rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

7-1-2005 (archived)

So they're going to lock up hundreds of “terrorists”, ones on whom they do not even have enough evidence to go in front of a military tribunal (let alone a real court) for the rest of their lives. Three cheers for Western rights-based democracies, huh? I've come to the conclusion that the only reason I can cope with this at all is that I just can't make myself believe it's true. This has to be some slow-cooking joke, right? We can't really be doing this. If I came to believe that this is actually happening, I would probably explode from sheer rage and shame.

The sheer lack of self-awareness in all this is highlighted towards the end of the report. Apparently they're thinking of locking these people (and we must remember that they are people, and ones with no real evidence against them) up in US-built but locally operated prisons in their home countries, and “the State Department would ask them to abide by recognized human rights standards”. What, like not imprisoning people for life without trial, you mean? Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and give Amnesty a big chunk of money.

10-1-2005 (archived)

What to say about “The Phantom of the Opera”? It has good points - Minnie Driver, Simon Callow, some aspects of Jennifer Ellison. The singing is competent enough, though I do wonder about the decision to make the actors provide their own vocals (with the peculiar exception of Driver). The songs are of course from the original musical, so if you're vulnerable to Lloyd Webber's music that'll suit you well enough.

That's about your lot, really. I didn't expect very much, but even then I was disappointed. It's unconvincing, shallow, saccharine, badly-shot badly-acted over-dressed hugely over-long tosh.

12-1-2005 (archived)

White Noise makes a silly film out of a silly idea, EVP. That'd be a perfect match and a fun movie if they had made a better job of it.

I've never quite understood how Michael Keaton and his permanent sneer became successful, but even accounting for his defects in the realm of facial expressiveness the acting's not very good. The atmosphere is flaccid, there are a few routine spring-loaded cats without it ever being actually scary, the incoherent plot can't decide whether it wants to be a horror film, a heart-warming Ghost impersonation, or a serial-killer-by-numbers flick, and generally it's a waste of time. On the upside, it only wastes 101 minutes, so it could be worse.

14-1-2005 (archived)

Utter genius: BRUTE! Magazine. (Via Warren).

16-1-2005 (archived)

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events” is pleasingly closely based on Daniel Handler's superlative books, and even more pleasingly brilliant. Carrey is at his very best as Count Olaf, the young actors are fantastic (especially Emily Browning, definitely one to watch for the future), and the movie never falters. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in both visual and verbal form, and it manages to be genuinely emotionally affecting in several places. Even the credits were great. This makes the Harry Potter movies look thoroughly second rate, and if I see a better film this year I shall count myself lucky.

19-1-2005 (archived)

Team America: World Police” is exactly what it seems to be from the trailers: an inspired mixture of Thunderbirds and South Park, expertly satirising American mass-audience politics. As ever with Matt and Trey, the script is brilliantly stupid and the deadpan, perfectly-rendered pastiche songs even more so. The real artfulness is in the puppets: good-quality latex faces, more expressive than some of the actors the film rips into later combined with hopelessly inept attempts at walking.

Then there's the entirely unsurprising content. South Park has a long history of vomit gags, but never on this scale, and then there's the funniest intended-to-be-funny sex scene in the history of cinema. The sheer bile (this time I'm being metaphorical) unleashed on, well, everybody is jaw-dropping. This is much more coherent and less uneven than the South Park movie, and far funnier. Stone and Parker may not have grown up, but they've come of age.

22-1-2005 (archived)

Slashdot has been around a long time - seven or eight years, pretty much the same time I've been writing websites - and at one time it was the site I read most often, the first place to take a more organised Usenet and put it on the web. As time has gone by I've read it less and less, because blogs and livejournal, IRC and forums have eaten all my time and headspace, but every now and again they orchestrate something of genius that could not happen otherwise.

Neil Stephenson is a ridiculously interesting writer, of both fiction and essays. He's both very perceptive and very funny, and he can put across deep ideas as well as, and often while, entertaining. In this slashdot interview, he writes lucidly about the divide between the two sorts of writers - Beowulf and Dante, as he calls them - those who make a living at their writing, and those who do not. Of course this applies to all the arts, and in much the same way, but this is the best I've ever seen it expressed.

And then he sets out the history of the fights between him and William Gibson. As some background, Neil is often regarded as the man who rendered cyberpunk untenable by writing Snow Crash, a subgenre-killing novel if ever there was one, and William Gibson is always going to be cursed with the title of Father of Cyberpunk since he wrote Neuromancer, and, probably more relevantly in the invention stakes, the Sprawl short stories starting with Johnny Mnemonic (a minor masterpiece, unlike the mysteriously poor film).

Let me tell you how it came out on the three occasions when we did fight.

Gibson stopped by to say hello and extended his hand as if to shake. But I remembered something Bruce Sterling had told me. For, at the time, Sterling and I had formed a pact to fight Gibson. Gibson had been regrown in a vat from scraps of DNA after Sterling had crashed an LNG tanker into Gibson's Stealth pleasure barge in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. During the regeneration process, telescoping Carbonite stilettos had been incorporated into Gibson's arms. Remembering this in the nick of time, I grabbed the signing table and flipped it up between us. Of course the Carbonite stilettos pierced it as if it were cork board, but this spoiled his aim long enough for me to whip my wakizashi out from between my shoulder blades and swing at his head.

If you don't know where Sterling fits into this, google will tell you. And then you should go straight to your friendly neighbourhood bookshop and catch up on your reading.

There are other parts. They're all great. This is what slashdot is for.

24-1-2005 (archived)

Closer” has had consistently bad reviews in the British national press, and consistently good word-of-mouth, and in as much as these words are from my mouth they'll be no exception. This is an unflinchingly, brutally honest film, utterly believable, with four characters none of whom are heartwarming or lovable, just human. Love triangles are complicated enough; here we have four corners, with all but the diagonals connected. The shattering honesty of the naive lover, the careless and careful cruelty of pain, the casual wit and sparkle of conversation between intelligent, interesting adults are all here, and all portraying one huge truth; love is fragile, breaking at a word or its absence, a look or an evasion, but pain and resentment last and demand to be shared.

The script is barbed, funny, painful and brilliant, and the performances from Law, Roberts, Portman and Owen are all superb. It's strangely unerotic for a film with a near-naked Natalie Portman in it, and indeed leaves us emotionally detached, observing almost clinically as these four damaged people hurt each other over and again. Yes, it's a carefully filmed play rather than a genuinely cinematic piece, and none the worse for it. Unmissable.

26-1-2005 (archived)

The proposed changes would mean the home secretary could order British citizens to be held under house arrest without putting them on trial.

I mean, what? At least when it was people without right of residence here being given a choice of staying here in prison or going elsewhere, there was some justification, albeit one that left an unpleasant taste; you could argue that they were opting for detention. We used to have internment, in 1970s Northern Ireland, and it was an unmitigated disaster. Even leaving aside the question of lawfulness, it was morally, ethically and practically wrong then, just as it would be now. This government is not my government.

29-1-2005 (archived)

is it geneus or madnses? i tned towods teh forma.

Trying to compose that reminded me of the meme of 2003: “Aoccdrnig to rscheearch dnoe at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.” Hynes is being quite a lot cleverer in his alternative spellings, though.