Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rest in Peace - Paul Newman

Some sad news today, legendary actor Paul Newman has died at the age of 83 following a battle with cancer.

He will be missed, but he has left behind a staggering body of work. There's no better way to remember him than by putting on your favourite of his films. Me? I think I'll be watching The Verdict. Or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

"Hey, Kid, next time I say let's go someplace like Bolivia, let's go someplace like Bolivia."

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Top Ten Films of the Decade - The 1980s

I'm continuing my top ten lists from the 1990s all the way back to the 1920s.

The 1980s

10 - Raiders of the Lost Ark - Directed by Steven Spielberg - There have been many action films in the last twenty-five years or so, and a lot of them are very good indeed. But there is only one adventure film that tops them all, and that's Raiders. Simply put, no other action film since 1980 has been as much fun and as well-constructed as this. This film has supported three more films of ever-shrinking effectiveness, but our enjoyment of this perfect adventure is such that it can easily shoulder three lesser sequels. It's the best film of its type since Gunga Din, and as Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford delivers an iconic, truly great performance.

9 - Blade Runner - Directed by Ridley Scott - Completely unappreciated upon its release, subsequent rejiggering of the film back to its original vision has revealed a masterfully intelligent and complex science fiction story that has influenced every film of the fantastic since. It's a landmark of visual effects and style as well as being filled with great performances, especially those by Harrison Ford and the wonderful Rutger Hauer.

8 - The Empire Strikes Back - Directed by Irvin Kershner - With a strong director at the helm, a screenplay written by two masterful writers (Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan) and darker, richer story matter, Empire succeeds in doing the impossible; it's a sequel that's better than its predecessor. There's simply a better story to tell this time around, one full of foreboding, angst and big emotions. It's almost shocking how downbeat its ending is.

7 - Do the Right Thing - Directed by Spike Lee - He had directed and released two films prior to this, and had made a small splash, but it's with this hand grenade of a film that Spike Lee truly exploded to the top ranks of American filmmakers. A searing and incendiary study of race relations, Do the Right Thing not only was among the most polarizing and original films of the decade, but it also helped to open the door for a host African-American filmmakers. It's a shame that Lee has never quite risen to this height since.

6 - Crimes and Misdemeanors - Directed by Woody Allen - You either love his movies or hate them, but if you love them, few writer/directors can match the exquisite richness of Woody Allen. He makes films about adults and about large, complex themes. He makes films about realtionships; our relationships with the world, each other and ourselves. Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of the best examinations of morality ever made in America. When Woody is bad, he's truly awful, but when he's good, he's the most sublime of storytellers.

5 - Wings of Desire - Directed by Wim Wenders - Please, please, please, ignore the truly interminable American version titled City of Angels. Wings of Desire is the real deal. It follows two angels as they invisibly roam Berlin, observing the lives of humans. Filled with heartbreaking imagery and wonderfully touching moments, Wings of Desire is one of those films that gets inside you, even if its pace and lack of incident makes it a challenge. It's a challenge well worth taking.

4 - Au Revoir, Les Enfants - Directed by Louis Malle - Louis Malle wrote, directed and produced this moving and heartfelt semi-autobiographical look back at gowing up druing the brutal days of Nazi-occupied France. Malle tells the story of a boarding school and the bond of friendship between two boys, one of whom is Jewish. Both sweet and nostalgic as well as harrowing and tragic, it may be the best coming-of-age film ever made, and it's got some stiff competition out there.

3 - Ran - Directed by Akira Kurosawa - The great Japanese master may have been close to the end of his life, but during this time he produced several films that brilliantly showed he had lost none of his passion, innovation or skill. Ran ranks with the classics he produced during his heyday; a meditation on chaos, the futility of will, and the absence of God. Far bleaker than any other film he made, it was partially based on King Lear, and its complexity, combined with its supremely confident visual style, makes it a masterpiece.

2 - Fanny & Alexander - Ingmar Bergman - In a long career filled with masterpieces such as Wild Stawberries, The Seventh Seal, Cries & Whispers and Scenes From a Marriage, this film could very well be his greatest. It's the story of the Ekdahl family, specifically Fanny and her brother Alexander. Dealing with Christianity, repentance, authority, the paranormal and of course, existentialism, the film succeeds in being both magical and realistic. A certifiable original by one of the true geniuses of cinema, Fanny & Alexander is an amazing experience regardless of which of the many different cuts you see (go for the 312 minute version - that's the fullest one).

1 - Raging Bull - Martin Scorsese - The story of real-life boxer Jake LaMotta, Raging Bull is a tough, uncompromising story of one man's rise and fall and subsequent hard won redemption. LaMotta, played by Robert De Niro in his greatest performance, is depicted as a sensualist so plagued with personal demons that he is almost reduced to the level of an animal. Made following Scorsese's near death after years of self-destructive behavior, it's one of the most rawly visceral films ever made, shot with an incredible visual flourish in rich black and white. Combine this visual flair with De Niro's incendiary performance and one of the best screenplays ever and you get not only the best film of this decade, but one of the best American films ever made.

The Top Ten Films of the Decade - The 1990s

Here at the Nerd Report, I've tried to resist spouting off too much. I personally don't like the pontificating film geek, and that may be because, well, I am one. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to list my top ten films for each decade going all the way back to the 1920s.

This list can't help but be subjective, so you may think I'm missing out films or placed some films too high or whatnot. If so, comment on it, I'll be happy to discuss. Hopefully you'll notice a few films here that you haven't seen before, and seek them out. Lists made by other people have done this for me, so I'm just paying it forward (Pay it Forward is not on any best of list, by the way. Terrible flick).

The 1990s

10 - Eyes Wide Shut - Directed by Stanley Kubrick - Okay, some people consider this film to be a mess, unworthy of being the final masterwork by one of cinema's most innovative geniuses. I disagree. I'm not sure how much of the film actually "happens" in a real sense after Nicole Kidman's character makes the fateful admission to her husband (Tom Cruise). The film, from my point of view, is a dream that turns into a nightmare for Cruise's character; a dark journey through a marriage that has to hit rock bottom before the couple can reach a level of honesty about themselves. A final, confident, haunting masterpiece.

9 -All About My Mother - Directed by Pedro Almodovar - Almodovar has long been considered one of the most consistently brilliant filmmakers around, and also one of the best directors of women ever. He called this film a "screwball melodrama", and that's a wonderful way to describe this touching, hilarious and deeply emotional tribute to mothers, actresses and women in general. It's his most accomplished and evenly balanced triumph.

8 - Saving Private Ryan - Directed by Steven Spielberg - Opening with a harrowing and brutally realistic depiction of the carnage during the storming of the beach at Normandy, this film then moves into a quieter, more subtle story of a group of soldiers being sent to rescue and retrieve one private near enemy lines. Although some accuse Spielberg of being manipulative and sentimental, there's no denying the power of this film, or its ability to leave you stunned and emotionally drained at its conclusion. A brilliant meditation on the value of a single life.

7 - Chungking Express - Directed by Wong Kar-Wai - A crossover hit that introduced Wong to world audiences, it is a bold announcement of a singular, exceptional talent. The film is made up of two stories, each a romance involving longing and seduction and told with incredible style and panache. A singular accomplishment and seamless melding of high style and big emotions.

6 - Goodfellas - Directed by Martin Scorsese - The fact that this film lost the Best Picture Oscar to Dances with Wolves still makes me crazy, as it's probably one of the most assured and enjoyable films ever made. What more can you say, except that if you haven't seen it, you're missing out.

5 - The Player - Robert Altman - After a decade of middling to terrible films, Altman roared back to life with this cynical black comedy about the movie business. In a way, Altman's old tricks (virtuoso camera moves, overlapping dialogue, a large and varied cast) seemed fresh again as he took everything about Hollywood that was reprehensible and poured it into one character; Tim Robbins' morally bankrupt and paranoid studio exec. One of the best black comedies ever.

4 - Three Colors : Red - Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski - The final part of the Three Colors trilogy is often cited as the best. I personally prefer Blue but only by a smidge. The almost unbearably luminously beautiful Irene Jacob portrays a woman who becomes involved in the reclusive life of a retired judge who electronically eavesdrops on his neighbours. Like all of Kieslowski's work, the film is focused on human relationships and how mysterious and absolutely necessary they are, and of course, it is one of the most gorgeous films you'll ever see.

3 - Three Colors : Blue - Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski - The first part of the triliogy is the one I find the most powerful and memorable of the three (If you're wondering where White is, well, if I could put eleven films here, it'd be here). Juliette Binoche (another unbelievably beautiful actress) portrays a woman almost devoured by grief following the deaths of her composer husband and her small child. There is almost no other film that so successfully and brilliantly integrates imagery, emotion and music to produce a truly wonderful and touching experience.

2 - Pulp Fiction - Directed by Quentin Tarantino - Now that we've grown accustomed to his style, Tarantino has been derided by some as a hack who is more of a mash-up artist, stealing imagery, tone and plot details from other sources, than a true filmmaker. That view misses the point; what he is is the first of a new type of filmmaker, and he's still the most bold. With its non-linear storyline, shocking violence and dialogue that allows characters to reveal everything while talking about nothing, it's important to remember how completely original and fresh Pulp Fiction seemed. It was simultaneously a punch in the gut and a breath of fresh air to audiences, making it perhaps the most innovative and influential film of its generation.

1 - Schindler's List - Directed by Steven Spielberg - Both Kubrick and Billy Wilder had attempted to make the definitive Holocaust story during their careers, but only Spielberg, the master entertainer and supreme mainstream craftsman, had the proper touch. It's three hours of riveting, harrowing, blindingly forceful filmmaking. And if it strays too far into sentimentality at times, it hardly matters, for the vast bulk of the film contains some of the most powerful moments you'll experience as an audience member.

See you soon for the 1980s!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Moby Dick - now with more kick-assery, less annoying thematic complexity

According to recent article in Entertainment Weekly, a pair of screenwriters are considering making another film version of Moby Dick. Fair enough. Here, according to the two geniuses who brought you the cinematic marvel that was Accepted, is their plan:

Screenwriters Adam Cooper and Bill Collage..."revere Melville's original text" but plan to change it drastically into a "graphic novel-style" adventure tale, starting with the dropping of the first-person narration. (Never mind that the book begins with one of the most famous lines of first-person narration in all of literature: "Call me Ishmael.") The movie will also change Captain Ahab so that he's shown "more as a charismatic leader than a brooding obsessive." And modern digital effects will be used"to tell what at its core is an action-adventure revenge story."

Okay, this might not be the most retarded adaptaion of good source material (Bonfire of the Vanities or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, take your pick), but that could be only because it hasn't been made yet. Their plans for Moby Dick seem to indicate that they've never even read the damn thing, except maybe this version:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

LHC is out of action; Humanity spared Black Hole in Europe!

According to recent news reports, The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has had to shut down in light of a major fault. If you'll recall, I first wrote about the LHC here, where, to my chagrin, I got the date of its activation wrong. However, I pointed out to people who corrected me that this only gave you an extra week to make peace with whatever deities you may worship.

According to a press statement issued by CERN, the problem stems from the following:

...the most likely cause of the incident was a faulty electrical connection between two of the accelerator’s magnets. Before a full understanding of the incident can be established, however, the sector has to be brought to room temperature and the magnets involved opened up for inspection. This will take three to four weeks. Full details of this investigation will be made available once it is complete.

So, it appears we're spared from the appearance of a black hole on Earth.....aside from this one:

From Deconstructing Harry:

Harry: Cookie, do you know what a black hole is?

Cookie, the Hooker: Sure, that's how I make my livin'!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jed Bartlet meets Barack Obama

Over at the NY Times, there's a great op-ed piece written by Aaron Sorkin that dramatises a meeting between fictional West Wing president Josiah Bartlet and real world candidate Barack Obama.

Can someone explain to me why the most skilled Deomcratic orator in decades hasn't hired Sorkin to write some speeches for him yet?

Here's a sample of Bartlet's advice to Obama:

BARTLET: You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now.

The basic point of the whole thing is that Obama should be picking a fight with these guys, that he should be angrier. And he should. Get some fire in the belly, because it's inconceivable to me that he's running in a dead heat with McCain. Should the Republicans keep the White House after eight years of driving that country steadily into the toilet, man, everyone in that country will be in trouble.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Doctor is in

This Friday, Sept. 19th, Doctor Who returns to CBC for a fourth season. It's been quite a long wait for fans.........unless like most of us, you downloaded the episodes five minutes after they aired in England six months ago.

Now, if you're a fan, you're probably excited to see Voyage of the Damned, the 2007 Christmas special featuring Kylie Minogue that was a huge hit in UK. See, these Christmas specials air before a new season starts, so it's the best place to begin.

Unless you're the CBC, in which case you're telling fans to suck on your balls.

The CBC has had a close relationship with Doctor Who since it relaunched in 2005. The series is "produced in association with" the CBC, which I guess means we're giving them money somewhere along the line. So, it's odd that the CBC has never really seemed to give a shit about the show.

In 2005, things looked so good. We got the show just a few weeks after it aired in the UK. But with each passing season, the series gets scheduled more and more haphazardly. They seem to start airing it whenever they want, with little fanfare or publicity. They don't have any idea what to do with the Christmas specials, which is fucking retarded since the the name "Christmas special" could not be clearer in telling you what time of year you should air the goddamned thing.

It must do resonably well, at least as well as anything does on CBC that isn't Little Mosque... or a Simpsons rerun or Hockey Night in Canada. My wife watches it. My dad and mom watch it. If my dad is aware of you, you must be successful. But my dad always asks me, "When is it starting again?" and I never can give him an answer.

So, it's on this Friday, and I'm looking forward to watching it in glorious HD, and I'm proud that the CBC invests in it, I just wish they were proud of it too.

This Looks Like a Job For........


Yep, after 12 wonderous (if often delayed) and brilliant issues, All Star Superman is coming to a close today with issue #12.

The series, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely, has won Eisners for Best New Series and Best Continuing Series, and it deserved both. In an age where melodrama, violence and sombre tales dominate the market, this series was whimsical without being silly, heartfelt without being cheesy, and thrilling without being drenced in violence. In short, it was the first series I read as an adult that actually reminded me of the comics I read as a kid.

It's also the best Superman story I've read in years. He's a notoriously hard character to write, as evidenced by all the shitty stories he's been in over the years. When people tell me Superman's lame, this is the story I point to and say, "No, he's a fucking classic and when he's well-written there are no other superheroes that can hold a candle to him." Sadly, most of time he isn't as well written.

DC's All Star line has been wildly inconsistent, with All Star Batman being the most moronic interpretation of the character I've ever read. After Batman finishes (if that ever happens) I expect we'll see it fold. At least it yielded All Star Superman, a certifiable classic. If you see it collected, pick it up. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ed Brubaker's "Incognito"

Ed Brubaker, the writer of such awesome Marvel titles as Captain America, Uncanny X-Men, and Daredevil (basically any Marvel title worth reading) is about launch a new creator owned series called Incognito.

Newsarama has a nice short interview with Brubaker about the new title, which Brubaker describes here:

Incognito is a dark exploration into the nature of good, if that makes any sense. It's about a completely amoral guy with super-powers forced to pretend he's a normal law-abiding citizen, because he's in Witness Protection, and how that shapes what he becomes. It's also a brutal noir twist on the super-hero/super-villain genre that delves more into their roots in the pulps, and it's going to be pretty over-the-top and action-packed.

The article talks about Brubaker's other creator owned Marvel project, the brilliant crime series Criminal. Brubaker is Marvel's MVP at the moment (sorry, Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis, but tis true), so I have faith that this will be as great as all of his other stuff.

The article also has a teaser, which shows how moody cool this will be.

Housewives Assemble!!!!

On Friday, Desperate Housewives actress Eva Longoria was spotted leaving the Los Angeles office of Marvel Comics with a schwack of comics in her dainty mitts.

As they're clearly copies of The Avengers, many online have started to suggest that she's up for the role of Janet Van Dyne, aka The Wasp in the upcoming Avengers flick.

She looks like The Wasp has always looked, that's for sure. Still, I've yet to see any example thus far of her ability to emote beyond sultriness and/or confusion, so it's a bit of step down from the likes of Robert Downey Jr and Edward Norton, no?

Nerdlinger's Top 10 Movies to See this Fall (2)

Presenting the second part of my look ahead to my most anticipated films of the fall/winter.

6 - Choke (Sept. 26th) - Sexual addict Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell) spends his days working as a historical re-enactor at a Colonial theme park, but he spends his nights pretending to choke in upscale restaurants, where he forms a dependant relationship with the wealthy diners who "save" him. He does this to pay for his mother's medical bills while she succumbs to Alzeheimer's. Adapted from Chuck Pahalniuk's (Fight Club) novel by writer/director (and actor) Clark Gregg, Rockwell is a perfect fit for the wacky, potentially sleeper hit material. The film also stars Angelica Huston and Kelly Macdonald.

7 - Milk (Dec. 5th) - In 1977, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected to public office in the US when he won a seat on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors. The next year, he and San Fran's mayor were shot to death by a former colleague. In the film, Sean Penn portrays Milk, while James Brolin plays his killer, Dan White. Directed by Gus Van Sant, the film should be powerful, intelligent and well made, but will we get the Van Sant who made Good Will Hunting, Drugstore Cowboy and Elephant? Or will we get the Van Sant who made Psycho and Gerry?

8 - Synecdoche, NY (Oct. 24th) - According to Wikipedia, this film appears to be about a theatre director (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who attempts to mount a massively ambitious production staged within a life-sized replica of New York while his autonomic functions begin to shut down one at a time. Sound weird? That's because this film is the product of writer Charlie Kaufman (writer of Being John Malkovich, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Adaptation) in his directorial debut, so it will be unlike anything you've seen before. Hopefully, that means it will also be as blindingly brilliant as those films as well. Let's also not forget that this film features some of the greatest actresses around; Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Emily Watson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Dianne Weist, Robin Weigert and Hope Davis co-star.

9 - Valkyrie (Dec. 26th) - Directed by Bryan Singer, this film tells the true story of the plot by German military officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler during the Second World War. Tom Cruise portrays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, war hero and one of the leaders of the plot. Germany, who has attempted to outlaw Scientology in the past, was upset at the casting of Cruise as one of their greatest heroic figures, but they should get over themselves. Cruise, when inspired and working with a director that can reign him in, can deliver great performances. Also, it's nice to see director Singer moving away from super-heroics and back to straight dramas.

10 - Doubt (Dec. 12th) - John Patrick Shanley directs this adaptation of his own hit play, in which a nun (Meryl Streep) suspects a priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of abusing a student. The play is amazing, tackling themes of morality, religion and truth, while leaving the audience in doubt as to the veracity of the accusations. With the playwright himself at the helm, and two of the best actors alive in the cast, it's hard to see this failing to live up to its considerable promise.

Here are some runners up that might be interesting as well: W, Frost/Nixon, Miracle at St. Anna, Revolutionary Road, The Wrestler.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nerdlinger's Top 10 Movies to See this Fall (1)

So, the leaves are turning, the nights are getting colder and TV shows are getting canceled after only one or two episodes; it must be fall!

We'll get to my picks for the upcoming new TV shows to watch, today it's all about the silver screen. I'm going to run down the top ten films that I'm excited to see this fall and winter, leading up to awards season. Without further ado, let's begin with the first five.

1 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Dec. 25th) - One of my favourite films of last year was Zodiac, which seems to get more and more brilliant every time I watch it. Director David Fincher has made a string of stylish, technically innovative films (Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room) that contain some bold thematic material while still delivering wide appeal. Now Fincher has made ...Button, based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald story, in which a man is born as an old man and lives his life aging backwards, getting more and more young as the story goes on. Starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, it may not work, but it should be totally original.

2 - The Road (Nov. 26th) - Based on the celebrated novel by Cormac McCarthy, The Road takes place in a bleak post-apocalyptic world in which a father and son walk south along a long road to escape the coming winter with only a pistol with two bullets to protect them. Joe Hillcoat, who helmed the excellent western The Proposition directs Viggo Mortensen, who may turn out to be one of the greatest actors of his generation. Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce and Charlize Theron also star.

3 - Quantum of Solace (Nov. 14th) - Daniel Craig returns as James Bond in the follow up to the hugely successful relaunch of the venerable franchise, Casino Royale. That film worked because it combined the franchise's over the top action with a modern, grittier, more down to earth seriousness, and Daniel Craig's considerable charisma to create a film that was one of the most thrilling adventures in the series' history. If the production team approaches this one with the same care, and avoids its predilection for bombast and bloat, then this could be the most fun movie of the year.

4 - Changeling (Oct. 31st) - Clint Eastwood's latest film stars Angelina Jolie as a Depression-era mother who, after her son is kidnapped, is overjoyed to learn that the LAPD have found her child. However, when reunited, she learns that the boy claiming to be her son is not hers, and her subsequent efforts to prove this and find her true son are met with resistance by the corrupt LAPD. The film received rave reviews at Cannes, and while Eastwood's films are usually almost oppresively tragic, they are also undeniably captivating.

5 - Australia (Nov. 26th) - Love him or hate him, director Baz Luhrmann is a master at employing visual flourish to tell sweeping stories. I detested his Romeo + Juliet, which I thought was style without substance. I loved Moulin Rouge! which was both infinitely stylish and also undeniably moving. He is the only director besides Kubrick who has ever made me enjoy Nicole Kidman, which is no mean feat. Also, co-star Hugh Jackman is pretty much genetically designed for this type of film. A chick flick, yes, but one that will go beyond that pejorative description.

See you soon for part 2!

"Who" Headed for Big Screen?

According to the Sun (which couldn't be a dodgier source), Doctor Who looks to be headed to the big screen.

There have been rumours for quite a while that current Doctor David Tennant, who has led the series to its greatest heights of popularity since its heydey in the 1960s, is a bit reluctant to return to the role. His desire to perform in a stage production of Hamlet was a major factor in the series going on a pseudo-hiatus for 2009, during which there will be only 3-4 specials produced in lieu of a full season.

But after those specials, Tennant's contract is up. The media has speculated that, rather than lose its hugely popular leading man, the BBC is attempting to woo Tennant with a massive 1.5 million pound contract. Now, the word around the playground is that part of the deal may include a foray onto the big screen. It seems a part of Tennant's concern is that the series prevents him from making a concerted stab at big screen roles, and a Doctor Who film may help with that.

It's a good story, but I doubt its veracity beyond rumour-mongering. I mean the article states that there have been two previous big-screen versions of the series, which is true: Peter Cushing starred in two adaptations in the sixties. However, the article claims that the 1996 TV movie was a big screen affair, which it certainly wasn't. You can't trust a news item that won't bother to look up its facts on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

We now resume our broadcasting day....

Hey, all,

I know, it's been a few days since my last post, but I've been a traveling fool. Me, Mrs. Nerdlinger and the Nerd Spawn flew off to a family wedding last week, and I've been unable to post until my return.

We went to the wonderful city of Winnipeg, childhood home of the 'rents, where many of my extended fam still resides. Personally, Winnipeg seems like a great place to be from, but not so great a place to actually live. I mean no slight on the people or even the town itself, but rather the climate. Seriously, if you want to know what the climate in the 'Peg is like, read Dante.

The winters last for six months and are cold enough to make hyperbole its bitch. Then comes the flooding. Once the floodwaters recede come mosquitoes and black flies in such quantities that you'll think you're watching a 1970s disaster film. Oh yeah, then the summers are hot enough to make your ball sweat have ball sweat.

But there is compensation, and that comes in the forms of sweet, wonderful hamburger stands. Winnipeg has a plethora of actual hamburger stands, most of which have been around for decades and all of which serve, I kid you not, the best damn burgers you have ever eaten. There are heated debates about which one is the best, although my family has always sworn by The Dairy Whip on Marion Street. It's a tiny stand that has been in operation for 50 years. If you've been in business for half a century, you better believe the burger is good. This place is known as "The Greek's" by those in the know, and if you're ever in town, do not leave without sampling one.

I couldn't find a picture of The Greek's, but the close second in terms of addictiveness is Mrs. Mike's on Tache. Here's a shot:

No kidding, we ate burgers for lunch every day we were there.

By the way, the wedding was great, the family was awesome, and the Spawn slept through both plane rides! Score!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sci-Fi Tech That Will Kill Us All (4)

Okay, so, beginning tomorrow, the Large Hadron Collider will go online. Oh, yeah, and possibly the world will be destroyed. So, you know, keep your weekend open.

The LHC is the world's largest particle accelerator complex. If the phrase "particle accelerator" sounds familiar, it's because that's what the Ghostbusters used to catch ghosts, so right away I'm preparing for an attack by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the LHC is housed in a gigantic complex under the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva.

The collider will simulate conditions less than a billionth of a second after the big bang, by smashing protons together at enormous energies. Physicists hope to resolve long-standing questions, such as why particles have mass and whether space has hidden extra dimensions.

That's basically the simplest explanation I could find that doesn't involve complex physics like Higgs boson, TeV protons, or supersymmetric particles. That's what Wikipedia is for, kiddies. Look it up.

So why is it dangerous? Well, some people believe that slamming together high-energy particles in an attempt recreate conditions post-big bang might also create some pretty freaky effects.

Like what? Well how about a micro black hole? I think we can all agree that a micro black hole in Switzerland might work out bad for us. Not scary enough for you? How about a Strangelet? Put as simply as I know how, a Strangelet is a particle of strange matter. The danger is that, hypothetically, if a Strangelet were to come into contact with some ordinary matter, like, say, the Earth, it would convert the ordinary matter to strange matter. I know your next question and the answer is no, you cannot live on strange matter.

From the Wiki article:

Scenario is as follows: one strangelet hits a nucleus, catalyzing its immediate conversion to strange matter. This liberates energy, producing a larger, more stable strangelet, which in turn hits another nucleus, catalyzing its conversion to strange matter. In the end, all the nuclei of all the atoms of Earth are converted, and Earth is reduced to a hot, large lump of strange matter.

This is not a concern for strangelets in cosmic rays because they are produced far from Earth and have had time to decay to their ground state, which is predicted by most models to be positively charged, so they are electrostatically repelled by nuclei, and would rarely merge with them. But high-energy collisions could produce negatively charged strangelet states which live long enough to interact with the nuclei of ordinary matter.

Not to worry, though, because a group of scientists have filed and injunction to stop the activation of the LHC until all safety concerns are addressed and we have a plan to defeat any giant Marshmallow Men that may be created. Oh, wait, they lost that case, according to this article. The article goes on to show how anyone worried about the possible apocalyptic properties of the LHC is foolish. I can dig it, but these are the same guys who discovered Strangelets in the first place, so I'm not convinced.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"Watchmen" Continues its Voyage into Clusterf*#kery!

Okay, according to an article in the New York Times, the legal battle between 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. over the rights to Watchmen has officially left "embroglio" status and is heading toward "fiasco", with a possible end destination of "clusterfuck".

Fox has filed an injunction to prevent the release of the film, which has forced Warners to respond with something along the lines of: "Hey, pricks, we've been making this thing for over a year! You couldn't have filed suit before we released a trailer and ton of press and spent like $180 million? What a bunch of douchebags. Hey, judge, am I right? Huh, am I?"

Here's a little snippet from the article:

On Friday Warner said Fox had gone so far as to grant it rights to the title “Watchmen,” which Fox had earlier registered with the Motion Picture Association of America.

Fox, moreover, was paid $320,000 by one of Mr. Gordon’s companies for rights to Watchmen as early as 1991, Warner lawyers said in the report. Fox has said that agreement was superseded by a later deal, under which Mr. Gordon was supposed to deliver a much larger buyout price that has never been paid.

Now, as I've stated previously, if Fox is owed some cash, then they should get it. But this is something that should have been solved waaaaaaay before a frame of film was shot. And, knowing a little about the film biz, I'm positive Warner's would never have entered production without a clear ruling on what it owned and who got a cut of what. Additionally, Fox never would have allowed things to get this far unless it's looking for the largest payout possible (by holding the flick hostage) or it fucked up (which has happened before). Either way, Fox? You suck a little bit.

And the fans are saying they're going to let Fox know it. An article at Entertainment Weekly goes over how a lot of fans are proposing a boycott of Fox's upcoming films until a resolution is reached, notably mentioning X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. We'll see if comic fans' dedication to Alan Moore's masterpiece will trump their seemingly insatiable desire to see Gambit depicted onscreen.