July 2006 Archives

Not Looking Forward To Next Year

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So, the word on the street is that the bar this year was mind-bogglingly hard.

Well, that gives me something to look forward to for next year. Cheers!

links for 2006-07-31

links for 2006-07-30

links for 2006-07-29

The View From The Inside

Anthony Bourdain watches Beirut die in front of his eyes.

I'm Shocked To Find That Kind of Thing Going On Here

Eurotrash blows the lid off untruths in gossip mags.

Shocked, just shocked, am I.

Oh, and it’s very very very good to have ET back and blogging.

No, Seriously, That Looks Like Fun

Via CNET, I managed to run across a story about a London-to-Ulaanbator rally that requires that all cars be powered (or underpowered, as the case may be) by a 1.0 liter engine or less.

To put that in perspective, the only new car sold in the US today that would be able to meet that requirement is the Honda Insight, and I doubt that it would really qualify, since it’s a hybrid.

There are several suggested routes; the northern passage goes through Sweden, Finland, and Siberia (it’s the route I’d choose—more daylight hours), while more southern options include scenic travel-spots like Iran, Moldova, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and many others. In theory, it’s possible to traverse northwestern China on the way to Mongolia; in practice, it’s somewhat less than advisable.

Still, I have to admit that trying to coax an underpowered Renault or original Mini Cooper through the Khyber Pass sounds like a lot of fun. And as a race, it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than the Daytona 500.

links for 2006-07-26

As seen on ESPN, the 11 p.m. Sportscenter:

ESPN confirmed today that Harold Reynolds, baseball analyst with ESPN since 1996, is no longer with the network. The company offered no further comment.

That was the entirety of the item. The perils of reporting on yourself strike again.

links for 2006-07-25

OneWebDay

This is what I’ve been working on this summer:

OneWebDayThe Web has changed millions of lives. In just about two months from now, on September 22, 2006, we’ll be celebrating the first OneWebDay. The goal of OneWebDay is to make the Web (and our individual connection to it) visible, so that we don’t take it for granted. Add the OneWebDay Button to your site and get together with friends in your town to plan an outdoor celebration with an on-line component that people elsewhere on the Web can appreciate.

Now, I know that you all have been affected by the Internet (otherwise, what would you be doing here?), so go ahead, steal the button, and think about what the Interwebs mean to you.

links for 2006-07-22

El Camino Taco

What is it with the Times and road trips? First, it was Bruni, gorging himself on fast-food coast-to-coast; now, it’s Cindy Price blazing a trail from LA to San Francisco on Highway One, looking for the finest taquerias she can find.

Mmmmm. Tacos.

links for 2006-07-21

Hey, Look At That

I actually got it to work right the first time (aside from some problems with getting the time right)!

links for 2006-07-20

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An Unusual Pantheon, Indeed

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It’s almost inevitable that the filmed versions of novels suffer in comparison to the original. The structural and storytelling requirements of film all too often flatten characters, compress events, and obscure themes and motives. The film version of Bridget Jones’ Diary completely omitted the novel’s commentary on female self-image and culture, for example. Often, making a successful film from a printed source requires significant transformation of the source material (see Dr. Strangelove (or, indeed, most of Kubrick’s mature oeuvre); Blade Runner; Apocalypse Now).

However, there is a very small category of movies-from-books where the film not only stands on its own two feet but actually exceeds the original. The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II (also the rare case where the sequel exceeded what preceded it) is the canonical example. And now I have to report that the filmed version of The Devil Wears Prada is another case of the film far exceeding the original (I admit that I haven’t actually read the novel, but by all accounts, it’s both awful and self-serving).

Our heroine, Andrea “Andy” Sachs (her self-selected choice of a boy’s name is supposed to signify her spunky, independent spirit) is supposed to be a brilliant budding journalist seeking entry into the publishing world (she turned down Stanford Law to pursue her dream; one wonders how hard it would be for someone with the record and intellectual firepower to get into Stanford Law to apply to a graduate program in journalism). Anne Hathaway, the actor who plays Andy, is a pretty and appealing screen presence, even in the first act of the film, when she’s saddled with an unfortunate haircut and dowdy clothes (signifying, of course, Andy’s status as a fashion outsider and naif).

Andy somehow manages to acquire a job as second assistant to Miranda Priestly, the wicked witch of the west imperious doyenne and editrix of the entirely fictional Runway magazine (for those of you keeping score at home, Runway=Vogue and Miranda Priestly=Anna Wintour). Priestly rules her magazine—and the fashion world at large—with pursed lips and an air of slight disappointment; an iron fist in a Chanel glove.

Working alongside Andy at Runway is an evil step-sister Miranda’s first assistant, a tart-tounged Englishwoman named Emily (Emily Blunt in a scenery-chewing, scene-stealing turn); Stanley Tucci plays a fairy godmother art director who takes Andy under his wing and helps her fit in.

The film’s fairy-tale setup is a large part of the film’s initial attraction, and Andy’s Cinderella-like metamorphosis from frumpily unfashionable bookworm to sleek, glamourous clotheshorse is, indeed, a sight to behold (the subtextual message, of course, is that the route to being fabulous lies in a makeover). Ill-fitting corduroy and discount-store sweaters are discarded in favor of designers who need only one name; functional flats are replaced by towering stilettos; an unruly, frizzy mane of hair is pared down into a glossy, sleek, swinging do.

It should be pointed out that ugly duckling roles seem to have become a speciality for Hathaway; this is the third movie she’s appeared in where she undergoes a transformation from frumpy to fab.

The real star, though, is Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly. Despite the fact that Priestly is, structurally, the story’s antagonist, she dominates every scene she’s in—and the film as a whole. Part of this, of course, is simple magnetism; Streep is a Movie Star, and the camera loves her as such (curiously, while most classic movie stars play variations on a theme—James Garner, for example, has become the living embodiment of the affable (if now aging) rogue—Streep is a movie star despite herself; she embraces roles that are alike only in that they’re all middle-aged white women (see her sentimental Yolanda Johnson in A Prairie Home Companion as a contrast to Priestly)).

From the calculatedly unthinking manner that she dumps her coat and purse on Andy’s desk, to her brilliant first-act speech where she draws the line from a turquoise belt to Andy’s blue sweater, to the chilly way she savors the fashion world’s fawning obsequiousness, Streep’s Priestly is an astonishing creature. Her ability to strike fear into her underlings with just a whisper (a trick Streep borrowed from Clint Eastwood, her co-star (and director) in The Bridges of Madison County, another decent movie fashioned from an absolutely awful novel) invokes power both power and respect.

The film dutifully trundles through its various plot mechanics (the hunky writer rake; the up-and-coming designer; the rival editor), but set against the simple pleasure of watching Streep, they fade to become simple window dressing; the actual details of the plot seems secondary and serve only to bump the film through its acts.

The Devil in both the book and the movie refers to Miranda Priestly, of course. But the novel’s devil is a one-dimensional harridan, high on power and thoroughly unlikable. The movie’s devil is a seductive demon, using glamour and power and shiny pretty things to lure Andy into changing who she is; Priestly is akin to Milton’s Lucifer, a devil who seduces rather than overpowers.

The title sequence of the film is a rapid-fire montage of assorted female Runway staffers going through their daily prep; their artifice is contrasted against a pre-makeover Andy stumbling through her morning (the end of the sequence has the staffers all hopping into cabs, while Andy descends into the subway on her way to her job interview at the magazine). The message seems unmistakable; yet, post-makeover, Andy turns into one of them, even going so far as to lose enough weight to go from a perfectly respectable size 6 to a size 4.

The devil knows that glamour seduces even those who reject it; at the end of the film, Andy turns her back on Runway and gives away all her couture clothing. But she keeps her fabulous haircut.

Slipping In Under The Radar

It really used to be a big deal when SixApart would launch a new point release of MovableType. No longer, I guess…

The most obvious feature added to MT 3.3 is the loooooong-overdue addition of tags, finally bringing MT into full Web 2.0 buzzword compliance.

There are, however, a number of smaller changes and under-the-hood changes; one bit of added functionality that will probably never be noticed by 90% of the people using MT 3.3 is that Safari finally gets formatting buttons.

The upgrade process is pretty painless and fairly quick (it took me far longer to upload the new version to my web host than it did to actually run the upgrade script). My number one request for this point release was more speed; let’s see how it does…

Update: well, not particularly faster; on the other hand, neither is it particularly slower.

Update Part Deux: If you’re using Akismet-MT, you’ll have to re-enter your Wordpress.com API key after the upgrade, or you’ll be bombarded with all the spam you’ve been missing…

Update The Third: Ok, it looks like Akismet is dying when it tries to filter stuff. :(

Correct Me If I'm Wrong, But...

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But if memory serves, part of the Grand Plan For The Middle East was that removing Saddam Hussein would ensure a long-lasting stable peace in the region, wasn’t it?

I guess that part of the plan isn’t working….

The Cool Factor On This One Goes Up To 11

Ok, for this project you’ll need

  1. A robust, flyable model sailplane
  2. A GPS receiver
  3. A homebrew computerized autopilot (that goes in the model sailplane)
  4. A drogue parachute for landing
  5. A very-high-altitude helium weather balloon.

Why? Well, you’ll be building an RC glider that gets launched at 85,000 feet (that’s more than 16 miles up).

For comparison, commercial airliners usually fly at about 35,000 feet; 85,000 feet is generally the domain of ultra-exotic military aircraft like the SR-71 and the U-2.

And speaking of the SR-71, it seems that the operation manual has been declassified and posted on-line.

Peering Into The Future

Jeremy Blachman, who writes the hilarious Anonymous Lawyer blog, just published a piece in the WSJ talking about what to expect when taking the bar exam:

Nothing good ever happens to the people in practice bar exam questions. Everyone who crosses the street gets hit by a car, every doctor botches the surgery, parachutes never open, contracts never get fulfilled, anyone who uses a lawnmower ends up in the hospital, as soon as you write a will your whole family dies, employee benefit plans never pay out their benefits, computers all get viruses, your friends are always intoxicated, stealing your farm equipment, and driving it into the barn, police search you all the time for no good reason, you can never find a good place to hide your weapons, banks never recognize a signature as a forgery, and the forger always flees the country.

That's An Interesting Pricing Model

Bruni reports on a unique prix fixe over on the east side: the cost of your meal is your age.

One Of My Favorite Sites

Meebo, which is one of my favorite Web 2.0 applications, gets profiled by the folks at O’Reilly.

Some Good News

Hao Wu, a Chinese blogger and filmmaker, has been released from police detention.

Previous coverage here and here.

I Suppose It's A Good Way To Study

The US Copyright Code, in verse.

Curated Random Crap

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Or, I was gonna write about this stuff but never got a round tuit.

pf.org Should Be Going To Kindergarten Now

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Five years ago today.

Four years ago today.

Three years ago today.

Two years ago today.

One year ago today yesterday (there wasn’t actually an entry on the fifth last year).

As they say, let’s run the numbers:

5 years
1,851 entries (including this one) (1.0137 posts per day)
3,183 comments (1.7196 comments per entry)
108 trackbacks
3,044,342 bytes of text
1,675 pages, single-spaced

Not bad for something that was started to impress a girl (didn’t work).

What were you doing five years ago?

They're Breeding

I present, without (much) comment: lawyersinlove.com, a dating service for “lawyers, law students, and legal professionals.”

I have no words.

Happy Birthday, America!

While driving a giant SUV may seem to be the most American thing ever and thus an entirely appropriate way of celebrating Independence day, it seems that ever-rising gas prices are making new car sales (particularly trucks and SUVs) tank.

Of course, if you click on the thumbnail below, it does appear that contextual advertising strikes again:

Update: See also the Google ads for this post.

On a more serious note, here’s a great story from the Times about what Independence Day means in Queens (a.k.a. “the most ethnically diverse county in the nation”).

And finally, Guy Kawasaki points us to a really cool fireworks screensaver (Mac version | Windows version) for those of us who can’t get to a fireworks show tonight.

Omnivores of the World, Unite!

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Megnut on veganism and why she returned to being an omnivore:

Being an AV [almost-vegan] created a very contentious relationship between me and my food. Eating was rarely fun or pleasurable.

I once tried out an existentialist argument for being an omnivore, but it didn’t really go over very well; my friend Martin’s rationalization seems to work much better: “I eat meat because it’s tasty.”

Related: Why Vegetarians Should Be Force Fed With Lard

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