Wednesday, December 21, 2005

OWNED!

Sen. Roberts dropkicks Sen. Rockefeller (emph added):
I am puzzled by the release yesterday of a July 2003 letter from Senator Rockefeller ... regarding the recently exposed intelligence collection program ... . Senator Rockefeller asserts that he had lingering concerns about the program ... but was prohibited from doing anything about it.

A United States Senator has significant tools with which to wield power and influence over the executive branch. Feigning helplessness is not one of those tools.


SMMMMMMACKDOWN!

Just for the record, I am persuaded that the operation was necessary and legal, and that it resulted in the apprehension of terrorists and the disruption of their plans to kill Americans. The person or person who leaked this information has damaged the national security of the United States and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


Just in case you couldn't guess.

NTSB Says Plane Crashed After Wing Fell Off

Ya think?

I know, it was a tragic loss of life. And it highlights the issue of an aging commercial fleet - seaplanes really take a pounding, and this airframe had been in service nearly six decades. There might also be an issue with the fact that the airplane was re-engined - the original radial engines were replaced with turboprops. Since the turboprop is lighter, it had to be placed further forward to maintain the aircraft's balance. That increases the twisting load on the main spar. I'm sure the engineers worked that through, but fatigue cracks are still poorly understood.

Still, that was a really dumb headline.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Science Journal: Wikipedia Pretty Accurate

According to Nature Wikipedia is nearly as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Not terribly surprising, but interesting nonetheless. What surprised me was the discovery that the professionally-written, edited, and reviewed Britannica has an average of three errors or omissions per article!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Not just an Ent, but an Evangelical Ent!

A few weeks ago I discovered that I was an Ent.

Now it turns out that I'm an Evangelical as well (I know, it's shocking!).

  You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

86%

Reformed Evangelical

79%

Neo orthodox

71%

Fundamentalist

50%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

46%

Classical Liberal

39%

Emergent/Postmodern

36%

Roman Catholic

18%

Modern Liberal

18%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com


At least I'm in good company!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Not a tame Lion - redux

Edited to 500 words per the Radioblogger content rules.

I watched the Narnia movie with my older three kids, ages 10, 7, and 6. They are very well-acquainted with fantasy-adventure films and computer-generated special effects, with the Narnia story, and as Christians, with the "back-story".

I found the opening scenes deeply moving, but then things slowed down. The family dynamic among the kids was lacking - they felt more like cousins than siblings. Lucy does light up the screen, though. Mrs. Macreedy seemed to be channeling Professor McGonagal, though, and the Professor seemed cartoonish.

When Lucy finally met Mr. Tumnus, I wanted to scream, "Don't you KNOW about strangers!?!?!?!" I had to keep reminding myself that this story was written long before Amber Alerts became common. Still, when he began to weep about "what he's going to do" I got a serious case of the creeps.

The older children's treatment of Lucy when she returned with her fantastic tale was utterly believable. Jadis the White Witch felt a bit cartoonish, but she positively exudes evil.

I wondered why the children weren't complaining about wet, cold feet. But hey, this is fantasy. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver felt like a real married couple. - we're accustomed to CGI characters, and the dialogue works. The encounter with Father Christmas felt contrived - too much deus ex machina. Lucy's pointed comment to her siblings made it entirely worthwhile, though. The camp of the Narnian army had a magical-yet-believable feel. The armor of the fauns and especially the centaurs looked right. Aslan's facial expressions were ... just ... real. Liam Neeson's voice wanted more rumbly resonance, but when Jadis asks him after their conference how she can be sure he'll keep his promise, the Lion's reaction is perfect.

When Aslan presents himself at the Stone Table, the evil and hatred of Jadis' minions is palpable. The sadness and resignation in the Lion's eyes is real. Oddly, it's the humans - Lucy and Susan - who lack emotion. They should show real shock, horror, and sadness. They don't. If there's a real flat spot in the film, that's it. But as we all know, death has no power over Aslan, as it had no power over Christ. The innocent who willingly gives his life for the guilty fulfills the Deep Magic and shatters the Stone Table.

The battle scenes are fantastic - one simply believes that centaurs and minotaurs are battling hand-to-hand, and that beavers wear chain mail.

Aslan arrives, Jadis is vanquished, and the childen are enthoned at Cair Paravel. Years later, they stumble back through the wardrobe just as the Professor enters the room.

That exchange is my favorite from the whole film. :-)

Overall impressions: As a fantasy film on its own merits, A-. Though some of the storytelling and acting falls short of perfection, Narnia feels as real as Hogwarts or Middle-Earth.

As a film adaptation of C.S. Lewis's classic, a solid A.

As an entertaining family film, A++. My kids – even the jaded 10-year-old - pronounced it, "the best movie ever."

Monday, December 12, 2005

When jokes go wrong

Man Apologizes After Fake Wikipedia Post At least Brian Chase had the guts to stand up and say, "I did it, and I'm sorry." A lot of folks would have just faded into the anonymity of the Internet. He quit his job over the furor, too.

Goes to show that some jokes just aren't funny. I wonder if Ted Rall and Whoopie Goldberg are listening?

Not a Tame Lion

Warning - picked nits, spoilers and inevitable comparisons follow. Bottom line - go see the movie!

I watched the Narnia movie this weekend with my older three kids, ages 10, 7, and 6. They've seen the Star Wars, Potter, and LOTR epics (the younger two have not seen SW3 and no one has seen HP4, and we FF'd through the scary parts of LOTR), and the CGI-heavy "Sky Captain." So this little audience was very well-acquainted with fantasy-adventure films and computer-generated special effects.

We're also familiar with the story. A year or two ago we read through the Narnia Chronicles for bedtime storytime, and the kids watched the BBC production of LWW last year or thereabouts. And as a Christian family, we're also quite familiar with the back-story, as it were.

Going in I was concerned a bit about the previews, having seen what came up on the big screen prior to SW3. I was pleasantly surprised that the theater managers had chosen "The Twenty" and previews that were targeted to the family demographic. They certainly piqued our interest. Maybe H'wood has finally figured out that "values voters" will spend money at the theater, too.

The opening scenes of The Blitz were pretty well done. I'm an airplane buff, and the He-111 interiors looked believable. When Edmund runs back to get the picture of his dad to take into the shelter, that could have set up some good emotional context for later, but as it turned out it didn't have a payoff. It was just a set-piece to show that Edmund doesn't do as he's told, and that kind of fell flat to me.

The following scene where the children are loaded onto trains to escape the war was very moving. It had as much impact as the scene in LOTR2 where the Rohan village mother packes her children onto a horse to escape the approaching orc horde.

At the country manor, Mrs. Macreedy seemed to be channeling HP's Professor McGonagal - I couldn't escape the comparison. The child actors played well at being bored kids, though the family dynamic seemed to be a bit lacking. They felt more like cousins than siblings. The Professor seemed a bit cartoonish as well, at least in appearance.

And then Lucy (finally!) finds the Wardrobe. That transition was very nicely done.

When Lucy goes off with the very charming Mr. Tumnus, I wanted to scream at her - "Don't you KNOW about going off with strangers!?!?!?!" I had to keep reminding myself that this story was written long before Level Three offenders and Amber Alerts became common features of a parent's landscape. Still, when the faun began to weep about "what he's going to do" I got a serious case of the creeps.

Every reviewer seems to rave about Lucy, and I agree - she positively lights up the screen. She doesn't do "sad" terribly well - I know what a heartbroken six-year-old girl looks like - but apart from that she did a wonderful job.

The older children's treatment of Lucy when she returned with her fantastic tale was utterly believable. Edmund then follows Lucy back into the wardrobe and meets Jadis, the White Witch. She seems a bit like a cartoon character, but she positively exudes evil, much as the Satan character in "The Passion." Edmund's betrayal of Lucy on his return to "the real world" further cements our opinion of him.

The filmmakers then take a bit of license to get all four children into the wardrobe, and the adventure can finally really begin. I've walked in the snow in inadequate footware, and I wondered why the children - especially the younger ones - weren't complaining more. But hey, this is fantasy.

The talking animals weren't jarring in the least. We're now well-accustomed to treating 100%-CGI characters as real, and the children didn't break the spell. I heard one patron behind me say, "English beavers?" On reflection, he had a point - they're native to North America. The dialog between Mr. And Mrs. Beaver was well-done. They really felt like a married couple.

Fast-forward to the encounter with Father Christmas. This felt flat to me - too much deus ex machina. I'll need to review the book to see how the children get their weapons, but it felt contrived. Still, Lucy's pointed comment to her siblings after he departs made it entirely worthwhile.

The camp of the Narnian army had a magical-yet-believable feel to it. Certainly more sanitized than the Rhohirrim encampment outside the Dimmul, but not totally contrived. The armor of the fauns and centaurs - especially the centaurs! - looked right. Clearly the LWW armorers took the same care as those on LOTR.

Aslan's facial expressions were completely believable. I felt that Liam Neeson's voice lacked a bit of rumbly resonance - comparisons to James Earl Jones' Musafa are unavoidable. Still, there's a nice contrast between the power of a full-grown lion and the wise and gentle voice of Qui-Gon. When Jadis asks him after their conference how she can be sure he'll keep his promise, the Lion's reaction is perfect.

About Aslan's sacrifice I don't have much to say that hasn't already been said. The evil and wickedness of Jadis' minions is palpable. The sadness and resignation in the Lion's eyes, real. Oddly, it's the humans - Lucy and Susan, who seem to lack emotion. They should show real shock, horror, and sadness. They don't. If there's a real flat spot in the film, that's it.

But as we all know, death has no power over Aslan, as it had no power over Christ. The innocent sacrifice who willingly gives his life in the place of the guilty both fulfills the Deep Magic and breaks the stone table forever. Christian audiences get this. I wonder how non-Christians will see it.

The battle scenes were fantastic, reminiscent of LOTR's battle of Pellinore Fields. This is hardly surprising, since Weta Workshop did the CG work. The special effects are completely transparent - one simply believes that centaurs and minotaurs are battling hand-to-hand. Again, some obvious thought was given to the question, "how does this culture - this species - fight?"

We know the rest of the story - Aslan and the revived victims of the White Witch arrive to turn the tide of battle, Jadis is vanquished, and the childen are enthoned at Cair Paravel. Many years later, they stumble back into and through the wardrobe into the spare room, just as the Professor enters.

The exchange that follows is my favorite from the whole film.


So, finally, my overall impressions. As a fantasy film on its own merits, A-. Narnia certainly feels as real as Hogwarts or Middle-Earth, and visuals sell the story and the characters. Unfortunately, some of the storytelling and acting falls short of perfection, and the music was unmemorable.

As a film adaptation of C.S. Lewis's classic, I give it a solid A. The filmmakers took some liberties, but you have to do that in bringing any story to the screen.

As an entertaining family film, it earns an A+. My kids loved it, pronounced it "the best movie ever." Even my jaded 10-year-old declared that it was better than LOTR or even - gasp! - Star Wars III.

We'll be seeing it again, and I don't mean waiting for the DVD.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

I posted this over at LA's site, but decided it deserved a slot over here as well. It was prompted by a quote from one of the passengers on the Columbia-to-Florida flight saying that they hadn't heard anyone say anything about a bomb.

From the reports I’ve seen, Rigoberto Alpizar made the bomb comments while on the jetway, not on the airplane. Little wonder the passengers still on the plane didn’t hear anything.

Imagine this alternative version, though:
“The effectiveness of the Air Marshalls program was being called into question today after a disturbed man was allowed to rush up a jetway and into the terminal from an airplane that had just landed from Columbia.

The man forced his way off the plane and ran up the jetway with a backpack, shouting that he had a bomb. Air marshalls drew their weapons and ordered him to stop, but he ignored their commands and ran into the terminal. Hundreds of passengers waiting to board their aircraft panicked and rushed for the exits. Forty-two were injured in the stampede, and two were killed in the crush, including an elderly man and a two-year old.

‘He was wild-eyed and panting,’ said one witness who declined to be identified. ‘I was scared he had a gun or a bomb or something. Everybody just ran.’

Not everybody. Frank Wilson, a retired police officer, tripped and tackled the suspect as he ran past. Wilson tossed the backpack - which did not contain a bomb - to the side as he held the disturbed passenger to the ground.

‘I just reacted, I guess.’ said Wilson. ‘Old habits die hard. You see someone running like that, and, well, I just took him down. I’m not as young as I once was - I’m a little sore, actually.’

A spokesman for the Air Marshalls said, ‘Our agents are trained to carefully evaluate a potential threat in order to avoid over-reacting. In hindsight, the passenger was clearly not a threat, so we’re very gratified the Marshalls on the scene did not open fire.’ Asked about the passengers who were killed and injured by the panic in the terminal, the spokesman said, ‘That’s a very tragic thing, obviously.’”

My heart goes out...

...to the parents and family of 6-year-old Joshua Woods, who was killed when a Southwest Airlines jet skidded off the end of the runway at Chicago Midway airport and crushed the car in which he was a passenger.

You talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My prayer is that he is safe in the loving arms of his Savior (whose name is also Joshua), and that God will send comfort to the family.

My heart goes out, too, to the air traffic controllers and the pilot of the flight. They will be wracking themselves for the rest of their lives, playing woulda shoulda-coulda over the decision to clear the flight to land, and then to attempt the landing.

For some reason, it's not newsworthy that our commerical aviation system routinely operates in miserable weather with near-perfect safety year-round.

Still, this Christmas one family is going to be without a six-year-old unwrapping presents under the tree. It breaks my heart.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Shameless

The so-called Liberal Avenger links to a newspaper story about a soldier who was killed in Iraq. LA wants to milk it for all it's worth. He wrote,
Even if it’s a bit hokey, if it is grist for the anti-war propaganda mill, I’m all for it.


Perhaps he can find similar stories for the tens of thousands killed by Saddam.

Or the millions massacred by the Khmer Rouge and the NVA after we pulled out of Vietnam.

Or the hundreds of thousands of US soldiers who died in WWII.


Every soldier's death in this struggle is tragic, but it is not a meaningless tragedy so long as we emerge victorious. Would the dead of Normandy and Iwo call their deaths meaningless, without value? To attempt to exploit a soldier's death - provide grist for the anti-war mill as he so callously puts it - in order to make our mission in Iraq appear futile is to dishonor the honored dead, to piss on their graves.