Monthly Archives: April 2006

Geocities vs Google Pages

After talking about how Google page creator was lame, I decided to try the grand-daddy of this technology: geocities.
Now I am even more disappointed.

Geocities is not half bad. They have a reasonable set of default templates, the ability to host your own domain, and a wizard set up that makes creating a simple web page very very easy.

Check out my geocities page. You’ll notice that there is substantially more content than the Google page. And I spent about the same amount of time on both.

Google pages….


I’ve become one of the blessed. I too can now create web pages using Google’s Web 2.0 Web Page Generator! And yes the product is the coolest, spiffiest, most innovative piece of technology out there! It breaks new exciting ground!


I don’t actually intend to do much with that page other than to experiment with the technology. The Google folks sometimes have interesting UI ideas.

Google pages, however, at first blush is a disappointmnet.

Google Maps redefined what we expected from web based map products.

Google Pages is just another web page editor that is integrated with web publishing software. My blog software is as sophisticated and easy to use as the Google product.

We’ll see …


It turns out that mamals (of which we humans are a deviant variety) have a predisposition to thinking that big eyes are cute.

Because we think big eyes are cute, we tend to want to protect and nurture things with big eyes.

That may explain, in part, why human eyeballs never change in size as a human child grows up. As a small child, the big eye balls generate a cute reaction by the parent, therefore increasing the likelihood of survival of the child.

So it’s a not a Disney conspiracy. It’s our damnable genes.

Movie Review: King Kong

Peter Jackson made the studios billions with his Lord of the Rings trilogy. They were a critical and financial success. His mastery of both directing and of managing costs puts him in a truly unique place in the movie biz. He can do whatever project he wants and people will fund it simply because he is involved.

There is another artist with a similar cachet, JK Rowlings.

And after suffering through King Kong, I am struck by a certain similarity between the two.

No one wants to edit JK Rowlings’ books.

No one wants to touch Peter Jackson’s art.

Unfortunately, in both cases, the art suffers.

The story of King Kong is well known, and Peter Jackson never strays. All he does is add technology, superior acting, better camera work and a lot more time to a story that could be said in less.

king kong

And much like kong, we’re frustrated that that was all he did.

One curious observation, in his Lord of the Rings saga, the end of the third film seemed to drag on forever. I was convinced this is a reflection of the material, not the director. King Kong seemed to linger on forever, both the film and the ape, before the end. So much so that the impact of the end was dissipated in anticipation of getting out of the theater

Naomi Watts as the woman in distress was very good. Anthony Serkis continues to be the best actor to not appear in the flesh.  Adrien Brody was convincing in his role as tormented play-write.

The actor who impressed me was Jack Black. Originally, I thought he was incapable of playing a dramatic role. And for a while his character Carl Denham appears to be the comic relief, but towards the end he manages to steal the show. Which given that that’s when the ape rampages through the city, should tell you something.

Google Adwords

One of the reasons I set up my own blog was to explore the capabilities etc of Google Adwords.

What’s interesting is how piss poor it really is.

The ad’s key off of random phrases in my blog that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual content of my blog.

I do movie reviews, some coffee reviews and some occasional random topic. Because I do movie reviews, my blog tends to have key words that are all over the place.

You would think that Google’s brain trust would key off the categories and have things related to movies, but no. I have ads for Mormon’s, Islam and my all-time favorite a lesbian Christian.

I was thinking Google’s AdWords would generate revenue.

They don’t.

But they do generate humor.

Movie Review: The Lords of War

In the Soviet Union there was a very specific kind of subversive movie that was popular. The movie appeared to the censors to applaud the status-quo while at the same time skewering it to someone who could read between the lines.

The Lords of War is exactly that kind of movie. On the face of it, the movie is about Yuri Orlov, played by Nicholas Cage, a disaffected bored young American who stumbles on the gun trade as a way to make money. The story follows the expected arc. Yuri discovers the gun trade. Yuri becomes successful in the gun trade. Yuri gets the babe and fortune and a little bit of fame. Babe convinces Yuri that the gun trade is evil. Yuri abandons the gun trade. Yuri tries to go for one more score that goes hopelessly awry. Yuri loses everything.

Except The Lords of War is not that film. What the film really is about is how the world sat and watched while guns were rapidly distrbuted throughout the thirld war after the collapse of the Soviet Union. How those guns were used by maniacs like the imaginary Andre Baptiste Sr., leader of Liberia, to fund their bloody wars.

We think that the movie’s purpose is teach us to hate the gun merchant because he is evil.

And Yuri understands that we think he is evil. When Jack Valentine, the Interpol Agent who has been pursuing Yuri finally has him arrested, they have the following exchange:

Yuri Orlov: Enjoy it.
Jack Valentine: What?
Yuri Orlov: This. Tell me I’m everything you despise. That I’m the personification of evil. That I’m what- responsible for the breakdown of the fabric of society and world order. I’m a one-man genocide. Say everything you want to say to me now. Because you don’t have long.

So we do. We the audience, outraged by Yuri and his actions call him all those horrible things. And we think that that’s the point of the film, that there is a scourge, the gun runner, and if we got rid of him the world would be a better place. We eagerly wait to find out what number we can dial to help the heroic Jack Valentines of the world.

And Yuri understands that too. But he turns to Jack and to the audience and says:

Yuri Orlov: The reason I’ll be released is the same reason you think I’ll be convicted. I *do* rub shoulders with some of the most vile, sadistic men calling themselves leaders today. But some of these men are the enemies of *your* enemies. And while the biggest arms dealer in the world is your boss–the President of the United States, who ships more merchandise in a day than I do in a year–sometimes it’s embarrassing to have his fingerprints on the guns. Sometimes he needs a freelancer like me to supply forces he can’t be seen supplying. So. You call me evil, but unfortunately for you, I’m a necessary evil.

And then we realize that, the gun merchant is not evil. The gun merchant is merely a middle man between the gun manufacturer, the gun owner and the victim. He is what makes them possible.

At that point we understand the subversiveness of the opening sequence and of the true purpose of the film. The opening sequence begins with Yuri, transitions to a factory that manufactures AK-47’s and ends with a bullet in a child’s brain. The point is that we’re all to blame. It’s not just the killer, and it’s not just the middleman but it’s also the guy building the guns. And that we can not escape our own moral responsibilities by blaming the problem on them.

You know it’s time for spring when…

This past weekend I was up in bear valley at a friend’s cabin. We were there with his dogs and my dog to enjoy the snow and the mountains. A few days of R&R.

Whenever we go there we go cross country skiing with the dogs in the backcountry area.

My wife and I don’t own skiis so we had to rent some from the very friendly ski rental area.

While we were returning our stuff, we started to chat with the employees. I remarked that in spite of the excellent ski conditions no one was there. To which the male employee replied that it’s April and in the Bay Area if it’s April the locals don’t ski.

I was about to start laughing, when he then proceeded to complain about the snow. That there had been so much snow that he had been skiing on nothing but powder for months on end. That he and his budies were looking forward to some icy hard pack or spring conditions.

So there you have it, you know it’s time for spring when the ski bums are desperate for the snow to stop falling.

Movie Review: Wayne’s World

Wayne’s World is the dress rehersal for Mike Meyrs great success, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

Don’t bother with the rehersal just see the full production.

All of the essential elements of the Austin Powers films is here. The absurd plot, the bizarre comedic skits, the over-the-top sex, the disgusting humor and the spoof of different film genres.

Unfortunately, in this film, Meyrs is somewhat restrained from the over-the-top approach he took later on in his career and as a result the film is fundamentally less funny.

I won’t bother with the plot, because that’s besides the point.

Movie Review: Hairspray

When Hairspary the Musical erupted on the national stage winning every award in site, it resurected my interest in the John Waters film of the same name.

The film has all of the attributes of a John Waters film, including Devine, the cheap as sin acting and sets, the over-the-top directing and the absurd cinematic moments. It’s unclear from following the movie what I am supposed to get out of it.

It’s clearly not a documentary on 1960’s history.  It’s clearly not a comment on modern race relations.
The film is more like a trip down John Waters’ memory about the events of that time.

It attempts to explore the issues of race in the 1960’s using Waters’ wacky style.
Is it worth watching?

Hard to say. The low budget shines through all of the time. But there is a certain Jetson’s like feel to watching the 60’s through Waters’ eyes. Much like the Jetson’s project the 1950’s into the 21st century, Hairspray projects our imaginings of the period onto the period.
Devine is wonderful.

Ricki Lake is funny as Tracy Turnblad.
Jerry Stiller is great.

It’s one of the more watchable of Waters’ films. Not a mainstream selection.

Movie Review: Crash

In 1994, Quentin Tarantino introduced the notion of the two sophisticated criminals bantering about the state of the world. This was an interesting way to turn a traditional concept, the dumb criminal, on it’s head.

Crash, the 2005 Oscar Winner, is a film about racism that opens the same way Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers opened. With two criminals commenting on the state of the world. That initial opening raises your hope that you are about to see something really good. The Oscar tag makes you feel even more excited, and then the film falls apart. The morality play takes over, and the story withers and dies.
The intent of Crash is to teach us that in our little racist world no one is an angel and no one is a saint. Every single character in the film is either a victim of racism or commits an act of racism within a single 36 hour time period.

To make the film seem more than an after school special we have odd co-incidences, great actors, and some adult themes. But the predictability of the film is irritating.

Of course, when daddy gives up his invulnerable bullet vest to his daughter, the daughter will try and save him from a bullet.

Of course the good white cop is going to stereotype a black man and do something terrible, like bury his body in a ravine.

Of course the good black man is going to try and recover his manhood by acting out some gangsta fantasy.

Of course the good black cop is going to sell out a bad white cop to save his criminal brother.


You can watch this Oscar Winner or you can watch South Park. South Park’s commentary on racism is far more biting and insightful.