Saturday, November 04, 2006

Alien Resurrection

Last week I saw Alien, which was a pleasure. I think I only saw it once before, back in the eighties on VHS. The commentary was great too, featuring everybody including Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver.

And today I watched Alien Resurrection. I never did originally, because I had not been so impressed with Aliens and Alien3, so I figured, how good can the fourth one be?
Turns out, much better than expected. I was never bored, which is unusual for me and action movies.
And I found it funny, well acted, beautiful visually, and with fresh ideas, surprisingly.
Winona Ryder is lovely, and Sigourney was no less hot for being 47 when she made it.

The creatures looked totally real, even when they had to be CG. I liked how they finally moved away from the silly humanoid body the original alien had. Ridley Scott said in the commentary to the first one that it was humanoid because it was adaptive to the host, but it feels like a justification for the fact that it was either that or stop-motion, which would have looked even worse. (See Robocop II.) And of course there was the final creature, which looked even more different, I liked it.

Sigourney wrote a fun article about shooting the film. There is a cool scene where Ripley, who is now superhuman due to having been mixed with Alien DNA, shoots a basketball into the hoop from 20 meters away, without looking, over her shoulder. It turns out this shot was real, not special effects! It didn't even touch the sides of the hoop. Amazing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Stealth fascism?

A couple years ago I gave up conspiracy theories as being a bad habit, but this video shows some things that do seem to be real and quite worrisome.

Featured comment by Justin:
I'm afraid this film is pure propaganda. The law that demands that we pay income tax is Title 26 United States Code §1. This law is supported by the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and has been sustained by the U.S. Supreme court, the supreme interpreter of the law. These people who claim that the I.R.S. won't tell them what law requires them to pay income taxes are either liars or utter morons. Every day the I.R.S. sends letters to tax cheats explaining exactly which laws they have broken. We have a Federal Circuit court entirely devoted to issues of this supposedly non-existent tax law.

The movie references an ad placed by an anti-tax advocate claiming that he would pay $50,000 to anyone who could show him the law requiring the payment of income tax. Well, lots of people, many law professors among them, showed him the law and requested their $50,000 reward. Of course, he wouldn't pay. He and others like him are snake oil salesmen who make loads of money off dupes who pay for seminars and booklets purportedly teaching them how to avoid paying taxes.

The really sad thing about this is that the tax burden in the U.S. is far lower than the tax burden in Europe. We should gladly contribute the modest portion we are required to pay. It is only greed an selfishness that makes people try to avoid paying their fair share. I really wish people would internalize John Donne's brilliant Meditation 17, and realize that the bell tolls for all of us.

Sincerely, Justin

... Others say other things. Just goes to show it is time to reinforce my old personal policy about never getting involved with or concerned with politics, it's a rat's nest of lies and contradictions and viewpoints and interests. So just ignore this. :)

Update: comment by Through The Lens:
The legal basis for income tax in the U.S. is explained in the Wikipedia article 'Income tax in the United States'.

Note, however, that this wasn't the main point of the video. Whether written in law or not, confiscation of any part of the fruits of one's labor is not what the founding fathers intended.

The rest of the video gives alarming examples of the path we are in (actually the U.S. but other countries will follow).

The thing is, of course, that even if there wasn't a law, it would take them five minutes to write one. But that does not make taxation right or wrong.
I have realized that taxation is not done by the government, it is done by the people. The government is the mind of the people, nasty as that is. And most people, while they hate to pay their own taxes, love getting things paid for by other people, especially those who have more, rightly or wrongly.

Rust art

Taking abstract photos of rusty surfaces has been done. Heck, I've done it myself. But I think this guy is good.


Here's a good one though:
Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary. -- Margaret Cousins

Indeed. The world could use a lot more of that. And I am trying to educate myself to visibly and audibly express appreciation whenever there's a chance. From the smallest things like saying a sincere "thank you" to a waiter, to giving a loved one a gift.

I was a very quiet child and my little sister was very loud, so she naturally attracted more attention. Not that I did not get appreciation or acknowledgment, for I did, but I still remember a couple of small incidents, like me arriving for an event at school, and a teacher saying "Ah, there you are, just the person I need!" Or the gym teacher once referring to the team I was in as "Eolake's team". Just goes to show you how much such small acknowledgements can mean.
I think the right acknowledgement from the right person can change a person's life. The memory of it can for example become a crucial bolster in a difficult time later in life.

Hard work

The sweat of hard work is not to be displayed. It is much more graceful to appear favored by the gods.
-- Maxine Hong Kingston

Why? What is not graceful about hard work?

Also I think one is doing a disfavor to others who are less successful, making them think they are not 'favored by the gods', if the fact is that their hero simply works very, very hard and that's why he is so successful.
I think people deserve the truth. Life is hard enough without navigating in a sea of lies.


I am a bit occupied with painting. I have a couple works done, but it's all developing rather rapidly, so I'll wait with posting any pictures until I feel I have a pretty good handle on it all.

I am reading The New Acrylics, it's a very inspiring book about the development and possibilities of that exciting arts medium.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Beware of too much laughter, for it deadens the mind and produces oblivion.
-- The Talmud

I don't think I've ever seen a quote which was more wrong!
Laughter is about the healthiest thing there is, and apart from laughing so hard you crack a rib (which is possible), I don't see how it can be anything else. :)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Aiming well

Aim at the sun, and you may not reach it; but your arrow will fly far higher than if aimed at an object on a level with yourself.
-- Joel Hawes

... But on the other hand you won't hit anything.
-- Stobblehouse

Update: This is just me making fun of a poor metaphor. I have always been one for aiming at the stars, often to the degree of forgetting about Earth altogether.

Movie and sitcom quirks

Pascal pointed me to a Roger Ebert article, and I was reminded of this, which I wrote a couple of years ago:

The world as it works in sitcoms

1: When people go to the other side of the room and turn their backs, you can no longer hear what they are saying.

2: When anybody states anything in a firm voice, that statement will immediately be disproved in an ironic way by somebody who happens to walk in at that exact moment.

3: When somebody's cousin visits from out of town, it is a sure bet that she is gorgeous and interesting.

4: When two lovers or friends have a spat, they will part for half an hour, and come back and both will completely have reversed their positions, and their relationship will be stronger than ever.

5: In a sitcom, if a loved one asks for your honest opinion about something even vaguely personal or controversial, you have to lie, even though manifold and painful experience have taught you that this will become a huge and complex drama and you'll have to tell the truth in the end anyway.

6: If a friend discovers that you have a physical abnormality, not only will everybody soon know about it and talk about it, but it will be of colossal importance to all of them.

7: If you have something that others would be interested in knowing about, it is important that you want to keep it secret for as long as possible, so everybody can have a nice, long, complex game of Keeping Secrets and Inventing Lies.

8: It is important that you be totally incapable of hearing any mention of your parents' sex life without going into fits of discomfort and embarrassment.

9: Anybody you know getting involved with a sibling of yours is a Big Deal. It is not important if it is positive or negative, or even both within a minute: but it is Very, Very Big Deal, and you have to blow your top.

10: When a loved one or a person you're dating says something that freaks you out, but you can't show it, that is OK, because that person will at that moment remember something (s)he has to do now, leaving you to discuss it with your friends.

11: Seeing somebody in a swimsuit is just like seeing a person. But seeing somebody naked is the most revolting thing that can happen to you.

12: If you get pregnant out of wedlock, your parents will be humiliated beyond belief and will be telling everybody that you are married, or that you are in a mental institution.

13: If you have an important interview, you will do much better than anybody expected, right until the point where it is officially over, when you will let down your guard and say something incredibly stupid.

- stobblehouse

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The press?

A friend, Steve, told me:
"Dealing with the press can be like wrestling with someone covered in oil. They can be slippery and leave you feeling in need of cleansing.
"As someone that has to deal with the press on a regular basis, I quickly found that integrity and honour are not personality traits often exhibited in their peculiar little world.
"I find that many of them are willing to promise almost anything to get what they want with no intention of ever carrying out their commitment. Obviously, I do not believe that they are all the same but feel it is right to consider them in the same league as estate agents, second hand car dealers etc."

I wonder if other people with experiences with the press would like to chime in? Is it as bad as all that?