| From time to time, certain topics come up that call for a rant.  They ought to have a full page about them, like some of the others in paulkienitz.net.  Yet no rant page is written, because it takes too much time or too much research.  So I'm left with an opinion to state, and no rantage to back it up with.  This page's purpose is to act as a dump repository for these miscellaneous opinionated ideas.  Your job is to assume that somewhere in virtual quantum phase space, there exists a rant that could, in some way, back up each of these statements.  That nascent rant might be studded with useful hyperlinks.  Sadly, almost none of the infant rantlets that are actually here have any useful links at all.

New material will be added to this page aperiodically at the top... sort of like a blog, only less exciting.  Once in a while, one of the items will expand to become a real rant page.  For example, my California electricity crisis page, which eventually became the regular feature Enron & Friends, started out as a lowly micro-rant.

Eventually I split the micro-rants into pages by topic categories.  The other pages are:

  • Energy (topics such as nuclear power plants and electric cars -- the first to be split off from the other micro-rants)
  • Political (as if I don't have enough political pages already)
  • Miscellaneous (everything else)
| evil mastermind

The Topics:


Okay, I'm lame, I watched an episode of American Idol.  And saw the notorious Simon filtering out the lame pop singers and picking the good ones.  And I just feel a certain need to point out the obvious here, because I haven't heard anyone else say it yet.

Not that Simon is an asshole -- everyone is saying that... and some argue the case that for him to be blunt in his dismissals is actually the best thing for the parties involved, much of the time.  That may well be quite true.  And he's still an asshole anyway.  But the obvious question that nobody seems to be asking as everyone discusses the show is:  Are the kind of singers who get picked as winners in this competition actually good for anything?

Think about all the vocalists in your lifetime who have been most important, who have changed things, who have made a difference in your life or in the landscape of music.  How many of them sound like the sorts of singers that Simon and the other judges select on the show?  When's the last time that kind of singer doing that kind of song was what really meant something to you?  I bet if you named the top ten most important vocal performers of the last forty years, at least half of the ones you'd name are singers who the American Idol judges would have cut in the first round.

Maybe some of you reading this actually do find that sort of music -- known in the industry as "pop swill" -- moving and inspiring.  I mean, somebody must be buying those acts' records.  But history is rarely kind to popsters even when they are hugely successful, with good reason.  Music that matters does not overlap much with pop swill.


Steven Soderbergh's remake of Solaris is an unusual film, of course, but it has one particular property that, for me, makes it stand out from the pack before I have ever seen it:  I can't name any other recent film that has done such a good job of bringing out totally clueless statements from film critics.

This is the risk of doing material that's "different" in Hollywood: you increase the likelihood that the people who have to back you, and who eventually have to pay for the tickets, won't understand it.  (No matter how cynical you want to be, it's really the former that is the main limitation -- the Hollywood system generally sets a lower standard than the viewing public does.)  The role of the film critic is, in part, to counteract this tendency; to raise awareness and improve understanding of the most challenging and rewarding works, so that they are not neglected and unsuccessful.  But Solaris is a work sufficiently "different" that most critics are left as far behind as the lowbrow money-men who make most movies are.

The original novel by Stanislav Lem is a pretty unfilmable work to start with.  It has little action and lots of exposition.  The main sequence of narrative events -- the material that is the focus of both movie versions -- is kind of tangential to the book's core theme, which is not about facing inner demons from one's past, but about facing the incomprehensible, about confronting the limitations of the human ability to understand the truly alien.  The living world-ocean of Solaris creates humanoid beings that interact with the visiting scientists in a way that feels like it is based on human emotion, but that feeling is illusory.  The creatures expose the human observers' worst psychic sore points, but the reaction of trying to look inward at human frailties does nothing but mislead them further from genuinely understanding the situation. It is an extremely un-Hollywood kind of theme -- in fact, very un-American.  In form, the book is essentially a satire, though the tone makes this far from obvious sometimes.  The subject of the satire is science, and the kind of can-do expansionism that is often tied to scientific progress.

One of the most clueless statements by a critic came from Joel Siegel, who actually said that Solaris "is not science fiction."  Say what??  (This same yutz then went on to say that it was "genius", rather than lack of imagination, for Disney to use a spacecraft in Treasure Planet that looked the same as an 18th century sailing ship.)  At least he praised the movie for being daring.

Luke Thompson had this to say:  "Tartovsky's [1972] version, though well-respected, gets a bad rap these days.  It's commonplace even among critics who should know better to deride it as incomprehensible and boring, though it is neither -- merely long and Russian, which may scare some people off....  If you want boring, go to the chapters in Lem's book that forget about the characters so as to endlessly describe the fictional speculative physics of the imaginary ocean planet of the title....  Both Tartovsky and Soderbergh wisely play down the technobabble to focus on the dilemma of Kris [Kelvin, the narrator of the novel]..."  Now this guy shows himself competent to talk about films here, but it's obvious that he doesn't "get" the book, however valid it may be to criticize Lem's expositionary technique.  What he calls "technobabble" -- mainly the history of futile medieval theorizing about the nature of the ocean -- is in fact more central to the theme of the work than the emotional dilemma of the narrator is.

Tartovsky didn't really get it either -- or if he got it in his own mind, he couldn't get it onto film -- and by all descriptions the same is true of Soderbergh, perhaps more so.

Another dorky review, from one David Germain: "All the movie really offers is mood, though.  Solaris is the cinematic equivalent of ambient music..."  Come on, even the lamest possible version would have more than that, and most critics do at least find this one intellectually interesting.  Another dumb comment:  "There's no reason for space travel to be so lugubrious."  Here's a particularly silly one: Dennis Schwartz says "The science fiction element in Tartovsky's film was too prominent", and then criticizes Soderbergh for not explaining the science in his version.  Someone praised its "uncompromising loyalty to the novel" despite Soderbergh apparently having left out the satiric elements and added a twist ending that most critics found bogus.

Other comments about the film's quality range from calling it emotionally lifeless to praising Clooney's subtly nuanced communication of inner states.  I can't comment on which of these is valid without having seen it yet.  But all of these seem to agree on treating the movie as a story primarily driven by an interpersonal relationship, which is exactly what the point isn't.  Andy Lee, for instance, says "Like its 1972 incarnation by Russian director Andrei Tartovsky, the story explores the question of whether we are doomed to repeat the past if given a second chance with a loved one."  That's not what the story does at all... though apparently that's how George Clooney saw it when acting the part.  (Lee also manages to include the phrase "not science fiction"... which apparently came originally from the film's producer, James Cameron.)  Relatively few reviewers manage to see that there is actually no human relationship between Kelvin and "Rheya".  One who does described it as being about "the opportunity to escape into a world of dreams".  That's more on the ball.

What I really don't get is why the filmmakers focus on this one novel of Lem's, when he has others that are not only better written and far more filmable, but are also more biting and relevant.  Fiasco, for instance, written 25 years after Solaris.  It's much richer, has much more action, the exposition is not static and clunky, and the theme of incomprehension of the alien gets tightened painfully into a extra satirical moebius twist as the characters, goaded and frustrated by a suspicious and warlike alien civilization that won't or can't communicate with them as they wish, eventually end up attacking the very beings they came to establish peaceful relations with... all seen by a narrator who has lost his past and can't reconstruct his own identity.  Now that could have been quite a movie.

UPDATE:  Okay, I've seen the film now.  And it has good points and bad points.  On the one hand, it seems to mistake slowness and quietness for artisticalness.  Clooney delivers almost every line in the same flat, half-whispered tone.  They actively shy away from putting on camera any scene that involves strong physical action, such as the scene in the novel where "Rheya" tears through a steel door with bare hands, just to be with Kris.  On the one hand, they don't shy away at all from the inhuman nature of the artificial visitors... yet on the other hand they completely shy away from any discussion at all of Solaris itself.  They even avoid showing it as anything but a light effect.  Even in dialog they never mention that it is a planet with a liquid surface.  They show it as more like some kind of mutant low-brightness starlike thing, and don't bother with any decent effects when getting close to it.  They add a bogus ending (so did Tartovsky, but much less obtrusively).  In general, they mess with the novel much more than Tartovsky did.  The elucidation of the characters Kris and Rheya, and their relationship, is well carried out -- here the filmmakers are dealing with stuff they can understand, and they do it with considerable depth and subtlety.  In other words, the reason everybody is calling the film "not science fiction" is because the science fictional parts of the movie were the bits that the filmmakers had no clue of how to handle.


As many of you know, the bass player from the band Dogstar is also a movie actor.  I've seen him in a few movies, and he generally tends to be very wooden and flat.  He did well in some early teen movies, but I thought that as an adult he was pretty hopeless.

But I just rented Devil's Advocate, with Al Pacino as Satan.  And whaddaya know, it turns out that sometimes Keanu Reeves can really act.  He was excellent.


I recently saw Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring with three friends.  I was one of those who read and reread the books in my youth, but none of the others had ever read any Tolkien.  So I will try to discuss the movie from two perspectives: the Tolkien aficionado's and the ordinary moviegoer's.

From the Tolkien fan's viewpoint, there is basically only one question: did they get it right, or did they blow it?  Those are the only two possibilities.  And the answer is that in broad, overall... they got it right.  Many describe the film as being faithful to the book, but on the level of detail it really is not: the dialog, finer plot points, and sequence of incidents have been extensively reworked throughout.  But few of the changes do any violence to the spirit of the original.  It is remarkably seamless in how they managed to preserve the familiar story while, even at a film length of three hours, cutting it down to little more than the essentials and rewriting sizable portions of it practically from scratch.  The first part of the film, inside the Shire, is mostly new material... and yet the feel of the Shire comes across exactly right, as convincingly authentic and true to the place we remember visiting in the book.  The only really obtrusive omission is the section where they travel through the Old Forest and the barrow-downs.  This segment of the story is self-contained enough that it could be removed without leaving a hole, so it had to go.  (And as another reviewer mentioned, Tom Bombadil is weird enough that he might have provoked snickers from non-fans.)

Because they filmed all three books in a single year-long shoot, and the story required huge hordes of extras and constant special effects, The Lord Of The Rings is probably the most expensive feature-film project of all time... and not nearly as sure a bet financially as, say, Harry Potter.  The results are spectacular.  I mean that literally, in that the budget is used mainly to create spectacle.  At times it is overdone, and begins to feel like showing off instead of telling the story.  But this problem is kept to a manageable level, certainly less overbearing than the effects in a Star Wars movie.  But like Star Wars, one thing this film will be remembered for is presenting visions more spectacular than any previous movie has ever shown.  Most visually memorable is probably Saruman's fortress Isengard, with the huge black tower above and the endless pits swarming with busy orcs below, with the CGI-ified point of view swooping from one to the other.

One of the results of compacting the story is that the pacing is much more intense than what you experience in reading the books.  Fairly hard-hitting stuff comes at you thick and fast, and some may find the film a fairly heavy sensory overload.  There is a considerable sense of fear and menace throughout the film, and quite a lot of action and violence.  (It's PG-13, which means you can see an extra's head chopped off, but you won't see a fountain of blood coming from the severed neck.)  The quick pacing (necessary to fit the story into three hours) and the frequent visual spectacles mean that sometimes the character development suffers -- especially the development of the relationships between characters.  The roles that suffer most are the hobbits Merry and Pippin.  Instead of the bold and sharp-witted young adventurers in the book, we get a pair of obnoxious brats who, for most of the film, aren't good for anything... and who we hardly learn to tell apart.  Hopefully this will be rectified when these two characters come into their own in the second film.  The character of Sam also suffers; the one in the book has a tough edge before he ever leaves the Shire, but in the film he comes off as just a flabby fool much of the time.  He also, of course, will come into his own later... but in the book, he is a strong and distinctive character from the start, and in the film he is not.  The overall relationship of the four hobbits suffers, because we have skipped the experiences which, in the book, forge a powerful bond of trust between them.

One sad omission is that only a single one of Tolkien's many songs made it into the film, and that one is only sung under someone's breath.

The casting mostly works out well.  I suppose the only cases I would have changed would be Sam and Elrond.  (The guy playing Elrond comes across as a bit creepy and unpleasant, which just isn't right.)  But acting is not the film's strong suit; the players' jobs are to fill the shoes properly, not to carry the film.  Every actor is serviceable but none is remarkable or riveting.  (Even Liv Tyler is okay.)  The only roles that need any exceptional acting, probably, are Frodo and Sam, and that mainly in the later films.

How does the film work for someone unfamiliar with the story?  The biggest concern is probably whether they can follow the plot.  And I'm sad to report that, for the sample group I got to observe (my three friends), the success rate definitely could have been better.  The sound mixing in the movie often left dialog less than clear -- often there was music or background noise that covered just a little too much of the actor's diction.  Often when a new word was introduced, such as a place name, it was only heard poorly.  Not enough was done to avoid confusion caused by the similar names of Sauron and Saruman.  (I think they should have accented the second syllable in the latter name, though Tolkien said otherwise... but heck, they mispronounced Isengard, so why not.)  The fast pace and intense action make it quite a job to pick up all the details.  This is probably one major reason why many who enjoy the film are seeing it two or more times.  (They say that in Japan they always make the plot too complicated, so you have to see every film twice... a marketing strategy that would not work here, due to our superior talent for brainlessly stupid filmmaking.)  The introduction laid out the history of the One Ring in perhaps more detail than necessary, but they gave no explanation of what is probably the key point for a newcomer to the story -- they never told us what a hobbit is.  (One friend asked, "Are they supposed to be children, or what?")  I don't recall them explaining that Elrond was Arwen's father, and this also led to a bit of confusion for one of my friends.  It might have helped to show a map, so there was a sense of the relative positions of the Shire, Rivendell, the mountains, the river, and Mordor.  However, there was generally no unclarity about the core of the story.

Any confusion aside, though, it's certain that nobody was bored.  The film held everyone pretty well riveted, and even those who didn't enjoy it had trouble mainly with the grimness and violence of the story, not with how it was told.  So you may like the film or not, but you won't deny that it's effective.  Two of my friends actually ended up grabbing hold of each other for reassurance through much of the later part of the film, just to cope with the intensity of it and the level of fear it conveys.

My biggest complaint, overall, is a general lack of subtlety.  Points that are allowed to sink in gradually in the book, such as the capacity of the ring to work evil on those around it, are pounded home early and often.  It was this that led one of my friends to remark that the ring itself was where the story's believability faltered for her.  Visionary and subjective perceptions are given much too blatantly literal a depiction sometimes... though it has to be said that the text could easily be read as supporting this much of the time.  Prophetic foreshadowings are sprinkled too thick (but the book is even worse in this area).  Too much is shown, not enough implied or hinted, leaving the characters without the uncertainty and doubt they should have.  Frodo gets a good look at Gollum much too soon, and the Balrog is not cloaked in shapeless shadow, but rendered as a generic CGI devil-beastie.

Despite all complaints, though, this is an exceptional adventure film that competes very well with anything we've seen for some years, from cheese like The Matrix to something as rich as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  The current Star Wars crop is a pathetic joke next to this.  (Rumor has it that the next Star Wars, episode 2, is so bad that even those who liked The Phantom Menace are whispering that it stinks.)  It is (if the second and third films match the first, as they certainly ought to) a worthy translation of what is probably the richest piece of fantasy fiction there is -- a story that, until recently, was probably beyond human ability to put on film with live actors.

In conclusion, for those who have enjoyed the book I'd give it three and a half stars; for those unfamiliar with the book, maybe three, or two and a half, and the warning that you might not be able to guess very well ahead of time whether you are one of those who will greatly enjoy or appreciate it.  For non-fans, though, it probably can't be fully appreciated until all three parts are seen, and the rating may improve then.  If nothing goes wrong with parts two and three, the series will probably be remembered as a milestone of filmmaking.

later note: of course Attack of the Clones was not nearly as bad as The Phantom Menace.  Clearly the Fox money people gave the Lucasfilm people a severe bludgeoning over how bad the public reaction to Menace was, and told them in no uncertain terms to make a Star Wars movie the old way.  The result is lots of moments of, uh, homage to the original trilogy.

UPDATE:  I've now seen The Two Towers.  This one has been more severely messed with, relative to the book -- they didn't just take stuff out, but made some dubious additions.  But at least the hobbits who were poorly characterized in the first film do come off much better here.

The DVD of Fellowship is out now, in a "special edition" that lengthens the movie from three hours to a bit over three and a half.  I haven't seen it but by all reports it's an improvement over the theatrical version.  The fact is, even at three hours, that movie felt rushed.

UPDATE:  Finally... The Return of the King.  All I can say is that it's incredible, and the best of the three.  They messed with the story as much as in The Two Towers, but this time, even when the changes were surprising to those who knew the book, they mostly felt right.

I am definitely not going to be buying this trilogy on DVD.  I'm saving my money until the high-definition version comes out.


I had hoped the new Star Trek series, Enterprise, would be something kind of fresh and new, but it appears to be still re-chewing the same old crap with the same old Rick Berman formula.  They're trying to go back to the old Captain Kirk style, but they're quickly getting back into the bad habit of spending a large chunk of an episode on someone's minor personal problems instead of on boldly going where no one has gone before.  Plus the excess of time travel plots, which half-killed some of the other modern Trek serieses.  And the lead actors are not the brightest lights in the Trek firmament.  Jolene Blalock, in particular, is the lamest Vulcan ever.  She appears to have been cast largely on the strength of having eyebrows that don't need much reshaping to be Vulcanized, plus having a more or less hot bod.  Unfortunately, said bod doesn't inspire pulchuritudinous admiration so much as it inspires questions like, "Is it logical for an advanced race like the Vulcans to have bad boob jobs?"

(Jeri Ryan, at least, was augmented only with falsies sewn into the costume.)

Even Majel Roddenberry's Andromeda show, crap though it is, has more freshness than this.  Overall, I think we're at a point where it's damn near impossible for a show set on a spaceship to get out from under the shadow cast by Star Trek and take a fresh approach.  For some time to come, any science fiction that wants to do something original is going to have to use some setting other than a spaceship.  Stargate is not a bad effort in that direction... by TV standards.

As for Rick Berman, I do at least have to give him some props for aiming at an adult level of audience, in contrast to an awful lot of SF TV shows that are all about magnified teenageness.  Still, this pretty much leaves me once again with no reason to watch TV.  And oy, that opening theme song!  Some of the ugliest corporate rock to grace a TV show in years...

UPDATE:  I just saw Iron Chef for the first time -- the version with William Shatner.  Holy Christ!

Addendum:  It turns out that the opening theme song is by Rod Stewart.  After hearing the original version, I guess it's not as bad as I thought at first.  But... it's still pretty bad.

LATER UPDATE:  It's now the third season of Enterprise, and Jolene Blalock has grown into the role and is doing a far better job now.  But the show still regularly tries to pump phony sexual titillation into scenes with her, usually in a way that sticks out as a gratingly obvious intrusion.  It's grating because they do a piss-poor job of smoothing it in so it looks like part of the story -- the gratuitosity is just way too obvious.

STILL LATER:  In the fourth season, the show is looking like it might be the best Trek sequel of all... and Blalock has really improved dramatically.  (Dramatically, get it?  Hyuk hyuk.)

A BIT LATER THAN THAT:  The fourth season is the last, it turns out... and once they got the word that they wouldn't be renewed, they started doing some of the weirdest crap you could think of to fill in the remaining episode quota with.  Scott Bakula acting his evil mirror-universe self with a Moe Howard impression was bad enough, but after that Orion Slave Girl episode, that series deserved to die.  Got to be the most misguided piece of science fiction I've seen on a screen since that Voyager episode that read as if it were ghostwritten by the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.


One of the great unrecognized geniuses among twentieth-century composers was Carl Stalling.  What if he had written for the concert hall instead of for Warner Bros. cartoons?  For that matter, what if Stalling wasn't dead?  The nearest thing we have to an answer is David Del Tredici, and he's on his way to becoming my favorite present-day composer.  After a century that began with revolutionary innovation but spent most of its time turning that revolution into a dry sterile academic orthodoxy, the appearance of someone like Del Tredici, who dares to make a trip to symphony hall something fun, is a breath of fresh air we've been needing for decades.

They're calling him "neo-romantic", a champion of "the return of tonality".  But he's not all that blatantly tonal...  if Varèse in his pre-electronic period had refused to take himself so seriously, he might have written something like Del Tredici's Steps for Orchestra.  Not since Prokofiev -- if then -- has a major composer allowed humor to be such a central aspect of his music.  You can't do that and also be fully tonal.  He's sometimes called "the Alice composer" because of his habit of constantly using material from Alice in Wonderland.

Del Tredici's style is manic and hyper, which is odd because my previous favorite living composer, Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000), is just the opposite.  Someone once accused Hovhannes of coming "from a small planet where it is always Christmas."  Hovhaness is completely tonal, but it wasn't a movement when he did it.  Whether we need a neo-tonality movement I can't say, but I sure know it's time to say a big "fuck you" to minimalism.  The only thing minimalism ever had going for it was that it wasn't serialism.

Nano-rant within a micro-rant: why is John Cage the famous composer in the aleatoric school that came between serialism and minimalism -- the style of composition that uses chance elements to make each performance unique and unpredictable?  The leading light of that school is the awesome Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994), who was my other previous favorite living composer.  Cage was a promoter of a theory, not a creative artist.  Lutoslawski could make the most viciously atonal and chaotic stuff and make profound music out of it.  For that matter, why is Philip Glass the most famous minimalist, instead of maybe Terry Riley?  Like Cage, Glass has little talent, only an attention-getting style.  It's almost like we've given up on finding entertainment in the music, so we settle for being entertained by clowns.

UPDATE:  I just read an old interview with Hovhaness in which he says, "Actually, I invented much of the so-called aleatory technique which John Cage took up after he heard my music... in 1944."  I never knew he even tried stuff like that!  Hovhaness gets one more coolness point, at Cage's expense.

ANOTHER UPDATE:  They say Del Tredici's recent music is becoming a good deal less silly and more (literally) sober lately.  He now calls himself "a recovering alcoholic and sex addict" and is out of the closet, writing music on explicitly gay topics.  His stuff always was, as the saying has it, gay as a french horn -- he was closeted about as much as Liberace was -- but previously he would never have come right out and named a piece My Favorite Penis Poems.  The Alice thing is over, apparently.  I'll have to hear some of this newer, more personal stuff.  Some are saying that his new stuff has commenced to suck.  But they always criticize artists who change styles.

Lately I've been watching TV again, after many years of living a televisionless lifestyle.  And despite the fact that there's still nothing to watch, except for Voyager and The Simpsons, I find myself looking forward to when the time comes to buy that wide screen HDTV.  (An awful lot of the commercials seem to be letterboxed -- I guess they're already shooting them in 16x9 mode.)  But what good is an HDTV screen if you can't rent movies in high definition format?  That's the point of having a wide screen, so that you can watch movies in something much closer to their original form.  Until we can rent HDTV movies, and until we have home VCRs or disc burners that can record high definition shows, HDTV isn't here yet.  It better get here, because Congress is pulling the plug on NTSC broadcast TV in 2004 (they hope!) so they can recycle the spectrum space.  So get on the stick, you TV companies -- we need high definition tapes and discs!  And camcorders.  I know DVDs have a 16x9 mode, but that's just a stopgap with about half the necessary resolution; we need something that holds about 20 gigabytes, or 40 or more for finer than broadcast quality.  (Broadcast HDTV, at about 2.5 MB/sec, is compressed something like 70:1 if I have my information straight.)  We ain't buying your expensive new TVs until we can rent high-definition movies for them.

UPDATE:  I've seen some digital HDTV broadcasts suffer image breakup when the camera pans.  Somebody is over-compressing the data stream.  We'd better insist on a higher bandwidth for HDTV recordings than they use in broadcast.

ANOTHER UPDATE:  Almost two years on from the above entry, I'm still waiting for something to watch on HDTV sets.  Any new consumer electronics gizmo should plummet rapidly in price, but these still haven't gotten over the hump of early-adopter expense, which is not surprising given the lack of material.  The federal government, in yet another example of how thoroughly bought the Bush administration is by corporate interests, is reacting by trying to force all TV makers to include HDTV broadcast receivers (now an expensive add-on option), even though the majority of TV buyers don't even watch broadcast stations any more.  Since broadcast is the only medium that offers any HDTV content at this point, I guess they think they can coax cable viewers back.  Fat fucking chance.  Anyway, they were forced to postpone the discontinuance of the old NTSC broadcast channels, but they stil hope to accomplish it in a few years.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE:  There are now two competing formats waiting in the wings for a 20+ GB version of a DVD... it turns out nothing was being done with them because nobody knew how to make blue lasers inexpensively.  Well, Sharp finally came up with the technique for making the lasers, so maybe in a year or two one will finally be able to rent a few titles of HD movies.  Oh, and they now have HDTV on cable.

AND FINALLY:  In Fall 2004 I bought an HDTV.  One with an old fashioned picture tube, because it was only $670 while the plasma screens were closer to $6700.  And I built my own wheeled stand for it out of heavy plywood, because it weighs ninety pounds.

They're still over-compressing the data stream, so that it loses definition during rapid motion, on at least some HDTV broadcasts.  And there are often artefacts such as black fringes around bright objects in, for instance, sports broadcasts.  Since these defects are probably consequences of the constraints built into the transmission standards, they'll probably never completely go away.  I just hope I don't see them in rented movies.

It would be neat if they came up with a digital cinema standard that supported, say, 3000 lines of vertical resolution... but even more important than how sharp it is, a frame rate better than fucking 24 per second would be much appreciated, thank you.

The two new disk formats will both support MPEG4 compression now, whereas DVDs and digital broadcasts are stuck with MPEG2.  This should improve the compression enough so that 25 gigs should be enough to get good quality, instead of the 50 I was estimating before.  And the Blu-ray format may well get 50 gigs when they add a two-layer version!

I am not buying The Lord Of The Rings on DVD.  No way.  I'm waiting for the Blu-ray release!


The greatest and coolest dai kaiju (giant monster) movie of all time is Gojira tai Hedora, a.k.a. Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster.  No matter what you think of it, you'll have to agree that nobody else has ever made anything like it.  Normally the rule in the movie industry is that nothing can ever be done only once, but after Toho Studios' conservative execs saw what Yoshimitsu Banno had created, they never let him near a director's chair again.  The combination of egotistical avant-garde film technique, heavy-handed social messageering, and old fashioned monster action was just too weird for them.

You're probably thinking, this is just one of those guys who loves really bad movies because they're "so bad they're good".  That's true enough, I guess, but Gojira tai Hedora is not just a so-bad-it's-good movie.  Certain parts of it are bad in that way -- amazingly, inspiringly bad, the kind of bad that increases your respect for human endeavor in the face of daunting odds -- but other parts are a superior monster movie on conventional grounds.  The monster fight in Godzilla 2000 is not nearly as interesting or suspenseful, despite the far better production values.

Side note for the idly curious: the origins of the names Gojira and Hedora are as follows.  The first is a combination of kujira (whale) with gorira (gorilla), and the Japanese term for industrial waste is apparently hedoro.  Allegedly there was some very bulky guy working at Toho studios who had been nicknamed "Gojira" by his colleagues, and the name got borrowed for the new monster.