June 30, 2007

Horror Movie Review: Night Watch

I started this latest series of reviews with four movies in mind. Here are links for the reviews of The Descent, Ginger Snaps, and Dog Soldiers. The fourth movie I had in mind is probably the least mainstream of the group, but I'm going to hold off on that one and offer up this bonus review of a flick I watched just this week.

Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor) (2006)

Tvarich, you must see this movie.

Set in modern day Moscow, we are witnessing the prophesied culmination of a millenium-old power struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

Notice that I did not say "good" vs. "evil". This is the first film in a trilogy that has a scope reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings.

Ages ago two armies met in battle. The slaughter was terrible, and it became apparent to the two leaders that they were perfectly and evenly matched. The leaders halted the battle to prevent further useless killing and forged an uneasy truce between them.

Still living among humans today are Others, people with extraordinary powers and abilities. They never know what they are until they are called upon by circumstances to be more than human. Once they discover themselves, they must freely choose to join one side or the other. Either dark, or light.

Some of those who control the daytime are designated as Night Watch, to maintain the truce and prevent the forces of darkness from running out of control. If a vampire wishes to take a victim, the Night Watch must approve else the forces of darkness could raise an army of vampires in a short time. There are many other such checks in play that keep the two sides in delicate balance.

At some point, a supremely powerful Other will appear and will change sides, thus disrupting the balance and allowing one side to sweep the field and be finally victorious. The prophecy says that the forces of darkness will ultimately prevail.

Sounds sexy, eh? Guess what? That's all background!

The story revolves around Anton, one of the Night Watch. We see how he discovers that he's an Other, and how small events over a period of years build up to the fulfillment of the prophecy.

I'm not going to give up any more of the plot, but I will talk about the film. It's left up in the air about whether the forces of light are any less evil than the forces of night. Put another way, the film leads you to believe that neither side is necessarily better, rather, they are just different from each other. If the dark forces seem sinister, it's only because of our human perceptions. Old legends more often attribute darkness with bad.

There are a multitude of language options on the disk, including hearing it in the original Russian with English subtitles. The English dubbed version is done really well, so you don't have to feel obligated to read subtitles. I still recommend that you do though, and to be prepared to enjoy a few little surprises.

The visuals are stunning, as are most of the special effects. Some of the scenes are uncomfortably gory. I find it odd that the effect of seeing thousands of warriors being brutally cut to pieces in battle is somehow less disturbing than a scene where two individuals are using scissors as weapons. Human nature, I suppose, and that ability for large-scale rationalization may lie at the bottom of some of mankind's less shining moments.

Even for a horror movie, some of the character's actions seem unreal. More than once I was reminded that these people aren't American or Westernized. What feels natural to a Russian in a given situation may strike you as odd, but the occasional cultural dischords don't detract from the story. If anything, they add to the underlying tension.

If you're confused, the ending nicely recaps all that had gone before, as seen through the filter of understanding how each step ultimately led to the finale. Brilliantly too.

So, to sum up: Night Watch is the first movie in an epic trilogy that takes place in a darker, more sinister universe. If that concept appeals to you, then I highly recommend this movie.

Posted by: Ted at 10:10 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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You Know You're In Trouble When the Associated Press Starts Slapping You Down

Michael Moore's new movie, Sicko, is starting to generate buzz as folks see it. Unfortunately, I don't think that this AP news story is quite what he was hoping for:

But one aspect missing from the film is the defense. Do not expect to hear anyone speak well of the care they received in the U.S. On the other hand, patients and doctors from Canada, Britain, France and Cuba marvel at their health care.

If the bias is that obvious, then even those who wish to believe are going to have trouble with it. I mean, who would've thought you'd see things like this:

Moore tells viewers there are about 50 million people in the U.S. without health insurance.

Just this past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there are about 43.6 million uninsured people in the country. In March, the Census Bureau put the number at 44.8 million.

That's still a lot, but undercounting by millions?!?! Or how about:

Taking on the pharmaceutical industry, Moore says it spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress for a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

"Of course it was really a bill to hand over $800 billion of our tax dollars to the drug and health insurance industry," he said.

Moore is citing the projected cost for the Medicare drug benefit's first 10 years.

Last year, however, Medicare officials told The Associated Press that the projected cost of the benefit through 2015 stood at about $729 billion, a substantial drop compared with original estimates.

What's that first rule about digging a hole?

Moore also noted the some of the elderly in the drug program could end up paying more for their prescriptions than they did before. That is true. But the vast majority do save because of the tens of billions of dollars in annual government subsidies to help cover the cost of their medicine. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says people save about $1,200 a year on average by participating in the program, called Medicare Part D.

We need a bigger shovel.

At one point, Moore notes where the U.S. ranks in terms of health care around the world.

"The United States slipped to No. 37 in health care around the world, just slightly ahead of Slovenia," he said.

That ranking is based on a 2000 report from the World Health Organization that some health analysts viewed as misleading.

Yeah, riiiiiiight. Thirty-seventh.

The rest of the article notes where Moore gets it right, but also points out where he tells half-truths, hides inconvenient facts, and misleads you about the numbers in order to make his opinion seem valid.

Michael Moore is a liar. Too bad too, because I understand that he's a talented filmmaker.

Posted by: Ted at 01:20 PM | category: Links
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Seen on the 'net:

Courtesy is the KY of social intercourse

Especially important considering the number of dickheads out there.

Posted by: Ted at 07:56 AM | category: Square Pegs
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June 29, 2007

Inflatables in Space

Sounds dirty, eh?

Bigelow Aerospace has launched it's second test module into orbit atop a Russian Dnper rocket. Once in orbit, the module deployed and all indications are that it inflated normally. That makes Bigelow two for two.

Their plan is to have a commercial space station functioning in orbit by 2015, made from inflatable modules. If you click that link, you'll find all kinds of information on their prototypes and future plans, including a "fly your stuff" program where you can send stuff into orbit and see it float around on camera.

Posted by: Ted at 06:12 AM | category: Space Program
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Adorable Bunny Blogging (Updated)

Our rabbit Ozzie loves attention. If you put your hand in his cage he will dive under it so you can scratch behind his ears. On the floor, he'll wriggle under your feet so you can rub his back.

Yesterday was pretty funny. He was out and about, running around the room, when he settled underneath a small oscillating fan that Liz has on the floor. Every time the fan moved back and forth, it scratched him on the head, just like he likes.

Update: Mrs. Jones has posted photographic evidence that I do, indeed, live in a universe of cute.

Posted by: Ted at 06:09 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Tie Dyeing and Fabric Dyeing

While stationed in Germany with the Air Force, my best friend and I got t-shirts for volunteering to help with the Special Olympics. Soon after that, we tie-dyed the shirts. Soon after that, we wore those shirts to a unit picnic. Soon after that, we were ordered to report for urinalysis testing.

Whether you're a drug-addled hippie freak, or just don't get enough chances to pee in a cup, tie-dyed shirts rock. And now, thanks to this site, you can learn how to do fabric dyeing without the enormous amount of waste that most techniques seem to generate. Follow that link for color recipes, step-by-step methods and much, much more.

Posted by: Ted at 05:54 AM | category: Links
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Geeks Are Sexy, Unless They're Just Geeks

Horror stories from the world of computers: WorseThanFailure.com.

Besides the head-shakers and groaners, there are some funny stories (unless they happened to you).

"There's a way to schedule tasks?" Frank replied, surprised.

Of course there is a way. Dripping faucet drips into bucket on seesaw. When bucket is heavy enough, seesaw tips lifting lid off cheese plate. Mouse runs out of hole to eat cheese. String tied to mouse tail pulls crank that pushes pencil into CPU power switch. Computer boots and runs browser from Startup menu. When mouse is full, he runs back to his hole, where a piezoelectric switch starts an electric motor that turns a paddle wheel scooping water out of the bucket and onto the floor. Water runs into surge protector, shorting it out and shutting down the computer. Bucket returns itÂ’s original position. Paddle wheel stops when mouse gets hungry (and loses weight). Water dries, leaving power available for the computer.

Really quite elegant.

Ask anyone in the profession and they'll tell you, Dilbert is a documentary.

Posted by: Ted at 05:40 AM | category: Links
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June 28, 2007

Test Your Energy IQ

Found at Captain's Quarters.

How well do you understand the energy situation as it stands today? Harris conducted a poll among Americans, and the results were pretty dismal. Take the poll below (in the extended entry) for yourself, and then check out the answers here.

Let me know how you did in the comments. I didn't do so hot. more...

Posted by: Ted at 05:44 AM | category: Links
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June 27, 2007

This one is going on the sidebar too

Thanks to QandO for this one!


Posted by: Ted at 08:30 PM | category: Links
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Every Time We Think We've Got It Figured Out...

You remember what you learned about RNA, right? They're basically molecular dump trucks, running back and forth and collecting the building blocks needed to create proteins in the human body.

That may be a more apt description than we thought, because suddenly scientists are discovering that the "dump trucks" may be just a small percentage of the entire RNA "fleet".

Time to rethink what we thought we knew about DNA and evolution.

What is being proposed is the inheritance of characteristics acquired during an individual's lifetime, rather than as the result of chance mutations. This was first suggested by Jean Baptiste Lamarck, before Charles Darwin's idea of natural selection swept the board. However, even Darwin did not reject the idea that Lamarckian inheritance had some part to play, and it did not disappear as a serious idea until 20th-century genetic experiments failed to find evidence for it.

They're seeing hints pointing to that evidence now. This isn't an alternative to evolution, it's the idea that our bodies tweak the DNA that we pass along according to experiences that occur during our lifetime.

Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 11:45 AM | category: Links
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June 26, 2007

Darn It, Why Don't You People Remind Me!

We're way overdue for a Rocket Jones bondage post.

Lovely ladies from the silver screen, mostly in shackles or cuffs.

I suppose I could add a "bondage" category. What say ye?

Posted by: Ted at 11:33 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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Darn It, Why Don't You People !

We're way overdue for a Rocket Jones bondage post.

Lovely ladies from the silver screen, mostly in shackles or cuffs.

I suppose I could add a "bondage" category. What say ye?

Posted by: Ted at 11:33 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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More LEGO Virtuosity

Hella cool, in a deep down in your gut kinda way.

Posted by: Ted at 05:52 AM | category: Links
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First Hockey Post of the Upcoming Season

Check out this hilarious rundown on the NHL draft.

Enjoy live blogging like this:

5:38: Playing the role of Blues GM John Davidson today, none other than Dr. Phil! That's a surprise! They take Swedish centre Lars Eller, who just downgraded from Swedish beauties to Missouri girls in the span of three seconds. You have to feel for Lars. I don't remember a porno series called "St. Louis Erotica."

Koooooooo-dooooooooze to Off Wing Opinion for the link.

Posted by: Ted at 05:35 AM | category: Balls and Ice
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June 25, 2007

Views and Reviews

Over on the sidebar, I've updated my list of recently viewed flicks, and the new reviews are up at Joe Horror. This week, I give my take on Werewolf Woman.

Posted by: Ted at 11:45 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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Murdering Capitalist Running Dogs, One Family At A Time

The headline says it all:

In German crash test, China's Brilliance BS6 sedan fails miserably

"Fails miserably" is the understatement of the year. The thing is a deathtrap, and after seeing the photos of the crash results, you'll realize that "deathtrap" isn't hyperbole.

Posted by: Ted at 11:36 AM | category: Links
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Smile For The Camera, Even If You're Wearing A Mask

Thanks to a good bud for sending me this link:

The traffic cameras in England are called Gatsos after the manufacturer. Apparently destroying the cameras has become popular sport. Here are four pages of photos showing how people fight back against government surveillance.

Posted by: Ted at 05:24 AM | category: Links
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June 24, 2007

Mama Always Said I Was Good Fer Nothin'

Thanks to Michele, who's taking a brief break.
$5425.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth

Mingle2 - Online Dating

I wonder if that's calculated by the pound?

Posted by: Ted at 05:55 PM | category: Links
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This Looks Like Fun

In Garrett County, Maryland, a new resort has opened that features a man-made white water rafting course. Built with boulders quarried from the mountain and concrete, there are steel plates at the bottom of the run that can redirect the current to alter the difficulty of the experience from class II to class IV. Cost is $50.00 for a two hour slot, which includes about a half hour of instruction, and four or more runs through the rapids. The water recirculates through a calm "lake" portion as you circle back to the top of the rapids. Looks like they offer kayaking classes too.

Posted by: Ted at 05:46 PM | category: Links
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Return To Nature?

Like many other parts of the country, our local area has suffered from an explosion of McMansions: those bloated, overgrown houses on ridiculously small lots. Some of these huge homes are set within 10 or 20 feet of each other, and their front and back yards are as small as the ones in a regular townhouse neighborhood.

I'm not griping about the size of the homes, I'm griping about the density.

Driving past one such new development going up, we noted that each unit was four stories, with the bottom floor being a garage. They were shot through with oddly shaped windows to appear upscale and trendy, even unique if you ignored the thirty other homes in sight with the exact same floorplan. They call this one "The Villages at Rippon".

martin house.jpg

I call it "The Purple Martin House at Rippon."

Posted by: Ted at 05:26 PM | category: Square Pegs
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