Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

Vacuum Energy rating: no stars
Background information about "The Chronicles of Riddick" is available at The Internet Movie Database

"The Cronicles of Riddick" is the sequel to the 2000 film "Pitch Black". Our hero this time around is the interstellar fugitive/Nietzchean superman Richard B. Riddick, who is presumably the last survivor of the race of Furians. The Furians are presumably so named and feared throughout the universe because of their excessive fury. The movie doesn't get any better than this.

As we find out later in the film, Riddick always has a price on his head which drives people to capture or kill him. On the other hand, this comes in handy since the idiot bounty hunters that come after him invariably supply him with free transportation to someplace important that Riddick can escape to. Riddick thus quickly commandeers a mercenary spacecraft to escape his five year sojourn on a godforsaken ice planet, before setting out to discover who has offered the latest price on his head. Within minutes of screen time, Riddick has tracked the source of the bounty to the Imam from "Pitch Black" and a mysterious Air Elemental, who used Riddick's inevitable pissed off fury at being hunted to lure him to their planet to save it from the evil planet-killing Necromongers. And when Riddick decides that maybe he doesn't want to save to universe, the wily Imam trots out his wife and young daughter to win the hardened loney criminal over to the side of goodness with a charm offensive.

If you're Janet Reno or Rosie O'Donnell, I'm sure that you will be galvanized into implacable, remorseless opposition to the Necromongers at this point. For the rest of us, once you've escaped from the fetal-positioned cringe that a new instance of the "little girl in trouble" cliche has inflicted upon you, you can rest assured that at least the Imam's daughter does not travel with Riddick for the rest of movie.

But, the tricky Imam has also lured Riddick to the planet just in time for the Necromonger attack. As expected, the Necromongers use overwhelming force and a complete disregard for their own lives to swiftly overpower the planetary defenses. The remaining humans (with the exception of the Imam's wife and daughter, whose charm offensive on the audience has only begun) are corralled up and relentlessly propagandized for a whole minute before the Necromonger Lord Marshall decides an object lesson is required. The Lord Marshall, who has become superhumanly enhanced as well as half-dead by a trip to the dread Underverse, thus proceeds to rip out some poor loser's soul and dangle it front of his face before he dies. Again, I'm convinced that the Rosie O'Donnell types out there would be horrified at this unthinkable brutality, but watching a man get his soul ripped out and shoved in his face didn't seem to impress anybody very much.

Certainly Riddick is not impressed, and in the two seconds it takes for him to kill one of the guards, he learns about the Necromonger motto of "you keep what you kill". Riddick does his best work when he gets captured, so after letting one of the Lord Marshall's buxom female courtesans (who says being half-dead, half-alive makes you a stiff?) guide him into being captured and mind probed inside the Necromonger mothership, Riddick quickly finds out that he is the last remaining Furian, and thus destined to be the only person who can actually kill the Lord Marshall. The conclusion of the film will therefore be completely obvious and immediately follows from this five-minute set of scenes. To fill up the dead time until then, the last half of the film thus sends Riddick (courtesy of mercenaries provided transportation) on a side trip to the prison of Crematoria, where it's 700 degrees during the day. But hey, it's a dry heat.

My spider sense is tingling...

Here's The Weekly Standard's Irwin M. Stelzer on the lessons of the oil market. A quote that stands out:
The markets are also saying something about the state of the gasoline market. The margin between crude oil prices and gasoline prices has doubled in the United States, driving refining profits up several hundred percent. Yet, refining capacity has not increased. Oil industry executives with whom I have spoken say that environmental and other restrictions make it virtually impossible to build new refineries. Lesson number two for policymakers: Restrictions that were appropriate when crude oil was selling for $10 per barrel and gasoline for $1 per gallon are not economically sensible at current price levels. Revise them to allow more refineries to be built.
If this is the conservative conventional wisdom on oil policy, get ready to hear the anguished screams of the environmental movement.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Look's like a new internet hoax is roaming the internet. Sorry about that.

Here's another debunking.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Some further thoughts

The "feminizing effect" of the new World War II memorial just blows my mind. As Scott from The Sarcasm of Scott would say: "What the blip!". My gut instinct is that the "feminizing effect" of Washington D.C. architecture is only going to get worse.

Prediction for the future: the next major memorial to be built in Washington D.C. will be "bra and panty" shaped.

We live in the age of idiots

I've seen at least two opinion columnists now who have some major criticisms of the new World War II memorial. Charles Krauthammer is stunned by the sheer banality of it. His article is full of zingers, and let's face it, if your monument is vulnerable to zingers, *you* screwed up. On the other hand, John LeBoutillier points out that President Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech has been selectively edited to exclude the phrase "so help us God." The most charitable possible interpretation of the inclusion of political correctness into a war memorial is that "we tried to honor you as best we could without offending anyone". What a disgrace!

Some people like the new memorial, even going so far as to write a rebuttal to hostile critics that includes these statements about the Washington Monument:
Someone is bound to observe sooner or later that the most famously phallic building in our nation's capital has finally gotten laid. In any event, the feminizing effect is fairly subtle and not at all unpleasant.
I'm completely convinced that, up in heaven, General Washington just had the same reaction to that statement that you did.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Political Body Snatching

The title phrase refers to "Stray Reagan Thoughts" by Ramesh Ponnuru at National Review's online feature "The Corner". Point 3 contains the phrase and was interpreted by Andrew Sullivan as a critique of his opinion that Ronald Reagan the politician more closely resembles Arnold Schwarzenegger than he does George Bush.

Some of the points Sullivan makes seem barely relevent:
He rarely went to church as president and was the first president to have an openly gay couple sleep over in the White House. He and his wife were no strangers to male homosexual company.
Regardless of the reason why President Reagan rarely attended church as president, being willing to sleep in the same mansion as a gay couple for one night doesn't exactly put one in the revolutionary vanguard of social liberalism. Similarly for the point about male homosexual company, which seems to presume that anyone who meets an openly gay man and doesn't immediately lunge for rubber gloves and protective facegear is a social liberal.

Another point seems misleading at best:
Reagan also appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court, and in Anthony Kennedy, gave birth to the judicial father of the gay rights revolution.
The one thing we can be completely sure of is that the president who nominated Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court (or Robert Bork, for that matter) did not nominate Anthony Kennedy in the hopes of launching a crusade of judicial activism in support of gay rights.

Bush's supposedly "limited ability to reach voters in socially liberal milieus" also seems like a misleading point to me, since the so-called "Reagan Democrats" weren't necessarily social liberals if I remember correctly. Obviously, there are socially liberal Democratic strongholds scattered around the country that no Republican is going to be able to win more than a handful of votes from in the near future. On the other hand, if reaching socially liberal voters was a realistic test of any Republican presidential candidate's electibility, we'd probably have President Jim Jeffords running for reelection this year. Besides, if President Bush can poll 11 million more popular votes than his party's previous nominee and lead his party to historic congressional gains in mid-term elections, he must be doing something correctly.

I'm considering Sullivan's article a negative entry into the "past presidents game" (one of these days I'll put up a summary of archive links, I promise): Bush is unlike Reagan.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Let America be France: Vote for Kerry

According to the New York Times Senator Kerry might just have a new slogan for his presidential campaign: Let America be America again. The phrase apparently has Stalinist roots, which probably doesn't mean much to modern-day Democrats as long as it works.

My issue with the phrase is that it seems to encapsulate the exact opposite of the modern Democratic Party's ideology. The last thing that tax-and-spend liberalism or multicultural liberalism wants is for government to just let people be the way they want to be. Just think of all the money that government must be spending on multicultural programs to teach people that "hate is wrong"; the government wouldn't be spending that money if it could trust people to just "be Americans". Or take note of the doom-and-gloom predictions about global warming connected with the file "The Day After Tomorrow"; would films like that even get made if liberal Hollywood thought ordinary Americans could just be left to preserve the environment on their own without some kind of government intervention (such as the Kyoto treaty)? How many of those left-wing types who think that American patriotism is equivalent to fascism think that government can just allow Americans to just be the way they are?

Or, from another point of view, here is a quotation from Jaques Ellul in "Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes":
[The individual] clings to it not only because the slogan is easy to understand and to retain, but also becuase it permits him to "find himself in it." It tends, further, to produce stereotypes in men who did not have them before the crisis situation.
I don't know about you, but a slogan such as "Let America be America" doesn't seem connected to any practical advice for this individual to "find himself in it" (which is why the poetic context must be getting so much attention). From the point of view of propaganda, it seems like a slogan that tries to motivate the masses to achieve a great act of nothing is destined to useless.

Of course, the real drawback to adopting a loser slogan is that it practically invites your enemies to turn your own slogan against you. Bill Clinton was a genius behind this kind of stuff (just ask Bob Dole about how well his "a bridge to the past" slogan worked out). If I were President Bush, I'd have my campaign chairman start working on "Let America be France: Vote for Kerry" bumper stickers.

The inspiration for "The Day After Tomorrow"

James Bowman has a scathing review of "The Day After Tomorrow", which says it all from the conservative point of view.

But, upon reflection, the big chunk of the North Pole that comes crashing off and deep-freezes North America seems vaguely familiar. The critical commentary does seem to agree that "the day after tomorrow" does seem to be many orders of magnitude too abrupt for the global climate change to be produced by the greenhouse effect. Suspicious.

And then it hit me. Somebody's been reading "5/5/2000 Ice: the Ultimate Disaster" again!