Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Polyamory and Marriage

I found this post rather interesting. It does a nice job in pointing out why same-sex marriage and polyamorous/polygamous marriage are two separate issues and there is no slippery slope from the former to the latter. The most interesting aspect is that the writer discloses that his/her living arrangement could be considered a polyamorous marriage.

Quick Movie Reviews

I had mentioned Good Night, and Good Luck and A History of Violence as two movies I wanted to see. I have now seen them both. As a friend pointed out, there are parts that are not easy to watch. The violence is raw and real. I agree that Viggo Mortensen should get an Oscar nomination for this one, but I don't know that it necessarily deserves to win. The acting overall is very good, especially Jack, the son. The one major complaint that I have with the movie is the shortness of the conflict with William Hurt. I thought the movie was developing very nicely up to that point. The scene in the mansion was far too hurried and came across as sloppy filmmaking. I wanted more development there and more build-up. I did absolutely love the final scene when the protagonist returns home.

David Strathairn in Good Night, and Good Luck gets my nomination for best actor. This was a phenomenal movie. Yes, Clooney's politics are obvious. Yes, it is evident that he is trying to make a statement on the current Republican government. However, the points and parallels are all valid. "We do not defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home," and "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty" are two quotes that are very timely. The fact that these words were spoken long ago does give the movie more weight and validity. Strathairn's performance was beautiful. And his speech at the beginning of the movie regarding the corrupting influence of sponsorship on television as powerful. I see Oscar nominations and probable wins for this movie.

And lastly, I am now the proud owner of Batman Begins, the best superhero movie that I can think of. Good acting. Well constructed story. And so much brooding darkness. Fantastic.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Backlog of Stories and a New One

First, Rosa Parks has died. This courageous woman needs no introduction. Rest in peace, Ms. Parks.

Now for some technology-related stories. As any reader of this blog probably knows, I am generally against anything that hampers technological innovation. One of the biggest problems in this area is patent infringement. A couple of recent cases made this evidently clear. First, BlackBerry users may have their service shut off. Research in Motion, the company that makes the BlackBerry, is a Canadian company. The software running their email system is based in Canada. But the U.S. patent is owned by NTP Inc., based in Virginia. NTP has no Canadian patents. They also have no assets besides their U.S. patents. The only word I can think of for companies like NTP is predatory. They have no interest in developing technology, just profit by litigation.

I have no problem with individuals patenting an invention with the intent to license the patent or sell it to a company. I've ranted about the business plan of "file a patent, let someone else put in the work of actually developing the product, then sue their asses off." Courts need to step in, identify this predatory practice, then offer an adequate compensation. Not half a billion dollars, as was the case with Eolas v. Microsoft.

Along similar lines, here's a great story about the demise of eDonkey. Sam Yagan, president of MetaMachine, the company that made eDonkey, appeared before Congress with the following introduction: "...I am not here as an active participant in the future of P2P, but rather as one who has thrown in his towel and with no interest in replaying past issues..." He continues, "The Grokster standard requires divining a company's 'intent,' the decision was essentially a call to litigate. [...] Whereas I could have managed to pay for a summary judgment hearing under Betamax, I simply couldn't afford the protracted litigation needed to prove my case in court under Grokster." In other words, he felt confident in the legality and technological advancement that eDonkey offered, but his small company did not have the resources to fight the giants from the RIAA and other large corporations. Thus, patent litigation is stifling innovation instead of encouraging it.

Note that I used "intent" in regard to Research in Motion specifically to contrast it with the "intent" required by Grokster. I used that word to point out that the burden of proof should be reversed. MetaMachine and Research in Motion put a lot of time and money into developing real products. Thus, the burden of intent should not rest on their shoulders. Rather, NTP should be required to prove that they intended to developer a handheld e-mail device. Similarly, the RIAA should be required to demonstrate that eDonkey is intended as a product that promotes piracy and has no legitimate commercial value.

Now for some quickies...

U.S. cybersecurity could be the next FEMA. I've read plenty of stories regarding the general problems facing security experts. This one deals specifically with it in regard to the U.S. government. Quick telling stat: Since the Department of Homeland Security was founded 4 years ago, there have been four consecutive officials in charge of cybersecurity. There was never a single position specifically for cybersecurity, but rather it was included among the duties of another DHS official. That post has been vacant since January.

A U.S. Marine now works for Al Jazeera. If you haven't seen Control Room, it was a good documentary. The Marine featured in the movie is the one who has now taken the job. I'm glad to see this. I don't want to imply that I agree with everything (or even most of) that appears on Al Jazeera, but I like that they're making the symbolic attempt at least. Now if we can just get Ward Churchill a gig at Fox News...

This one is from the annals of creepy thoughts. According to an FCC policy document, "consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement." [Emphasis mine.] So you can use Vonage or Skype, as long as the FBI maintains the ability to tap your calls. If they can't do that, no software for you.

A last post regarding the concerns of RFID. Imagine wearing a shirt with an embedded microchip that is intended to prevent theft. Well, then someone decides to monitor that chip to see where you shop. Then they just start tracking your movements in general. Sure, it sounds like a bit of paranoia. But the concerns are legitimate. Some technology needs regulation and needs hinderance.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wonderful Cinematic Moment

I just finished discussing this scene (as I watched it) with Brianne and feel like describing this again here. Near the end of Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for Philip K. Dick fans...), there's a character shift in Roy Batty (yes, I know in the book it's Baty) that is sheer beauty. Oh, and yes, this is the Director's Cut, so I don't have to deal with those annoying voice overs. The work speaks for itself.

Roy (an replicant, a.k.a. android) and Deckard (the copy who's trying to "retire" the replicants) had been chasing each other through the abandoned building, trying to kill each other. Deckard realized he was no match for Roy and tried to jump to another building to get away. He didn't quite make the jump and grabbed onto a ledge, clinging for life. Roy successfully makes the leap. This is the beginning of the moment.

Roy, squatting over Deckard, says, "Quite an experience to live in fear, isn't it? That's what it is to be a slave." Roy, being an replicant, had been a slave to human masters. But replicants were not merely machines or robots. They were built with two distinct features: 1) The ability to learn and to develop emotions (making them more like humans), and 2) A four year life span (drawing the line between human and replicant). Roy served his masters as a slave, but also realized he was a slave to time. He could only experience a small amount of life because of the built-in life span.

As Deckard's grip is slipping, Roy smiles. He knows that Deckard is experiencing that fear first-hand. Deckard had been afraid that Roy would kill him. Now, he is afraid that he is going to die anyways because he can't hold on. His hands slip. At that moment, Roy grabs Deckard's arm to prevent him from falling. The hand Roy uses has a nail sticking out in both directions (more on that in a moment), which means that nail also stabs Deckard in the forearm. The evil, villainous, murderous replicant is saving the cop's life. Cue the dramatic '80s music (hey, this was made in like 1982, ok...).

After setting Deckard down safely on the roof, Roy begins a wonderful speech where he describes some of the fantastic things that he has seen. The speech culminates in, "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time...to die." Then Roy's head drops. The replicant is dead.

This scene, I will be man enough to admit, always brings tears to my eyes. I know, it's sci-fi, and genre works aren't supposed to be profound and moving. That's a testament to the magnificence of this movie. Roy began his "life" as an emotionless robot. As he learned to feel, he learned how wondrous life can be. And in this climax, the hunted became the hunter became the forgiver. He learned that every single moment of everyone's life is precious. While his life would soon be over, he had the ability to grant Deckard more time and chose to do so.

But what always gets me about this scene is that last line. "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain." When a person dies, every memory, every emotion, every experience, every laugh, every cry, every fear, every celebration...they're gone forever. To me, that is a reminder to savor every moment. To be thankful every morning when you take that first wakeful breath. To be glad even when you experience pain, because that pain is a reminder that you are alive. I think that is the significance of the fact that Roy uses the arm with the nail sticking out. Deckard simultaneously gets to experience the joy of salvation and the pain of the injury. But both of those are signs of life.

All of this changes the character of Roy from villain to a pitied figure. He has committed murder, but I can't help but feel sad that he dies. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. This scene captures the sublime essence of life better than any other than I can think of in any movie. And that line is hauntingly melodic. The only line relating to death or loss that I like more is, "I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."

Last thought on Blade Runner: This may be the only movie (at least, that I can think of right now) that I enjoy more and think is artistically better than the book from which it is drawn.

Monday, October 17, 2005


I know, I should be studying. And I know, this blog has turned into NFL central as of late. I'll have non-football posts soon (I've bookmarked several stories I'd like to comment on), but that'll have to wait.

As of tonight, Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison. 86 touchdowns. NFL record for a QB to receiver combo. It was a perfect pass to represent their style. The pass was at the sideline and most receivers would have gone out of bounds. But Harrison has such remarkable body knowledge that he knew to drag one foot and get the other one down to be in bounds. And to celebrate, Harrison (who has all the other 85 balls from touchdown passes) gave the ball to Manning. No show boating. No fancy dance. Just understated knowledge of a job well done. A very classy pair of gentlemen. Shortly after, Harrison almost made it 87 on a great effort there, but got stopped at the 1.

Besides all the record talk, I have been impressed by the Colts' showing tonight. The Rams got off to a quick 17-0 start. They scored on their first drive, then Rhodes fumbled the kick-off. You could tell he was looking to scoop it up and run when he should have just fallen on it. Mental error. Then Jason David slipped to give Kevin Curtis a 57 yard touchdown. Since then, the Colts have outscored the Rams 45-3. The Rams losing Marc Bulger to a shoulder injury did create a huge shift in momentum, I will grant.

But the Colts have simply dominated this game. They've controlled the pace. They've caused fumbles. They've picked off passes. Cato June has two. He leads the NFL in interceptions with 5. He's a linebacker, for God's sake. Linebackers are the guys who hit. They don't pick off passes. That's what the cornerbacks and safeties are for. Cato June is my hero. Well, along with Manning, Harrison, Stokley, Wayne, James, Mathis, Freeney, Reagor, Sanders, Harper, Simon, Diem, Glenn, and Saturday. Yeah, I think that's enough of them.

I don't want to get my hopes up too high this year, but it's hard not to. This Colts team is showing me (almost) everything that they've needed. They are patient and mature, not letting the early 17 point deficit affect their focus. They are making the stops that they need to make. They are forcing mistakes from their opponents. They are doing what needs to be done to win games, not break records. Whenever the Rams were looking for (and solidly covering) that TD pass to Harrison, they ran the ball or gave it to Wayne. That's the difference between last year and this year. Records mean nothing. Wins mean everything. It looks like Manning's learned that lesson.

The one area that could still use some improvement is their run defense. They're still soft there, though Corey Simon is helping a lot. I don't know how they could really improve that aspect a lot without sacrificing their pass defense, though. It's a tough balance to find.

After all that, the Colts are now 6-0 for the first time since 1958. Congratulations, guys!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Follow-up Silly NFL Thoughts

The Colts are in the AFC South with Houston, Tennessee, and Jacksonville. Baltimore is in the AFC North with Cincy, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. The Dolphins are in the AFC East with Buffalo, New England, and New York Jets. I don't know. If I were thinking of "East Coast," I would be more likely to think of Baltimore than Miami. And if I were to think "South," vice versa. Indy to Pittsburgh is about 6 hours. Baltimore to Cincy is about 9. Of course, that's not even mentioning the lifetime from Miami to Foxboro. Wouldn't that make more sense geographically?

The NFC is even worse. Dallas is in the East, and Carolina is in the South! Need I point to a map to show the idiocy of that decision?

Week 6 NFL Thoughts

Since I'm too distracted by this Denver-New England game to study Formal Methods, I'll put some thoughts down here.

I'll come back to Denver and New England later. First, I just want to comment on the current standings of teams. The East divisions in both conferences are remarkably wide open. In the AFC, New England's dominance looks to be gone (with some caveats, see below). Buffalo has looked pretty good from what I've seen and I think they're the Pats' biggest challenge. The Jets between last year and this year look like a team heading into a decline, while the Fins are playing surprisingly well. In the NFC, I've seen mixed performances by all of those teams. The Eagles' clear dominance of the NFC is also gone. I'm not saying that the Eagles and the Pats are going to lose their divisions. Maybe, maybe not. But their glaring dominance isn't there this year.

How bad is the NFC North? The Bears and the Lions are tied for the lead. That's pretty bad. The fact that one of those four teams is guaranteed a playoff spot makes for a pretty easy pick in that wild card game. On the other hand, in the South, you've got the Falcons, Panthers, and Bucs slugging it out. I would rather see all three of those teams in the playoffs than see any of the NFC North. I would almost say the same that I would rather see any of those three in over the entire NFC West, but I don't feel as strongly about that.

In the AFC, the Broncos and the Bengals are both looking damn good. The Bengals have the better record, but I'd pick the Broncos between those two. The Bengals had 2 incredible first games (6 interceptions each), but have looked human ever since. The Broncos look more consistent. In the South, my beloved Colts are looking solid (did I mention that 3 Colts are tied for the 1st, 4th, and 7th most sacks in the league?). Can't get complacent because the Jags are right there, and they're tough. I'm looking forward to MNF football tomorrow night. Colts host the Rams. I know what I'm doing.

OK, so now my Broncos-Patriots thoughts (it's now 28-3, Broncos, with 10:36 left in the 3rd). Or rather, my Patriots thoughts. I spent a lot of time and emotion last year arguing against the idea of a Patriots dynasty. I will fully admit this was inspired by a deeply rooted antipathy against the "nice guy" Patriots. (As a side digression, one of those "nice guys," Logan Mankins, got kicked out of today's games at half-time because he *punched* a Bronco in the stomach after the play was over. Classy.) While I will recognize my bias influenced my analysis, I still stand by that analysis.

The argument for the "dynasty" is simply the fact that they won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years. That's a very good point. However, the 2001 season was dominated by the Rams, who also thoroughly dominated that game. The Pats didn't win it. The Rams lost it. They gave it away with 3 turnovers. Yes, the victory still goes to the Pats, but they were the underdogs who got lucky. 2002? They didn't even make the playoffs. 2003, I will completely acknowledge that the Patriots were the best team in football that year. They were aided in that infamous playoff game against the Colts by the referees not calling the illegal contact on the Colts receivers (which led to the over-reaction last year in calling every single touch). But that does not take away from the fact that the Patriots were far and away the best team in football in 2003. Then, last year, they were aided by a very soft schedule. You give a good team a soft schedule and they'll end up with a 14-2 record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Again, the Patriots were very good last year, but not dominant. Considering the injuries that plagued them last year, what they accomplished was due, in large part, to the coaching genius of Bill Belichick, Romeo Crennel, and Charlie Weis (see this year as a contrast). So, if you want to call it a dynasty, it was essentially one of 2 years. I think that does a lot of disrespect to the previous dynasties (the '60s Packers, the '70s Steelers, and the '80s/early '90s 49ers). Dynasties don't miss the playoffs.

Having said all that, now I get to this year. I have to say that I am saddened by what I'm seeing in Denver today. Again, injuries are killing the Patriots. Perhaps Tedy Bruschi coming back will help. But losing Weis and Crennel, along with Antowain Smith, Ty Law and others, missing Bruschi, Troy Brown, and Rodney Harrison...it looks to be taking a toll. I must admit that I am a little saddened. Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri are two of the best clutch players to have played the game. There's still a lot of season left, but starting the season at 3-3 (which looks likely) doesn't bode well. Next week, they're hosting Buffalo. I like the Pats' odds there, but I think that'll be a close game. A 3-4 Pats squad. I think that would clinch my disbelief in the idea of a Patriots dynasty.

The other reason is that I would like the Colts to beat a stronger Pats squad. Considering they're playing in Foxboro, it is anything but a definite win. It's going to be a tough game, I have no doubt. But beating a 7-0 or 6-1 Patriots would mean a lot more than beating a 3-4 version.

As for the Colts, I like their odds of having home-field advantage in the playoffs. Eleven games remain, but that includes the Rams, the Titans, the Cardinals, the Seahawks, and 2 against the Texans. The other games include ones at New England, at Cincy, hosting the Steelers, and at Jacksonville. Those 4 are going to be tough. Watching this New England game, I think the Broncos are the team that I would fear the most in the playoffs. Their offense is making big plays and their defense has shut Brady down entirely.

So, those are my thoughts based on the games I've seen so far this year. Then again, it's only week 6. Six weeks ago, people were talking about the Vikings' Super Bowl chances. They're now 1-4...

Update: It's now 4th Quarter with 9:00 remaining, Broncos 28-13 and New England in striking distance. This isn't over yet. Not with a QB like Brady. But I still have the same thoughts that Denver is overall looking tougher than NE.

Update: OK, now it's over. Denver woke back up. The two plays of the game: The blitz on Brady on the Pats' last possession on 2nd and 10. It forced a rare intentional grounding by Brady, which is 10 yards and loss of down. So it's 3rd and 20. Next play, a pass by Brady to Deion Branch, who gets clobbered mid-air by 3 Broncos to break up the pass. Two guys hit him, while the third takes out his feet. That was a close call, because he almost came down on the back of his head (upper back instead). That could have been bad. Glad to see he got up with no injury.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

This Looks Fantastic

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote. Watch the trailer. I cannot believe that is him. This looks like a superb film.

While I'm at it, here are some more movies I want to see:

  • Good Night, and Good Luck -- Starring George Clooney, it's the story of how Edward R. Murrow stood up to Joseph McCarthy.

  • Everything Is Illuminated -- It's got Elijah Wood in it, which means I give it better odds of being good (or at least interesting) than not. (To explain that, I think that Wood is a good--though not necessarily great--actor, but he manages to sign on to excellent, often thought-provoking films. E.g., Sin City, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Ice Storm, The War--even if he was still young for that one.)

  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress -- I read the novel by Dai Sijie and enjoyed it. It's about the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

  • MirrorMask -- I've been looking forward to this one for a while. The critics haven't liked it, because the plot is apparently paper thin. However, from what I've heard, it's a fantastically beautiful work, which I think is more of the purpose. I'm glad to see it will be opening in more cities (Indianapolis in early November) soon.

  • Pretty Persuasion -- I loved Evan Rachel Wood in Thirteen, as disturbing as that movie was to watch. In this one, she teams up with Ron Livingston, James Woods, and Jane Krakowski. Looks like a biting commentary on race and gender relations in modern America. Very dark comedy in the style of Election

  • Thumbsucker -- Oddball comedy with a cast list a mile long.

  • A History of Violence -- Viggo Mortensen as the man with the hidden past. William Hurt is supposed to be a mobster. I'm not sure how I feel about that. But the story seems interesting.

  • Lord of War -- Hey, they can't all be artsy, fartsy films. Every now and then, you just need a nice, let's-blow-some-stuff-up flick.

  • Domino -- See my comments on Lord of War. And it has Keira Knightley.

  • Jarhead -- Based on the bestseller about a Marine in the first Gulf War. Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, Jamie Foxx, and Chris Cooper. Good cast for a bitter war flick.

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire -- Dragons. Fun.

  • The Libertine -- First, it has Johnny Depp, who is one of my favorite actors (I love odd, quirky roles, which are his trademark). Plus John Malkovich and Samantha Morton, who starred in one of the best films in recent years, In America.

OK, that's enough for now. And I didn't mention The Constant Gardener, because I've already seen that one. If you haven't seen it, do so. Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz are both wonderful.