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Uncertain Principles

Physics, Politics, Pop Culture

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Deep Breath Before The Plunge

Sometime before 6:00 tomorrow, 35 formal lab reports will be arriving in my inbox at work, and grading them will become the bane of my existence for the next week or two. This will undoubtedly lead to lots of long, substantive blog posts, as a work avoidance strategy, but at least for the moment, I'm going to pretend that I'll be responsible, and concentrate on grading.

Prior to that, though, I'll throw out some insubstantial commentary on the Extended Edition Return of the King DVD. If you're the sort of person who both hates spoilers, and has spent the last fifty-odd years living in a cave in outer Mongolia, first, congratulations on your return to civilization, and now go read something else.

As with the previous volumes, my reaction to the additional scenes is basically "Enh." There are a couple that are pretty good-- the scene with Pippin and Faramir is very nice, and it's a shame to have lost it-- but most of them don't really add anything, and too many of them (the extra Paths of the Dead stuff, the Mouth of Sauron, the death of Saruman) show Peter Jackson's roots in schlock horror. It's nice to get to see it, and it manages not to feel like it's adding an extra hour to the movie, but the theatrical cut was a better movie.

The making-of material, as always, was fascinating. The various documentaries really make clear that this wasn't so much a movie project, as a gigantic Kiwi cult. The ridiculous lengths they went to to get every single little detail right are just mind-boggling.

The extras also finally make clear what Barrie Osborne's job was: there's a great shot of him having a meeting with all the department heads (but not Peter Jackson), and laying down the law about deadlines and suchlike. He was apparently the guy in charge of seeing to it that things got finished in time, and as such, it looks like he richly deserved to go on stage at the Oscars.

We also watched the whole thing through with the cast commentary track on, which was sort of amusing. The "best commentary" prize is split between the duo of Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, and stunt man/ villain Lawrence Makoare. Boyd and Monaghan ham it up something awful, while Makoare is so obviously not an actor, that his comments are really refreshing. Most of the rest of the comments are sort of a wash. Sean Astin babbles endlessly, Elijah Wood is very Serious, Liv Tyler is awful, Andy Serkis is sort of amusing. The most unintentionally hilarious commentary is from John Rhys-Davies, who goes on at length in this Inside the Actor's Studio vein, with numerous pompous references to Art and Craft and Theatah, which makes for a striking contrast with both his role in the film (broad, physical comedy, mostly), and, you know, his entire career's worth of bit parts in grade Z movies on the Sci-Fi Channel. I mean, seriously-- Chupacabra: Dark Seas?

A final, more serious note: It occurs to me that one of the biggest but most subtle shifts made in the book-to-film transition is in the end of the Ring. It's very important for Tolkien that the Ring be destroyed by chance-- Gollum falls into Mount Doom of his own accord, while capering about in triumph on the edge of a cliff. The whole thing is very much in keeping with Tolkien's crankily dogmatic Catholicism-- it's the whole "mankind doesn't deserve salvation, but will get it anyway, because God is merciful" thing.

Jackson, on the other hand, goes much more for an "Evil contains the seeds of its own destruction" thing. Gollum is toppled over the edge after Frodo attacks him, overcome with lust for the Ring and trying to get it back. The Ring is destroyed precisely because of its powerful corrupting influence.

I'm not sure what this means, mind, but if you manage to spin a Master's thesis out of it, mention me in the acknowledgements.

Posted at 10:35 AM | link | follow-ups | 8 comments

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Wait, I Know This One...

Yoni Cohen offers the mind-boggling blog reference of the week:

I continue to enjoy Mike DeCourcy's "Daily Dish." But am I the only one who has noticed that the quality of Mike's writing for his would-be blog is lower than the quality of his writing for his regular columns?

Boy, I hope that's irony.

Posted at 7:50 AM | link | follow-ups | no comments

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

CSI: Schenectady County

From this morning's Albany Times Union (which will move behind a paywall with alarming rapidity):

Detectives have scoured hundreds of missing persons' reports but have been unable to connect the woman found under the back porch at 2038 Cedarlawn Ave. with any missing people.

In the hope of putting a face on the mostly skeletal remains, police employed a State Police forensics expert to draft a computerized image of what the woman might have looked like when she was alive.

I always thought that particular CSI trick was probably a bunch of crap, so I'm surprised to see that they can actually do anything like it. Of course, if you look at the actual image (on the State Police site, where it might be a bit more stable), you can see that they've got a ways to go before they get tv-quality images.

Though if she really looked like that, I'm sure she'll be remembered. Particularly that facial expression-- yikes!

(More substantive blogging will be light this week, as it's lab report season, and I've got a lot of papers to read.)

Posted at 7:38 AM | link | follow-ups | 4 comments

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Curse of the 80's Star?

A recent post at the college basketball weblog notes that Steve "Hairspray" Alford at Iowa has had a player accused of burglary, criminal mischief, false imprisonment, and assault, thus adding scandal to a resume of relative mediocrity at Iowa. This puts him in the same boat as fellow 80's star player, embattled Missouri coach Quin Snyder.

This raises the question: are players of that era cursed as coaches? Billy Donovan at Florida is doing all right at the moment, but he had a team absolutely implode on him a year or two ago, and there are stories of general sleaze around him. And Tommy Amaker at Michigan has dodged scandal, but isn't exactly setting the world on fire in Ann Arbor. (Krzyzewski's not doing so well in the "training future coaches" area. Though that's one way to avoid the sort of awkwardness that exists between him and Bob Knight...)

Those are the high-profile guys from that era that I'm aware of in the coaching ranks. It doesn't really speak well for quickly promoting guys to big-time jobs on the basis of playing fame.

Am I missing anyone?

Posted at 8:13 AM | link | follow-ups | 4 comments

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