Archive for December 2011

11 Year Old Martin Scorsese Draws Better Than You

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Wee Scorcese once cast Marlon Brando, Alec Guinness and Richard Burton in the Roman epic of his dreams, as Tumblr informed me yesterday.

What's stunning isn't Scorsese's attention to blocking and framing in his storyboards, nor the parallels of his imagination with one Amy Pond:

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What strikes me is the thematic similarity with his later work: that lone acolyte fighting against the tides of conformity even if he doesn't really want to:

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The importance of music to any tale worth its salt:

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Above all, how following the paths of the right leaders can elevate yourself beyond your wildest imagination:

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Such clarity of vision isn't typical of 11-year-olds, s'all I gotta say.

Coolest Thing Ever: Self-Cleaning Cotton

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In a development that will be of particular interest to those living in unsanitary conditions, in college (do I repeat myself?), and in tempestuous marriages, two Chinese material engineers have invented self-cleaning cotton clothing.

If you're interested in the science behind the new material (it is shockingly simplistic, even to this noted chemistry-phobe), I recommend this article by ExtremeTech. Nutshell: titanium dioxide + nitrogen = laundry bliss.

Basically, the nanoparticles clean themselves when exposed to visible daylight. They break down stains, bacteria and smells so they can be rinsed off with water. Think of it as armor for cotton, keeping out the nasty stains (I can see the ad campaign already!).

All is not perfect, however; the chemical compounds are highly toxic and turn your skin blue. It's up to you to decide: look like a Na'avi, or keep your pockets heavy with quarters?

Francis Ford Coppola Predicts Youtube

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Says one of the greatest directors of our time, in 1991:

Suddenly, one day some little fat girl in Ohio is gonna be the new Mozart…and make a beautiful film with her father’s little camera-corder, and for once this whole professionalism about movies will be destroyed, forever, and it will really become an art form.” ~ Francis Ford Coppola

(via Brainpicker)

Inside a Nazi Christmas Party

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Life Magazine published a set of photographs inside a Nazi Christmas Party, shot by Hugo Jaeger. In 1941, two weeks after implementing his "final solution," Hitler throws this lifeless "party" for his generals and officers.

Only the Nazis could turn Christmas into the dark universe equivalent of a Hogwarts dinner. (Can you imagine what kind of sorting hat the Nazis would have? The possibilities are too terrible to even contemplate).

As always, read the original post, but here are a few highlights.

Tis' the season to be...not even slightly jolly:

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You wanna talk about a war on Christmas? In the words of Nazi propagandist Friedrich Rehm:

"We cannot accept that a German Christmas tree has anything to do with a crib in a manger in Bethlehem. It is inconceivable for us that Christmas and all its deep soulful content is the product of an oriental religion."

So what did they do? They rewrote Christmas carols, erasing all reference to Christ. They tried to return Christmas to its pagan origins.

When that failed (and the Reich failed more broadly), they tried to change it's meaning again, attempting to re-characterize the holiday as a remembrance day for fallen troops.

Narcissism really knows no bounds.

Historical Ephemera: The Secret Language of Postage Stamps

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Before sexting, before coded bracelets, there were...stamps? Rio Wang has written a fascinating piece about how the angle that stamps were placed on the envelope conveys different meanings. According to the OP, the tradition began with the Austro-Hungarians in the 1860's and swiftly spread throughout Europe.

I highly recommend reading the original post, but here are some of the highlights:

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Meanwhile, the English make it exceptionally formal, including the phrase: "Beware your dearest lady-friend!"

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What's fascinating is that the code wasn't local to English speaking nations, there are guides in Russian, in Polish and in other languages I can't identify. Naturally, the French take romance to the next level:

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Go read the full post! http://riowang.blogspot.com/2011/12/language-of-stamps.html

Catching Up: X-Men: The First Class

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I owe a personal apology to Hello, Tailor for not watching X-Men until now. Sometimes, when people get unreasonably excited about things, I assume I won't enjoy it as much and then I just feel guilty when I don't.

In this case, I was wrong.

After 15 minute of breathless stupidity, after which I very nearly switched the film off, Rose Byrne graced the screen (mmmm...Rose Byrne). The movie quickly shifted into something far more interesting, almost an espionage thriller.

Did you notice that Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender were wearing the same black turtleneck in one scene?

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Like they are both fighting for Xavier's soul. Mystique longs for X to be a better man than he actually is, while Magneto longs for approval/ pragmatism. In a lovely twist, they both lose him and join together instead.

It's only fair, because Xavier doesn't deserve either of them. He's continually phrased as this radical idealist who cares neither for people nor politics, just a mythical idea of what's right. Until the end of the film, it's far too easy to hate him, especially considering the way he treats my beloved Jennifer Lawrence.

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Seriously, Xavier's such a dick to her that I'm surprised she leaves him with such equanimity. A punch in the face seems like a bare minimum.

THE FUTURE

This movie sets up a far more interesting X-Men narrative than is likely: one where the villains are only in the eye of the beholder. I'm aware that X-Men isn't Homeland; there's only room for a certain amount of complexity in a blockbuster movie. That said, I'm still hopeful they can achieve something thought-provoking and cerebral with this team of actors.

We've got the younger mutants like Havoc and Beast to provide the action pyrotechnics and comic relief, so the adults should be left free to behave like...adults. After all, working for the CIA doesn't exactly place Xavier's team on the side of righteousness. It makes him a collaborator in the destruction of his own people, and it makes sense that Magneto would rebel against that.

Homeland and the Story of Cassandra

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For all the shocking twists and turns of Homeland's season finale, the most surprising realization came after it was over. Underneath the moral and political complications of terrorism policy, beneath the sensitive portrayals of the mentally damaged, lies a simple retelling of the story of Cassandra.

You remember Cassandra. She was given the gift of prophecy, but then she pissed off Apollo, who put a curse on her that no one would believe her predictions.

Carrie's mental illness becomes the modern simulacrum of Apollo's curse. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? She's gifted with a brain that functions in marvelous ways, but her malfunctions deprive her of all credibility.

In this scenario, Brody clearly becomes Odysseus, who is often described as "Odysseus the cunning" or "cruel Odysseus," depending on whose side you're on. He returns to his long-suffering wife after journeying through torment, war, and unimaginable delight, all the while expecting nothing to have changed at home.

Like Odysseus, he's clearly both a hero and a villain, and neither aspect negates the other. (Is it an accident that Carrie's "wise man" is named Virgil? For The Aeneid's Odysseus is a villain, only Homer's is heroic. In the end, only Virgil trusts Carrie's instincts.) Only Carrie is able to process these two selves, and her knowledge is rewarded with ostracization, derision and finally self-mutilation.

For Carrie's prophecy has now been ignored, and lost even to herself. The Trojan Horse has now been planted at the highest echelons of the government.

In conclusion, I give you my favorite retelling of Cassandra, by ABBA:

A Few Words on Vaclav Havel

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I was saddened to hear about the passing of Vaclav Havel, who's a bit of a personal hero. A playwright and a politician, an essayist and a revolutionary, he used art and words to fight totalitarianism.

Havel led a movement that exemplifies one of the core ideals of The Oncoming Hope: that acts of peace can be just as aggressive as acts of violence.

In a century when Czechoslavia became a pawn in all the major geopolitical wars of the 20th century, Havel relied on the most old-fashioned weapon: words.

His words followed four main themes: that every human being has personal responsibility to make the world a better place. That even the tiniest white lies can lead to intellectual dishonesty. That you cannot govern from ideology, only through care and responsibility. That power must not be used in service of preserving that power.

Most importantly, he championed the notion that ideals cannot and should not be compromised for the sake of expediency, or you poison the well entirely.

These are the ideological bases for non-violent revolution. Like Gandhi, he protected principle at all costs. Unlike Gandhi, he lived to govern the nation he helped to liberate, and governed its peaceful transition into two states.

I've had the pleasure of visiting both the Czech Republic and Slovakia in recent years. There's something in the air in both of those countries, something intangible, a freedom from the guilt that mars the history of so many European nations. A forward motion, perhaps, that comes from the immaculate conception of their nationhood.

As our political culture devolves into something almost as mature as a children's playground, Havel reminds us that politics should not be treated as an end unto itself, it's a tool to protect our free and just lives as humans.

I leave you with his motto: "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred."

Do yourself a favor. Read Reason's account of Havel and how he was inspired by the Velvet Underground and other rock acts.

Historical Ephemera: A Pub Crawl with Karl Marx

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There's an adored pub on Clerkenwell Green called The Crown Tavern, which sits in the hub of 20th century communist thought (this is where Lenin first met Stalin, for instance). Well, I was looking for more information about this particular establishment, and found an interesting bit of ephemera.

There's a wonderful website called My Time Machine, which republishes eyewitness accounts throughout history (I recommend that you spend some time on that site, though you may never leave).

In a nutshell, Karl Marx and our author, Wilhelm Liebknecht, set out to hit every saloon between Oxford Street and Hampstead Road. Drunkenness, brawling, and streetlamp assaults ensue. But I'll let Herr Liebknecht speak for himself:

A London pub crawl with Karl Marx, late 1850s

One evening, Edgar Bauer, acquainted with Marx from their Berlin time and then not yet his personal enemy […], had come to town from his hermitage in Highgate for the purpose of “making a beer trip.” The problem was to “take something” in every saloon between Oxford Street and Hampstead Road – making the something a very difficult task, even by confining yourself to a minimum, considering the enormous number of saloons in that part of the city. But we went to work undaunted and managed to reach the end of Tottenham Court Road without accident.

There loud singing issued from a public house; we entered and learned that a club of Odd Fellows were celebrating a festival. We met some of the men belonging to the “party,” and they at once invited us “foreigners” with truly English hospitality to go with them into one of the rooms. We followed them in the best of spirits, and the conversation naturally turned to politics – we had been easily recognised as Germany fugitives; and the Englishmen, good old-fashioned people, who wanted to amuse us a little, considered it their duty to revile thoroughly the German princes and the Russian nobles. By “Russian” they meant Prussian nobles. Russia and Prussia are frequently confounded in England, and not alone of account of their similarity of name. For a while, everything went smoothly. We had to drink many healths and to bring out and listen to many a toast.

Then the unexpected suddenly happened…

Edgar Bauer, hurt by some chance remark, turned the tables and ridiculed the English snobs. Marx launched an enthusiastic eulogy on German science and music – no other country, he said, would have been capable of producing such masters of music as Beethoven, Mozart, Haendel and Haydn, and the Englishmen who had no music were in reality far below the Germans who had been prevented hitherto only by the miserable political and economic conditions from accomplishing any great practical work, but who would yet outclass all other nations. So fluently I have never heard him speak English.

For my part, I demonstrated in drastic words that the political conditions in England were not a bit better than in Germany [… ] the only difference being that we Germans knew our public affairs were miserable, while the Englishmen did not know it, whence it were apparent that we surpassed the Englishmen in political intelligence.

The brows of our hosts began to cloud […]; and when Edgar Bauer brought up still heavier guns and began to allude to the English cant, then a low “damned foreigners!” issued from the company, soon followed by louder repetitions. Threatening words were spoken, the brains began to be heated, fists were brandished in the air and – we were sensible enough to choose the better part of valor and managed to effect, not wholly without difficulty, a passably dignified retreat.

Now we had enough of our “beer trip” for the time being, and in order to cool our heated blood, we started on a double quick march, until Edgar Bauer stumbled over some paving stones. “Hurrah, an idea!” And in memory of mad student pranks he picked up a stone, and Clash! Clatter! a gas lantern went flying into splinters. Nonsense is contagious – Marx and I did not stay behind, and we broke four or five street lamps – it was, perhaps, 2 o'clock in the morning and the streets were deserted in consequence. But the noise nevertheless attracted the attention of a policeman who with quick resolution gave the signal to his colleagues on the same beat. And immediately countersignals were given. The position became critical.

Happily we took in the situation at a glance; and happily we knew the locality. We raced ahead, three or four policemen some distance behind us. Marx showed an activity that I should not have attributed to him. And after the wild chase had lasted some minutes, we succeeded in turning into a side street and there running through an alley – a back yard between two streets – whence we came behind the policemen who lost the trail. Now we were safe. They did not have our description and we arrived at our homes without further adventures.

Source: Karl Marx: Biographical Memoirs, by Wilhelm Liebknecht. First German edition, Nuremberg, 1896; first English translation (by E Untermann), 1901. Reprinted by Journeyman Press, London, 1975.


Seriously, folks, check out the original site.

From the Horseless Sulky to Insane Modern Transport

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"Invented by an Italian engineer, a queer "horseless sulky" has been rolling on the roads near Brussels, Belgium, in recent tests. The seats, engine, and controls are located between the two huge, rubber tired wheels. According to the designer, the vehicle can attain speeds of 116 miles an hour." (Popular Science, pg. 19, 1935).

I would love to see photos of this thing being driven around Brussels.

In case you thought the Belgians were good for nothing but beer and international organizations, you can add totally useless transportation to the list. Do you think this is incredibly silly? Cause I sure do. Today's automakers, however, don't seem to agree.

Harley Davidson seems very enamored of the design, developing their own one-wheeled motorcycle:

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(courtesy of Autoblog)

It appears that Bombardier has taken the design and simplified it even further, with the Embrio, which is hydro-powered and relies on gyroscopes to stay up:

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Another variation of the "monocycle", the Wheelsurf, was premiered at Wired Nextfest:

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I won't lie, I kind of want one. It tops out at 30 mph and sets you back around $4000. Which is a small price to pay to be transported STRAIGHT INTO THE FUTURE.

Martha Marcy May Marlene, or, The Cult's Not The Real Villain Here

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Martha Marcy May Marlene takes what should be a simple character study and transforms it into an edge-of-your-seat thriller. The very premise is compelling; a lost girl escapes from a cult and struggles to adjust to "normal life."

Where other films with similar themes would simply blame Marcy's personal failings for her susceptibility to the cult, MMMM draws a much more detailed picture. John Hawkes could not be more charismatic as the cult leader. Her relationship with her blood family is tense at best.

That she escapes into the materialistic hell of an oversized lake house seems to feed her peculiar mix of paranoia that the cult's coming after her, and longing for the cult's simplicity. There's a sense that she hasn't just been programmed, she's attempting to make a rational choice between an uncomfortable and unsympathetic blood family and a loving cult family that only makes inappropriate demands of her body in return for bounty.

Even the worst moments with the cult seems less tense that the charged encounters between Marcy and her sister Lucy, played by Sarah Paulsen. They dance around each other like electrons in search of a nucleus, always repellent yet inexplicably attracted. The closer that Marcy gets to opening up, the less sympathy that Lucy has for her.

But while the movie itself is excellent, the real revelation is Elizabeth Olsen (yes, she's one of those Olsens). At first she reminded me of Scarlett Johanssen, back when she had that nebulous "thing" in Lost in Translation and Ghost World. But as the movie went on, I realized that Olsen has something a bit weirder about her, like she's channeling Sissy Spacek. Spacek's early films are a great touchpoint for many of the goings-on in MMMM.

Marcy seems dragged along by an insurmountable current, barely able to control her position in the river. And yet, all the while, Olsen's eyes register everything that happens, and provide the only clues to what Marcy's thinking at any given moment.

The controversial ending makes it clear that, perhaps, we do not understand how Marcy's actually experiencing events and how they've imprinted themselves on her. I loved it, but I'm curious how the rest of you interpret it.

Play along in the comments!

Death Comes to Pemberley, aka, A Great Crime Against Literature

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In Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James executes a vicious assault on Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen and all those who love them.

There's a vicious murder on the grounds of Pemberley, and if you manage to care after 250 pages, then more power to you. For the murder occurs, then Colonel Fitzwilliam recounts the incident, then he and Darcy recount the incident at the inquest. And in case you're not thoroughly bored, there's also a trial, wherein we hear the same story yet again.

Meanwhile, lifeless, witless, self-regarded gold-digger Elizabeth Bennet sticks to the shadows, behaving like the dutiful, conservative women she has never been. Why, P.D., why?

The essential transformation of Elizabeth might have been acceptable if James doesn't herself establish that a) the novel only picks up 6 years afterP&P and b) she makes it clear that Lizzie is having the time of her life, completely free of hardship.

But wait! James isn't content with dragging our beloved P&Pers into this disaster! Poor Harriet Smith, Robert Martin, Sir Walter Elliot and the Knightleys all appear in this mess.

Even that isn't enough. She has to throw in irritating meta comments.

If this were fiction, could even the most brilliant novelist contrive to make credible so short a period in which pride had been subdued and prejudice overcome?

A ha ha ha ha ha...yes.

Now, let me take you on a journey through exposition city:

"Fitzwilliam listened in silence, then said, 'You are mounting quite an impressive expedition to satisfy one hysterical woman I daresay the fools have lost themselves in the woodland, or one of them has tripped over a tree root and sprained an ankle. They are probably even now limping to Pemberly or the King's Arms, but if the coachman also heard shots we had better go armed. I'll get my pistol and join you in the chaise. If the stretcher is needed you could do with an extra man and a horse would be an encumbrance if we hae to go into the depths of the woodland, which seems likely. I will bring my pocket compass. Two grown men getting themselves lost like children is stupid enough, five would be ridiculous."

Did you get that? No? Then repeat after me: SHUT UP, FITZWILLIAM!

And then there's so many lectures on "social justice".

"Ignoring him, Georgina turned to Darcy. 'You need have no anxiety.  Please do not ask me to leave. I only wish to be of use to Elizabeth and I hope I can be. I cannot see that there is any impropriety in that.'

It was then that Alveston intervened.  'Forgive me, sir, but I feel I must speak.  You discuss what Miss Darcy should do as if she were a child. We have entered the nineteenth century; we do not need to be a disciple of Mrs Wollstonecraft to feel that women should not be denied a voice in matters that concern them. It is some centuries since we accepted that woman has a soul. Is it not time that we accepted that she also has a mind?'

Hey guys, remember how Jane Austen was kind of funny? How she'd couch serious social issues in compelling drama and lively wit?

Ok, I will cease the assassination of this novel, out of respect to the reader.

But when Darcy starts lecturing about the morality of the death penalty, I rolled my eyes so high that the heavens could not have missed my irritation. When the servants polish the 8 millionth candlestick, imagine poor me, resisting the urge to throw my Kindle against the wall.

You can file this one under "legally protected terrible ideas."

*I wish I'd come up with that graphic, but full credit goes to The Guardian. If you think I'm being harsh, you should read that review.

MorpHex Robot Exists Only to Terrify Us All

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In case you thought the soft robot wasn't quite creepy enough, meet our new robot overlord: the hexapod.

Norwegian engineer Kare Halvorsen designed the hexapod, which appears at first like a giant ball, but then sprouts legs and walks (SO SCARY!). He details his process on his blog, which you should check out if you're interested in the technical process.

As of now, this robot can only put out, retract, and crawl. Next, Halvorsen is working on its rolling capabilities.

Watch it in action here (I assume there's a porno soundtrack to distract us all from THE HORROR!):

Historical Ephemera: Cargo Cults of WWII

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Cargo cults are a fascinating phenomenon in pre-industrial societies that have come into and then lost contact with more technologically advanced cultures. The most famous ones sprung up in the South Pacific after WWII, but they've existed for centuries.

Islands in the South Pacific played a key role in the war between US and Japan, who frequently air-dropped food, weapons and other supplies to aid their troops. This cargo often ended up in the hands of the islanders. Then, as you can imagine, when the war ended, so did the cargo drops.

The islanders, by that time, had come to perceive cargo as the root of the Western and Japanese wealth and power, and ascribed the air drops to blessings for ritualistic practices. So what did these cargo cults do? They copied the soldiers.

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The built air strips, control towers out of bamboo and planes out of straw, and even mimicked airplane sounds in the hopes that, by following the "rituals" of the soldiers, they too would be blessed with cargo. They marched with bamboo spears cut in the shape of guns and carry American flags like soldiers on parade.

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In a nutshell, they went through the visible motions without taking into account any of the underlying principles. Some of these cults still exist today, most prominently the "John Frum" cargo cult in Vanuatu. (It is rumored that they named their cult John Frum after the frequently spoken introduction from soldiers: "I'm John from Cincinnati, John from Alabama" and so on.

Since then, the phrase "cargo cult" is frequently applied to both science and design. Richard Feynman defined cargo cult science as science that goes through the motions of scientific investigation without any critical thought. Similarly, cargo cult programming is defined by The Jargon File as:

A style of (incompetent) programming dominated by ritual inclusion of code or program structures that serve no real purpose. A cargo cult programmer will usually explain the extra code as a way of working around some bug encountered in the past, but usually neither the bug nor the reason the code apparently avoided the bug was ever fully understood.

Smashing Magazine has a great article about how "cargo cult" thinking has contributed to the slow erosion of creative design.

Best trivia of all? Serge Gainsbourg wrote a song about cargo cults!

"I know of the the magicians who call to jets
In the jungle of New Guinea 
They scrutinize the zenith coveting the guineas
That the pillage of freight would bring them

On the sea of coral in the wake of this
Machine those creatures not deprived
Of reason those Papuans wait for vapour
The wreck of the Vice-count and that of the Comet"

Good Wife in Review: The Long Game of Wendy Scott-Carr

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Some of my favorite books explore what happens when you take a group of people who have co-existed for years and interrupt their already mixed-up relationships with a total wild card. Wendy Scott-Carr, our resident Dead-Eyed Smiling Psycho (DESP), is that wild card.

On the surface, "What Went Wrong" sets up the new normal in The Good Wife, closing the door on one relationship and opening up a whole mess of them (and not a few cans of worms). How's that for a mixed metaphor? Anyway...

Really, the so-called "normal" is the establishment of battle alliances (the mob should be so lucky as to have Diane Lockhart as their wartime consiglieri). The final beats of the episode reveal DESP's long-game: the downfall of Peter Florrick, who's making it easier for her by returning to his favorite pastime: quietly and calmly threatening people.

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Meanwhile, Alicia does some less calm threatening of her own on behalf of Team Kalinda (woohoo!), while Diane draws Alicia into her inner circle (also sounding vaguely threatening).

DESP attempts to draw Will into her team by forcing out all his basketball buddies (say it with me...POOR WIBBLE WILL!!!) and then threatening him. When that doesn't work, she attempts to seduce him with the promise of Peter's downfall.

Will, proving once and for all to be the better man, says no. For now.

May I take a moment to congratulate Anika Noni-Rose on a truly fantastic performance? She's the first villain in this show that feels worthy of the opposition. Neither Bond, Blake, nor Glenn Childs felt quite so...dangerous. She has an agenda, and she'll do whatever it takes to achieve it.

That single-mindedness is completely new to this show, where everyone is dancing between a hundred different motives, trying to figure out which is most serviceable right now. Not her. She's all long-game. Don't be surprised if the entire city of Chicago goes up in flames by the end of this season.

OTHER

-In an episode that had Alicia getting wasted with Owen, you may ask, what drinking team could possibly be better? You got it -- Alicia and Diane.

-I'm counting down the moments until Kalinda punches Dana in the face.

-Owen is the best (via Karamelka):

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Even better thing? Alicia and Kalinda, finally thawing.

 

Poster-Fail: Netherlands Poster for "Haywire"

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Haywire, if you aren't aware, is Steven Soderbergh's new action extravaganza, starring such non B-listers as Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and poor Gina Carano, photoshopped into oblivion. The American ads aren't really much better, but it's been a long time since I've seen such amateur work for a Hollywood movie.

If I didn't already know about Haywire, I would look at this poster and assume it's produced by the people who created this fictional film:

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or a sequel to Frank Wrench:

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Soundtracked by this guy:

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As if the bad photoshopping isn't enough, check out the title font in the full poster!

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Fashion Designers Sketch Hunger Games Dress

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InStyle commissioned ten fashion designers to sketch their own interpretations of the "fire dress" from The Hunger Games, and the results are stunning.

I've written previously about my disappointment at Katniss's dress in the trailer from the film, which took:

"The creature standing before me in the full-length mirror has come from another world. Where skin shimmers and eyes flash and apparently they make their clothes from jewels. Because my dress, oh, my dress is entirely covered in reflective precious gems, red and yellow and white with bits of blue that accent the tips of the flame design. The slightest movement gives the impression I am engulfed in tongues of fire."

and gave us:

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...ahem...moving on...It's hard to choose a favorite, but a hat tip goes to Joyce Azria, who not captures the magic of the outfit but shows the clearest understanding of Katniss as a character:

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The Blonds take their assignment and vamp it up to a fairly ridiculous extent, but I think they capture an essential theme of the novels: the dark side of constantly being in performance mode:

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Tadashi Shoji's design is another favorite. Oddly, she's the only one who understood the assignment, designing Katniss's performance dress, not a hybrid of Katniss the warrior and Katniss the reality tv star. It may not be as creative as some of the other designs, but it's definitely elegant.

 

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TIBI designer Amy Smilovic has made the mystifying choice of aging Katniss up by approximately 80 years, which works on a symbolic level but led to a pretty ugly image:

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Nicole Miller has designed to fashion Katniss as a native American bird, or something:

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But the award for "I really didn't give a shit about this" goes to...Tommy Hilfiger! It's a weird supermodel kimono/poncho hybrid that's as ugly as it is uncreative.

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What do you think? You can see the rest of the designs here: http://www.instyle.com/instyle/package/general/photos/0,,20542054_20549206_21085613,00.html

Also, if you're interested in the intersection between fashion and film (and tv) I highly recommend Hello, Tailor, which has wonderful analyses of things most delightful.

Winter Song of the Day: "Icicle"

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Bet you all were expecting me to choose "Winter", weren't you? Well you know me. I like to keep things...unpredictable. The delicate piano part mirrors the settling of the snow, as the flakes freeze into something harder, colder. And then they let go into Spring, in a magnificent release (the song also describes a whole other kind of release in great detail ::blushes::).

I cannot tell the story of the song better than Tori herself can (oh how wonderfully witty she used to be before her "earth mother" phase). The blasphemy comes free, as does the Robert Plant impersonation.

Head-desk: They're Remaking American Psycho

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American Psycho's getting the remake treatment, just eleven years after the original film.

According to Variety, it's a "low-budget" project that "reimagines" the novel as a modern-day bloodbath. It hasn't been greenlit as yet, but it's such a bad idea that I have no doubt that it will be made, and probably in 3-D. "It's so relevant! It's about an evil investment banker!" will declare a series of movie executives and advertisers until it lands on our screens, an empty and flat turd.

While I'm kind of intrigued by the conceptual updates that would have to be made (will Patrick Bateman hold a dick-measuring contest over his LinkedIn page instead of his business cards? Will he murder to the sweet dulcet sounds of Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga?), I cannot be convinced that this is necessary, mainly because the original film is so damn good.

It took a book that, frankly, wasn't very good, and flipped it into a satire rather than a celebration of soulless nihilism.

But on the plus side, I get to quote David Foster Wallace! He criticized Ellis and Psycho in this interview:

"I think it’s a kind of black cynicism about today’s world that Ellis and certain others depend on for their readership. Look, if the contemporary condition is hopelessly shitty, insipid, materialistic, emotionally retarded, sadomasochistic, and stupid, then I (or any writer) can get away with slapping together stories with characters who are stupid, vapid, emotionally retarded, which is easy, because these sorts of characters require no development. With descriptions that are simply lists of brand-name consumer products. Where stupid people say insipid stuff to each other. If what’s always distinguished bad writing—flat characters, a narrative world that’s cliched and not recognizably human, etc.—is also a description of today’s world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world. If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it. You can defend “Psycho” as being a sort of performative digest of late-eighties social problems, but it’s no more than that."

I agree entirely about the book, but the movie is so much more than that.

Thanks to Stale Popcorn for the hat tip.

What do you guys think?

South Korean Prison Robot

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It seems fitting that since I've added an unofficial "robot" beat to this blog, there's been tons of exciting robot news and a visit to the wonderful Robotville festival at the Science Museum.

Of course, as with the soft robot, many new robotic developments seem just as likely to bring us to the robopocalypse as to a better society. You can file these new prison guards with the former.

South Korea is beginning a month-long trial of new robot guards, 5 foot tall machines designed to appear friendly to inmates. They're not designed to engage with the prisoners, but will report observations back to a human guard on duty.

The advantages are obvious: they're immune to prisoner taunting, they won't exploit prisoners, and they'll be unbiased observers.

However, I'm guessing they aren't terribly immune from that most basic thing that all prisoners will have access to: water.

The prototypes were designed by The Asian Forum for Corrections, in concert with Kyonggi University. And they assure us that "the robots are not terminators".

Isn't he cute?

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