typical roundabout way that an Englishman admits the obvious: that the real reason he doesn't like Christmas is because he's cheap.

And you thought Scrooge was from the 19th century.

Boston Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert writes, "This weekend, Al Gore managed to be loose and amusing as the host of Saturday Night Live - and then stiff and smug as ever on '60 Minutes."

This doesn't surprise me at all. I bet the straw that broke the camel's back for Gore (and his poor wife, God Bless her) was the realization (probably after viewing the mess on Saturday Night) that he just didn't want to have to deal with running a campaign that would have to become part carnival act several times per month just to win votes.

I'm glad he came to his senses. Political campaigning in this country has become ridiculous. George Bush didn't appear on SNL (unless I'm completely mistaken), and I don't think Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt or John Kerry have to in order to win their party's nomination either.

Who pressed this idea on Gore? Chris Lehane?

Sunday, December 15, 2002

This made my day. Thanks to Merde in France for this wonderful note from an American servicewoman currently serving in Bosnia:

He began to get belligerent at that point, and I told him if he would like to, I would meet him outside in front of the Burger King and beat his ass in front of the entire Multi-National Brigade East, thus demonstrating that even the smallest American had more fight in them than the average Frenchman.

He called me a barbarian cowboy and walked away in a huff.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Read the whole thing. Priceless.

Friday, December 13, 2002

I'm sure Cardinal Law's resignation will be all over the blogs and the news today—with lots of commentary, lots of judgment, lots of speculation. I personally do not feel any sense of triumph or satisfaction. Just sadness.

All I want to do for today is remember the good priests. As of today, they can begin to get back to what they do and have done throughout the long years of their vocations.

In case any one needs to be reminded, that includes:

Getting up at ungodly hours to visit the beds of the sick in the hospitals or the homes of nearby parishioners;

Getting themselves out of bed to light up a cold dark church at 6AM so the regulars can receive communion;

Driving miles and miles to churches out in the boondocks, parishes that cannot afford their own priest, to serve a second community on top of the one that commands most of their lives;

Sitting for hours on a wooden chair inside a coffin-like confession box every day while we all shuffle in, trundling our little sins, our pathetic ones, our dirt, misery, resentment, our mortal sins, our betrayals and our guilt to dump in their lap so that they can absolve us;

Saying Mass every day no matter how distracted they may be, no matter how much pain they may be in, no matter how many or—as is more likely the case—how few come to sit in the pews;

Keeping their lights on and their doors open in the rectory, perhaps even when they should be having a normal dinner, for anyone who may need their help or consultation;

And last, but not least, patiently enduring the mockery and abuse that is heaped on their vocation and profession by our otherwise oh-so-tolerant culture. Just when they thought they could take a few minutes out of the day to sit back and enjoy a little television in the evening—they get to be hectored and lectured by the morally superior auteurs of our entertainment industry.

So for all that, today, I'd like to say "Thank you, Father", and "I'm glad you're still here."

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Since Al Gore and John Kerry are so solicitous of what our allies think, perhaps they should read this. Ditto for the anti-war left. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds.)
Japanese cellular company DoCoMo's new handsets support 3GPP, an open standard technology built on MPEG-4—and thus can play video or audio content using Apple's QuickTime 6.

That's right, you will soon be able to watch QuickTime movie trailers and more on your cell phone.

According to Ryan Jones, an analyst with The Yankee Group, this is good news for Apple. The company needs more electronics manufacturers to adopt their standard so they can compete with Microsoft Windows media outside the PC realm. (I'm not going to mention Real, because frankly, just about everyone on the street in this business thinks Real will be bankrupt or sold within a year—Microsoft and Apple are the big two.)

According to Yahoo News: "The big hurdle that QuickTime has to clear is that it isn't a nicely bundled solution of video creation management and security," said Jones. "They don't have some of the content management and DRM capabilities that Real and Microsoft have."

Authoring content for the service can be done in a variety of applications such as Cleaner, Final Cut Pro and a new version of QuickTime, that Apple said would be released by the end of 2002. The new version will feature support for the file format and codecs used by DoCoMo.

"We've opened the platform to a whole new industry—this is big for the adoption of MPEG-4 and the standards-based approach," said Brian Croll, Apple's senior director software, Worldwide Product Marketing. "Ultimately this positions Apple as the platform of choice for content creation."

I hope to God that Apple is right now negotiating with makers of home DVD players, licensing the software to them to enable new players to play QuickTime movies burned straight to DVD. Because that's where the market is going to be.

How many home movie makers are going to want to shell out the $1000 for a DVD authoring program, and then want to spend the time it takes to figure out how to make DVDs, when it will be much easier to just burn their movie files straight to a blank disk (which can be had for less than $4 now at Best Buy) and pop it into the home player without all the bells and whistles?

For my money, that's where this war is going to be fought and won. And I hope Apple is making the deals now. Not six months after Microsoft and Panasonic roll out the first line of players that use Media 9....

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Wishful Thinking Dept. This week's New Yorker features Ken Auletta's profile of Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein, "Beauty and the Beast." Weinstein has apparently developed the same self-destructive tendencies that undermined super-agent Mike Ovitz. Supposedly this could be the beginning of his own fall from the Hollywood heights.

Yeah right. And all I'm thinking as I read this was, "How can I get a copy of my movie (Richard the Second) into this guy's hands?"
Glenn Reynolds hits the nail on the head about the real motives behind "digital rights management":

"And I believe that much of what's being marketed as 'digital rights management' to prevent 'stealing' of big-media works is in fact intended to serve as 'digital restrictions management' to protect big-media operations from competition by making life harder on potential competitors.

"I think they're doomed, technologically. But if Big Media let their position go without a fight to keep it by fair means or foul, they'll be the first example of a privileged group that did so. So beware. "

Here's the rest of his excellent column. Must reading for all independent music composers and movie producers.
Michael Kelly does a good job dissecting liberal Democrats' latest hallucination—that 'liberal media bias' is a myth and now right-wingers are running the country's leading news organizations.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Andrew Sullivan (as Glenn Reynolds did previously) links to a wonderful paper by Canadian author David Warren on his experience living in Pakistan and his take on the threat of militant Islam.

Maybe it's because of the Christmas season coming up, but what struck me, close to the end of his article, was this passage:

"We Christians believe ourselves to be completing that ancient, Jewish covenant in the new covenant of Christ, to be carrying the Jewish spiritual logic forward, in an enlargement of the chosen people to include all the elect of God, all who can see the Messiah. The Gospel message is radically anti-tribal, and the apostle Paul carries this into practice in the very cosmopolitan, urban world of late Hellenism and Rome. The whole doctrine of the Virgin Birth, quite apart from the question of its historical veracity, has the practical effect of bringing Christ into the world, and taking him out again, without leaving male blood relatives. (my emphasis)"

That last sentence is truly striking. I think even religious people today are brought up with the vestiges of Humean skepticism when it comes to the idea of miracles and the supernatural. We assume, for completely a priori reasons, to rule out the supernatural, supposing it to be an embarrassing appendage to faith—the fabrication of interfering church fathers or those in power to embellish the story of Christianity for the purpose of impressing the ignorant. It's refreshing and startling therefore to read someone suggest a purely practical reason for God deciding to suspend natural law (in this case for a virgin birth)—after all, how would Christ have left any lasting message or tradition, if the immediate aftermath of his departure was attended by a great conflict over who was his successor?

Not an unsound strategy for God, when you consider the murderous slaughter that has all too often followed the reigns of kings and queens, precisely because of the problems posed by "male blood relatives."

Monday, December 09, 2002

A reading of many Greater Boston newspapers as well as listening to some of the commentary on radio talk shows leave little doubt that the media is building a campaign to force embattled UMass President William M. Bulger to resign his post as head of the Commonwealth's sprawling system of higher education. The cozy relationship which existed between Bulger's fugitive brother, notorious killer Whitey Bulger, and two former FBI agents who also played a role in the "brooming" of the 75 State Street federal and state investigations, is at the heart of the media's push to oust Bulger. The former Senate president was a principal in the lengthy 75 State Street probes triggered by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team.
Senate majority leader Trent Lott is his own worst enemy:

What came out of his mouth was the most emphatic repudiation of desegregation to be heard from a national political figure since George Wallace’s first presidential campaign. Lott’s words suggest that one of the three most powerful and visible Republicans in the nation privately thinks that desegregation, civil rights, and equal voting rights were all a big mistake.

Anybody else miss Newt Gingrich?

Friday, December 06, 2002

Last night I gave a little seminar at Boston University's Film & Television school for the Boston Macromedia Users Group. In spite of the snow, a lot of people turned out. But even more uplifting to me was the dominance of Apple technology throughout the department. There were iMacs in the hallways, in the classrooms, everywhere. All the students I spoke with were working in QuickTime to embed their own projects in web pages of their own design.

Maybe I've been working in the medical environment too long. Surrounded by Windows-based technology, you start to think Apple's market share is dwindling rapidly away to zero. But as Professor Jim Lengel told me last night, QuickTime still offers the best tools and creative freedom for students studying media and learning how to create it themselves.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

While many more copies of bestselling books are sold today than 25 years ago, a new study said, it has become difficult for critically acclaimed tomes to achieve bestseller status.

In 1975, two books that were hailed by reviewers and editors as worthy of plaudits such as the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award also made that year's list of bestsellers. None made the 2000 list, though some appeared on weekly rankings of top sellers, according to the study, which was released last night.

Read more—from Newsday.
My first official book review of the QuickTime book, by digital media veteran Clifford VanMeter.

William Safire's excellent take on the Bulger saga:

What will be the consequence of the Good Seed's brotherly protection of the Bad Seed? My guess is that President Bulger will loyally stick by his brother and be forced to resign.

Message to Whitey, wherever you are: Loyalty runs two ways. Call your kid brother. Surrender to the F.B.I. through him. Hasn't he laid his career on the line by being fiercely loyal to you? You're an old man now; have you thought of returning that loyalty by saving him from the taint of having helped you?

Won't happen. The bad seed is probably laughing at his brother for being such a sucker.

Hub Blog is on fire today—with some good points about the nonsense going on under editor Howell Raines at the New York Times. And yes, I'm sure non-NYT reporters are enjoying every minute of this....

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Wired looks at Apple's endurance and sees more than just user-friendly computers:

Marketer Marc Gobe, author of Emotional Branding and principal of d/g worldwide, said Apple's brand is the key to its survival. It's got nothing to do with innovative products like the iMac or the iPod.

"Without the brand, Apple would be dead," he said. "Absolutely. Completely. The brand is all they've got. The power of their branding is all that keeps them alive. It's got nothing to do with products."

This is the sort of thing I always used to associate with the French, not the Germans:

Germans do not yet want to see where, in the bit of the recent past they are proudest of, their troubles originated: with the 1940s compact between unions and employers. At first it created the incentives that made the Wirtschaftswunder generation rich, but it ended by draining the vitality out of Germany.

The lavish social benefits, secure jobs and cushy retirement incomes that went with “Rhineland capitalism” made for complacency and—whisper who dares—pervasive inefficiency. Germans came to view sick leave as an additional holiday entitlement; free massages, health spas and even daughters’ first communion dresses were standard perks. The public sector, too, became so cosseted that a staggering 42 per cent of all budget spending this year will go on civil service pensions.

Read more. Via Glenn Reynolds.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Is it something in the water? Is there some kind of high tech fluoridation that makes equipment work better in Palo Alto, Austin, or Cambridge (Massachusetts) than in Edinburgh, Cologne, or Cambridge (England)?

Brad DeLong in Wired on Europe's declining economies.
Box Office Mojo's take on why George Clooney's Solaris bombed over the Thanksgiving holiday:

A $47 million remake of the long, slow-moving, artsy Andrei Tarkovsky 1972 movie of the same name, 'Solaris' has given Clooney his first utter failure since jumping from 'ER' to the big screen. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was the second picture after the sleeper hit 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' that Clooney carried completely on his own.

Monday, December 02, 2002

For an interesting take on how some successful novelists deal with the movies, read this.

I myself hope to have the same 'problems' these guys do...some day.
It was France 2 (state owned TV channel) that ordered the voice analysis of the latest tape of Osama bin Laden from a Swiss research institute. The Swiss experts stated this past Friday that, with 95% certainy, the voice on the tape was not Bin Laden's. As these results do not tie in with the official French press line that the US war on terrorism does not have any traction, not a word of these results has been reported by the major French media (including France2).

More from Merde in France.
Did the Globe sports writers miss this? This could be the most important decision the Red Sox make in terms of the team's long-term future—and here it is, in the New York Times:

A couple of Saturdays ago, in a borrowed office at Fenway Park, Bill James realized what all his writing, theorizing, number crunching and head scratching were about. For six hours, Theo Epstein briefed James on potential trades and free-agent signings the Boston Red Sox could make this winter. James, baseball's ultimate outsider for 25 years, was suddenly very much on the inside. And he loved it.

"I really had a feeling like this is what I've always been preparing to do," James said, reflecting on that meeting last week. "This is what I should be doing."

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Mark Steyn presents more wisdom from our friends in France:

"A man like George W Bush is simply not possible in our politics," I was told by an elegant, cultured Parisian this spring. "For a creature of such crude, simplistic and extreme views to be one of the two principal candidates in a presidential election would be inconceivable here. Inconceivable!" Two weeks later, Jean Marie Le Pen made it into the final round of the French election.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Jay Fitzgerald reminds me why I need to remember to read Howie Carr on a regular basis:

In the old days, the Bulger bumkissers would already be springing to his defense. But Joe Moakley is dead, Mike Wallace of CBS is 84, Bill Weld is hung over and Cardinal Law is in disgrace. The plagiarists on Morrissey Boulevard have been routed and Whitey is on the lam.

The former Senate President's time may be coming. Read more.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Speaking of Jonathan Franzen, the insufferable drip's new book gets a right padding by James Wolcott in The New Republic.

Jonathan Franzen has the knack to annoy. Is it a conscious gift? Is he aware of how grating his pleaful moans and hopeful sighs have become? (It's like a snore turned inside out.) Or is he intentionally irritating us, passive-aggressively wearing down his readers' resistance until we finally crack and agree with what he thinks and, more importantly, how he feels? How he felt in the 1990s was melancholy. The country was partying, but he was gnawing on a dry bone. He evokes his sunken condition with a litany of "d" words: darkness, depression, despair ("My despair about the American novel began in the winter of 1991...").

Here's more:

In "Books in Bed," a roundup of sexual how-to guides that elicits the coy admission "I have no objection to a nice bra, still less to being invited to remove one" (down, tiger), Franzen again fidgets to set himself slightly apart. "The last thing I want is to be reminded of the vaguely icky fact that across the country millions of other people are having sex," he writes, horrified by all that humping going on down along the railroad shacks.

Victor Davis Hanson on the left's risible contention that the U.S. has now become an empire:

Rome found its limits when it butted up against Germany and Parthia. The Ottomans never could bully too well the Venetians or the Spanish. Britain worried about France and Spain at sea and the Germanic peoples by land. In contrast, the restraint on American power is not China, Russia, or the European Union, but rather the American electorate itself—whose reluctant worries are chronicled weekly by polls that are eyed with fear by our politicians. We, not them, stop us from becoming what we could.

Jay Fitzgerald blogs a great new addition to the dictionary:

"Introducing a new word (and not just a nickname) into the local vocabulary: ‘big-dig’ (v. — to swindle money from feds, to shamelessly loot, to hoodwink non-Massachusetts residents into paying for local boondoggles — big-digging, big-diggedWe sure big-digged them again — / ... Big Dig/big-dig (n.). 1. Name of large tunnel construction project in Boston in late 20th Century, early 21st Century, locally known as the ‘Big Dig’ project. 2. Noun used to signify big projects in Boston paid for by the federal government. — Oh, don't worry. It's another big-dig. We're not paying a dime. / ... big-dig (adj.-adv.) — to describe the questionable use of fed money for local projects — Quick, finish the job. They're on to our big-dig scam.... )"

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Gregg Easterbrook in the December issue of Wired:

In 1965, another sort of big bang echo—the cosmic background radiation—was discovered. Soon, it was assumed, cosmologists would be able to say, "Here's how everything happened, steps one, two, and three." Today cosmologists do think they know a fair amount about steps two and three—what the incipient cosmos was like in the instant after the genesis, how matter and energy later separated and formed the first galaxies. But as for step one, no dice. Nobody knows beyond foggy conjecture what caused the big bang, what (if anything) was present before that event, or how there could have been a prior condition in which nothing existed.

Well, er, of course no one knows what was present before that event. Nor could they, since by very nature such conditions could not be testable. Which is why, as Easterbrook writes, that long-scorned subject of metaphysics is coming back into vogue.

I've certainly noticed that long out-of-print classics, such as Etienne Gilson's Being and Some Philosophers, are once again available as paperbacks. And even Tommy Aquinas has made a reappearance in such places as Harvard Book Store.

Addendum: I myself am not sanguine about vaunted rapprochements between science and religion. As historian of science Stanley Jaki once quipped, what God has separated, let no man join together. He was speaking more of philosophy and science, but the point is well taken regarding religion and science as well, in my opinion.
Scottish crime novelist Val McDermid on how the mystery and crime genres (at least in the UK) are helping to keep 'mainstream' fiction honest:

"Literary fiction in the U.K. became very concerned with literary theory, critical theory, to the extent that the notion of narrative almost became a dirty word. That's slowly started to change because the simple economics of the marketplace dictate that readers actually want to read things that have a beginning, a middle and an end. I think we're hard-wired for narrative. I've been saying this until I'm blue in the face for the last 10 years. And interestingly enough there was an article recently in the Observer when the Booker short list came out saying precisely this, and I felt I'd been vindicated.

"But it seems to me that although literary fiction is returning to the notion of narrative, [literary fiction writers] are still not engaging with the society that we're living in. There's a big boom in historical fiction, whether it's recent history or further back in time. I mean Ian McEwan's novel "Atonement" is essentially an historical novel. It doesn't engage with the present day. And I think that if you look at the successful books in literary fiction, this is what you find. So the crime novel started to pick up the baton in the '90s. We were the ones writing about the reality of the world we lived in."

I hope this is true in America, too. I've had enough of Rick Moody, Jonathan Franzen and Lorrie Moore. Read more from McDermid in Salon.
It's coming:

Viewers, beware. The Two Towers, the dazzling second installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, picks up exactly where the first one left off. No Star Wars-style scroll to bring you up to speed, no quick compilation of scenes from the first film, no opening Cate Blanchett narration—nothing. It begins in medias res, as though you had just stepped out for a few seconds to get more popcorn. If you didn't see last year's The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson, the trilogy's wizardly director, isn't about to cut you any slack.

From Time.
Jonathan Last on the latest Bond "movie":

A note on Halle Berry: At last year's Academy Awards, Berry won an Oscar for Best Actress and, in her speech ranted quite hysterically about the barriers she was breaking down and the discrimination she has faced as an actress of color. Berry was awarded her Oscar for "Monster's Ball," but her two previous roles were in "X-Men" and "Swordfish." Now here she is as cheesecake in a Bond movie. I can't think of another actor whose Oscar-winning role was bracketed by such embarrassing work.

Read more.

I was just thinking how the winning of an Oscar has (at least it seems to me) often turned out to be the kiss of death for many actresses. Anyone heard from Cher since "Moonstruck"? How about the abysmal Holly Hunter since she won for the monotonous "Piano"? And what's happened to Emma Thompson since she won the screenwriting Oscar for Sense and Sensibility?

Just a thought.

Maybe Halle's just being smart—going for the big bucks while she can.

Monday, November 25, 2002

William Safire on the importance of Israel's upcoming election:
So I'm rooting for Arik to win his party's nomination this week and for Likud to win seats from Labor and from Shas, the fading religious party, in January. Then I'd like to see Bibi take the finance ministry and be given a free hand to yank Israel out of its slump, while the former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky adds his moral force to the foreign ministry. When a peacemaking Arik shakes the hand of independent Palestine's prime minister, let Bibi and Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert and Education Minister Limor Livnat (the next Golda) fight it out for Likud leadership.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

My book Digital Movies With QuickTime Pro has been listed in the Author's Corner section of this week's QuickTime newsletter from Apple.
Favorite Liberals Department: Ron Brown at the New York Observer (via Glenn Reynolds):
How can the Left be so blind to who the real enemy is? How can they have so alienated themselves—not just from the electorate, but from reason itself, dumbing down dissidence to paranoid Vidalian mass-murder conspiracy charges? Because, in effect, they have founded their own religion: Bush hatred. It doesn’t have a God, but it does have a Satan: "Bush is the devil.

Read the rest.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip off to this article, in today's Guardian by one Hugo Young. It should be read in full by all Catholics—even if you don't agree with all of his points.

For one sample: [The Church] demands a tolerance for past error, and an exemption from the rules of civil society, that many Catholics find impossible to pass over. It contends, with a casuistry that can only be called Jesuitical, that the problem is not one for which the church alone must answer. There are many ironies and contradictions in its position. For most Catholics none will strike with such exquisite and even risible pain as the spectacle of an institution, the Vatican, that has done so much damage over so many years by telling people, on pain of mortal sin, how they should lead their sexual lives, itself now demanding that the sexual perversion of priests should be forgiven and forgotten.

And this: In a devastating piece in the current New York Review of Books, Garry Wills reports hearing two senior Roman priests saying that if the church changes its teaching on contraception, it will cease to exist. "Just think," writes Wills, "all the original and saving truths of the church (creation, incarnation, resurrection, the sacraments, last judgment, eternal life) are not worth a thing if condoms are allowed."

I happen to think the Church has a thoughtful position on artificial contraception—but you can't help wondering at those priests mentioned above, and the words of Christ when he denounced Pharisees who "strain at a gnat and swallow a camel." There is a sickness in any institution that places its own corporate welfare before that of its true mission—that is: the Gospel.

"It's a whore business," an Alex Brown veteran said to me last winter. "When I was on the desk, I'd look up and see these guys on TV or in the paper touting stocks that I knew for a fact they were looking to dump. These were not nitwit analysts. These were senior guys at brand-name firms. They had no qualms about it. It was just what you did to get out of a losing position. And I'll tell you this: It's everyday commonplace. It happens every day on TV, in the papers."

Read more, from John Ellis's latest piece in Fast Company.
The always amusing Jonah Goldberg on Al Gore's recent lurch to the left: ...in the end, all this means he's the same Al Gore as ever, in the only way that matters. Who cares whether he says he's for socialized medicine or for the free market, for war or for peace, for cats or for dogs—whatever. He's not believable because he's at best an ideological mercenary, willing to adopt any uniform that will get him where he wants to go. He isn't the "New Al Gore"—as so many journalists have claimed—any more than Richard Nixon was the "New Nixon." The man (or in this case the big, sweaty robot) remains unchanged. He is still the "man" From Carthage, and Carthage still must be destroyed. Delenda est Carthago bumper stickers will be available in the NRO store soon.

Still, I can't help wondering whether deep down, Gore not only doesn't want to run again, he doesn't want to even make it to the election. Reportedly, his oldest daughter is still the most wounded in the family about the 2000 election. There's no way to prove this, of course, but maybe Al is going hard left in order to get himself cleaned out of the primary process by someone else as soon as possible. That way he can show his daughter that, yes, at least he ran again—2000 wasn't the last word, and that it wasn't in the cards. And that way perhaps he might really be able to get on with a life outside politics.

Just my two cents worth. I'm not a Democrat, but it would be a good thing for the Gore raised in a hotel suite all during his childhood to at last be able to escape the shadow of his oppressive father.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Mark Riebling writes in today's NROnline, that another terrorist attack on New York and Washington is very possible—especially during Ramadan, which ends on December 4th:

In New York City, especially, public-transit systems must be rated priority targets. The recent arrest in Britain of North African Islamists, who had apparently planned to disperse cyanide in the London subways, should be an indicator of neon significance. Given the subways' unique importance to those who live and work in New York City — and the impossibility of preventing armed terrorists from boarding them — the city's subways must be rated al Qaeda's most likely target there.

The assets used by the terrorists in this operation will not be their most competent, discreet, and valued. Those operatives will be saved for the future, more spectacular attack. Thus, some of the terrorists who will soon attempt attacks in New York and in Washington may be "dirty" assets — individuals that al Qaeda suspects may already have come under surveillance, e.g. at mosques.

There is, accordingly, some chance that aspects of these attack plans will be detected and disrupted. There is also a corresponding chance that the attacks, if mounted, will be less effective than intended. In either case, however, the strategic objective of "making good" on the threats in the six-page letter will have been achieved.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

I'm interviewed today in the new QuickTime support site run by Clifford VanMeter.

Friday, November 15, 2002

There's some R-rated language at this site, but if you want to sample some hilarious parodies of Apple's "Switch" campaign of commercials, then check these out. QuickTime required. (No kidding?!)

Monday, November 11, 2002

Television journalst Tim Russert, widely recognized as the best in the businesss, moderated the final and what proved to be decisive debate between Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates Shannon O'Brien and Gov.-elect Mitt Romney as a public service. The MSNBC newsman who also moderates NBC's long-running Meet The Press show on Sunday mornings, could easily have charged upwards of $10,000 for his expert handling of the one-on-one clash. Another indication of the NBC performer's class!
Today's Boston Globe Op Ed column by the newspaper's relatively new Ombudsman, Christine Chinlund, was a feeble attempt to explain the paper's pro-O'Brien coverage of the Massachusetts' governor's battle between her and Gov-elect Mitt Romney. Chinlund admitted there has been a flood of complaints about the Globe's one-sidedness during the last week of the campaign, but in her naive view the coverage was evenly balanced.

To take that position, Ms. Chinlund obviously had not read the various stories and play they received throughout October and early November. Articles by Globe staffer Charley Pierce attempting to portray Gov.-elect Romney in a bad light were enough to prove the lopsided thrust of the Globe's news department towards the incoming chief executive. And the lead play her column received at the top of the Op Ed page obviously was aimed at trying to soothe the feelings of the legion of disgruntled readers.

Friday, November 08, 2002

According to Journalism.org, Boston's WHDH-TV, Channel 7, is the best news station in the country. The station at one time was part of the Westinghouse chain and originated the weekly, ground-breaking Starring the Editors TV show carried on Sunday afternoons over Channel 4. David Farrell, managing editor of the Boston Herald in the 1960's, was privileged to be a member of the Editor's panel chaired by Christian Science Monitor Editor Erwin D. Canham in the 1960's.
I love Pedro Martinez, but he's got to be kidding if he thinks we're going to buy his line that he was denied the Cy Young because certain sports writers didn't like him or because there were too many Dominicans winning other awards and the judges wanted to pick an American. As Dan Shaughnessy writes in today's Boston Globe:

Sadly, even though Pedro was marginally the best pitcher in the American League in 2002, he lost his bid for the Cy Young Award when he ''shut it down'' after beating the Orioles in Baltimore Sept. 22.

The Sox still had seven games left when Pedro won his 20th and announced, ''This is it ... I don't have anything else to prove. I'm done. I'm not running. I'm not doing anything. I'm not going to take a chance of getting hurt in my next outing.''

Those comments came three days before the Red Sox were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

It was amusing to read Al Hunt's political column in the Wall Street Journal today as he did his best to put an encouraging twist on Tuesday's party debacle for the Democratic Party. But Hunt, like most other liberal observers in the media, are in a state of shock as they contemplate the liklihood that President Bush---after two years of obstruction by Vermont's Sen. Patrick Leahy---will get most of his conservative judicial nominees through the Senate.
The President's nominations to the Federal bench will be the big political story out of Washington in 2003 as the National Organization of Women (NOW) pressures their favorite senators, Leahy and Ted Kennedy, to go all out, even filibuster, against Bush's nominees. The biggest battle on the Judiciary Committee will focus on the President's selection of the next chief justice of the United States Supreme Court to succeed William Rehnquist who is expected to retire.
Chrsistopher Ruddy's election analysis deserves to be quoted in detail. From newsmax.com:

In one word, the main reason the Democrats suffered defeat: Clinton.

The party seems hopelessly in the grips of the left-wing, disreputable Clintons and their minions.

Chris Matthews recently noted Bill Clinton's influence in the Democratic Party, and said he was acting like "Boss Tweed." We know that Bill and Hillary continue to control the DNC through their handpicked chairman, Terry McAuliffe.

And, Bill Clinton's dominance in the party became transparent as Election Day neared. In fact, Clinton's hand was almost everywhere: New Jersey, New York, Minnesota, Florida.

He was also deciding where and how much the DNC would spend on behalf of specific candidates.

Though the Clintons engineered Carl McCall's nomination for governor in New York, Clinton later told McCall he couldn't have national DNC funds for his race.

In Florida, the Clintons and McAuliffe made defeating Jeb Bush their highest priority. Not only did millions flow in from Democrat coffers, but this past weekend the Democrats brought into the state their supposed "big gun," Bill Clinton.

Up until Clinton's visit, McBride had been gaining in the polls, had momentum on his side, and was within striking distance of defeating Jeb Bush.

Then Clinton arrived. He and Janet Reno appeared with McBride on a Miami stage to rally the vote.

Clinton gave McBride the kiss of death.

Read Jay Fitzgerald. For the first time I can remember, the Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi sounds idiotic: Joan Vennochi, who appeared so shell-shocked yesterday, has angrily pulled out a blunderbuss and is firing off a round of rusty nails, glass, sharp-edged rocks and anything else she could stuff into the muzzle. Joan says we’re becoming “mean” like New Hampshire and that we’re indeed entering a “new era.” And count her among those with holier-than-thou rhetoric, as Margery Eagan referred to above. I.e., Joan: “Massachusetts voters don't like immigrants either; 68 percent voted to replace bilingual education with English immersion.” Yep, Joan, that’s what Question 2 was all about. We hate immigrants. You got us. We’re exposed as hate-filled New Hampshire types. Thanks, Joan.

Good point.
Glenn Reynolds on what Bush should do now to secure good will from all voters: I think that the Bush Administration needs to do something dramatic that will position it on the side of consumers against Evil Big Business. And I have just the thing: The Bush Administration should take on the crooks and thugs of the recording and movie industries. And it should do so on the side of artists and consumers.


Wednesday, November 06, 2002

When I was at Harvard 20 years ago, I remember most of the faculty as being left-wing. They'd sigh and roll their eyes about Ronald Reagan, to be sure, but they were articulate and polite in discussion. They really were open-minded.

My, things have changed on college campuses since then. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds.)

For the straight dope on this cretinous shrew (and how he got a job at what appears to be a Catholic University is beyond me) read more at Nealz Nuze here. Boortz is to be highly commended for tracking down all the info on this clown. Since Kirstein's hysterical loathing for the military and his country has been exposed to the entire web world, he has issued a mealy-mouthed apology. But as Boortz writes, you wonder what intellectual crap this little stoat force feeds his hapless students every day. And parents get to foot this guy's bill?

Here is truth indeed (from The New Republic):

The narrow lesson is that Romney's opponent, Shannon O'Brien, was a lousy candidate. O'Brien is Massachusetts's state treasurer, but a more accurate way to describe her is a political-machine hack who has never shown much in the way of creativity or political courage. O'Brien hails from an old Democratic political family, and you always suspected she was simply playing the family game for its own sake--and not very skillfully at that. Her campaigning grew so inept in recent weeks that O'Brien was forced to fly in top party consultants like Bob Shrum for a crash reinvention course. Then in a sign of her desperation in the final days of the race, O'Brien tried pathetically to make an issue of Romney's allegedly sexist complaint that her attacks on him were "unbecoming." Meanwhile, Romney skillfully cast her as a cog in the state Democratic machine. Given the inclination of Massachusetts voters to put a Republican check on that machine, O'Brien needed to prove him wrong. But she couldn't do it--because he was right.
Thank you, Terry McAuliffe:

NBC’s Tim Russert: Now, you said in The New York Times last week, “Jeb Bush is gone.” You want to take those words back? McAuliffe: Of course not. I’ve very excited about what’s going on in Florida. Russert: He’s going to lose guaranteed? McAuliffe: Yep...we are going to win Florida which is going to set us up, Tim, very nicely for 2004. (NBC’s “Meet The Press,” November 3, 2002) (Via Drudge Report).

The GOP has got to hope this jackass is still in charge of the DNC for 2004.

Monday, November 04, 2002

I once helpfully suggested to some liberal acquaintances at Electrolite that the reason Gore gets such bad press is that he's been basically luckless. I was given a polite but firm drubbing. In light of this from the American Prowler:

If nothing else comes out of the election of 2002 it is the knowledge that Al Gore is completely obsessed with his defeat in 2000, and that he is dragging his Democratic Party into whatever dark hole his mind resides in.

Take what happened this past week in Maryland, when Gore stumped with that state's gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Understand that Townsend is perhaps, next to California's Bill Simon, the worst campaigner this year. By all rights, she should be down ten, no 15 points in the polls. But in a Democratically controlled state, she was lucky on Wednesday to be up by one or two points against Republican Bob Ehrlich.

Then Al hit the road with her. His campaign speeches focused almost exclusively on his loss in 2000, with barely a mention of Townsend. Gore's speech received major play across the state. And a day later, Democratic tracking polls showed Townsend had lost three points in the polls and trailed Ehrlich going into today.

I now realize I was indeed woefully wrong about Gore. He's not luckless. He's a moron.

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

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

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?"


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.

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.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

It's amusing to see today's Times Book Review of William Trevor's latest novel (registration required) opposite a review of Stephen King's latest novel. Here you have the world's greatest living writer in the English language opposite probably the world's most successful hack in the English language.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Well, it's official: Everyman is up for two awards at the 2002 B-Movie Film Festival in New York—Best Editing and Special Achievement. The festival awards are on October 5-6....
It's Celebrity Smack Down time for the two leaders in digital video editing. Check out Discovery Channel producer Peter May's detailed comparison of Apple's Final Cut Pro (which I'm currently using to master Richard the Second) and Avid's new Avid Xpress DV. (I use AvidXpress with Digital-S for educational projects at work). Bottom line: Final Cut Pro. Powered by QuickTime, it just gives you loads of more options in your story-telling ability on the desktop.....

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

You're not likely to get a more different take on remembering Martin Luther King Jr. than this one from First Things editor Rev. Richard John Neuhaus.
AOL plans to offer broadband access. This is good news for content developers (like myself) who feel constantly hobbled by the low bandwidth plaguing the large segment of users out there accessing the Web through AOL 's pathetic browser....

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Bat Ye'or is an author I first came across browsing through book reviews in First Things. I think her work is attracting more attention since 9/11. The main thesis boils down to this: the idea that Muslim rulers in the past were tolerant of their subject populations—especially their Christian and Jewish subject populations—is a myth. This was something I recall being taught and reading in college. Ye'or, an exile from oh-so-moderate Egypt, has written several papers, books and given several lectures to puncture this myth. Her web site can be found here. Check it out.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Andrew Sullivan yesterday on German opposition to a war against Iraq and how—apparently to Chancellor Schroder's embarrassment, right-wing Germans are applauding his opposition. Writes Sullivan: "Recall that the head of Germany's intelligence told the New Yorker earlier this year that he believed Saddam was on the brink of nuclear capacity. Look forward to arguments saying that allowing the nuclear devastation of Israel is not anti-Semitic, just anti-Zionist."

This is a creepy, if not surprising sentiment. Remember Mark Bowden's article in the May issue of the Atlantic: Tales of the Tyrant? One wonders whether one reason, deep down, the Europeans don't want to defeat Iraq, is that if Saddam does use a nuclear weapon against Israel, then many Germans and other anti-Semitic Europeans will at last be able to say there was something worse than the Holocaust—and Europeans weren't responsible for it....

Friday, September 20, 2002

Interesting news on POD outfit iUniverse from Publisher's Weekly reporter Steve Zeitchik:

Saying you were more than a subsidy publisher but not quite a traditional house always seemed to us like saying you were half pregnant. But iUniverse may soon prove that such unlikely feats are possible (the publishing, not the half-pregnancy). The Nebraska firm has announced a deal with Kensington that could give iUniverse authors a better chance to get picked up by a print house.

According to the deal, iUniverse will package and present select titles to Zebra Books, Kensington's romance imprint. Books that sell 500 copies in six months will be eligible for review by a board set up by iUniverse. If the books pass muster, they will be, possibly after a slight repackaging, sent to Kensington for review. The publisher will not be obligated to print any book. "It's not a press-release agreement. If it doesn't work, it just wastes everyone's time," says new iUniverse CEO Kim Hawley.

The deal is meant to increase iUniverse's appeal to prospective authors. About 5000 writers are currently with iUniverse, a number the firm will need to bulk up if it is to reach profitability. If this gambit works, Hawley says, the company could make deals with other houses in other genres.

Hawley views the arrangement as part of the company's drive to move away from being a subsidy house and toward one that performs author services - in other words, get writers some play where they really want it. (The company has even brought in a packager to help with certain titles.) Of course, many of its authors may have been rejected from houses like Kensington in the first place, but Hawley says she's not too worried about the recycling effect; she cited an internal study that says that about half of iUniverse authors have never tried getting published by a traditional house.

iPublish, of course, also had a semi-permeable membrane between the self-publishing and the traditional, but iUniverse thinks it could avoid some of the usual traps. "Part of the problem is that there hasn't always been a well-defined process for how to get from point A to point Z," Hawley says, adding that unless the process becomes more transparent "people think their book will just end up at Random. It sets up a lot of false expectations."

This pact could keep expectations reasonable, but it also highlights what seems to us like iUniverse's little dilemma: To become more appealing to authors, it needs to increase the odds that authors will get print deals, but if it increases print deals, it limits its own royalty streams, a paradox not unlike having kids to save the marriage....

Thursday, September 19, 2002

CNET plans to adopt a pay-for-placement strategy to keep afloat. This from the excellent Dotcom Scooper Ben Silverman:

Sources familiar with the situation say that unless a last minute snag occurs, CNet's popular Download.com software portal is slated for an overhaul on Monday. The "new" Download.com would employ a pay-for-placement model, similar to one the advertising firm Overture currently utilizes through its partners.