Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jan 28, 2007

Lucky # Slevin

Although this movie contains Morgan Freeman, Ben Kingsley (Sir Ben Kingsley? What's up with that?), Lucy Liu, and Bruce Willis, it's no better than fair and possibly even worse.

Slevin is a young man caught accidentally in a conflict between two gang lords due to a bizarre case of mistaken identity. It's supposedly an attempt at a twist-ending crime film (vaguely along the lines of Ocean's Eleven), but the pacing is too drawn-out to be fun or leave you guessing.

At the end, it's pretty much what you'd expect to see on television on a dull Sunday afternoon.

Galileo Blogs

I wandered over to Galileo Blogs' site from and I have to say it's pretty impressive, so I'm adding him onto my blogroll. I should probably do some more work to flesh it out, but it seems like a lot of the sites I add to my 'roll wind up getting deleted some time later when I become disenchanted with them. Oh, well, such is the price of progress.

Jan 22, 2007

Rousseau and the Real Culture War

David Heleniak has done me the favor of letting me read his forthcoming book, Rousseau and the Real Culture War so that I could review it, and I have to say that I found it quite interesting. Heleniak's point, that the Left and Right are basically identical, is a pretty common observation, but I have never encountered his particular discussion for the reasons why this came about anywhere.

I'm not especially familiar with Rousseau or 18th century French philosophy, and it was startling to see how and why Heleniak considers that his ideas have given rise to the modern Left.

The book does have some flaws, mostly because the organization and presentation of the argument are a bit scattered and it requires some concentration to follow, but the material is sound. Heleniak does a good job of keeping it concise, so it's easy to sit down and read it all the way through. I'm sure we'll be hearing more from Mr. Heleniak in the future. At the moment I'd say he's still an amateur, but a very promising one. There's nothing wrong with being an amateur: I'm one and probably will be for quite some time.

Mr. Heleniak indicated that he plans to have Rousseau and the Real Culture War available at sometime next month, and perhaps also available at Amazon or other sites later. I'll post an update when I have firmer information than this.

Rating: 2.5


Have you ever seen a movie and then kind of wonder why you bothered? Well, that's the way I feel about Crank. In fact, I pretty much felt that way before I saw the movie, I just let my housemate talk me into renting and later watching it because he wanted to see it. He's a guy, I suppose he can be forgiven for having occasional low tastes.

The "story", to the extent that there actually is one, is pretty basic: the main character, a professional gang killer-for-hire, has been poisoned as an act of revenge by (surprise) another gang killer-for-hire. The "twist", to the extent that there actually is one, is that adrenilin slows the effects of the poison. So, numerous ridiculous stunts, chase scenes, etc. ensue.

I'm pretty sure that Crank doesn't come even close to qualifying as art. There's not really even a plot. However, it is proof positive that in order to produce a successful action movie, you don't need a reason, just an excuse.

Jan 21, 2007

The Illusionist

There's really not that much to say about this movie other than the fact that it was well done; it is almost a study in understatement, driven by the character of Eisenheim, the Illusionist. There's not a great deal of excitement or suspense. Events unfold quietly, at a measured pace.

Eisenheim is in love with Sophie, the Duchess, however since he's the son of a cabinetmaker their romance is essentially impossible . . . at least on the surface. She is taken away from him and he travels the world for many years. During that time, they lose touch and it is arranged for Sophie to marry Crown Prince Leopold, largely in support for the Prince's schemes to gain support from Hungary and become Emperor. Leopold cares little for Sophie other than for political gain. Leopold becomes interested in Eisenheim's fantastic illusions, sparking a reunion between the two childhood friends and a rivalry between the Crown Prince and the Illusionist. Then Sophie is murdered.

The film doesn't deal with any particularly grand abstractions, even seeks to avoid them, but the interactions between the various characters are fascinating and the acting is superb, even if the conclusion is somewhat predictable. The illusions are also neat to watch, so I thoroughly recommend the film.

Jan 16, 2007

Jack Bauer Gives Us the Lowdown

I spotted the above brief humorous article while I was browsing around and I had to chuckle, even though I don't watch 24.

Jan 14, 2007


The way of a director that would turn a popular fantasy novel into a movie is as a darkened kitchen containing an open diswasher.

I hadn't heard anything particularly good about this movie, but I decided to go see it anyway because I enjoyed the book a great deal. Sadly, it wasn't really worth the effort. The movie is incredibly mediocre.

The major problem that I could detect was that the events and the characters' motivations did not link up very well. Events proceeded one after another but there was never a sense of a plot moving forward: nothing seemed connected to anything else. The characters had no personality, the soundtrack was heavy-handed . . . all in all a bad job of telling a good story.

Jan 12, 2007

NutriSystem Update #1

Well, I'm on the fifth day of my new NutriSystem diet and thus far things are going pretty well. Some slight ups and downs have occured as I acclimate to the new food intake schedule, but that's only to be expected.

# of Days on diet: 5
# of Pounds lost: 9

Quick Thought

I heard on the radio this morning that Nancy Pelosi wants new legislation put into place that will require the government to negotiate better drug prices for Medicare recipients. Pardon me a second, but it isn't a negotiation if the government demands lower prices! It's equivalent, literally and morally, to a thug holding you up for your wallet. If he only takes SOME of the money instead of ALL of the money and lets you keep your drivers' license and credit cards, that doesn't make it any more right.


Jan 4, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

I hadn't been to see a really good movie for far too long. A coworker recommended The Pursuit of Happyness to me and it seemed intruiging, not at all like the usual tired romantic comedies and action movies that parade endlessly across the silver screen.

The premise is simple: Will Smith plays a hardworking father that wants to provide a better life for himself and his family. Trapped in a dead-end independent sales position, he discovers the potential of a career as a stock broker, and it seems like a dream come true. But it is a faint and distant dream, seemingly not for the likes of him. His bitter struggle to grasp hold of his dream before it escapes is both horrifying and inspirational.

The perpetually-goofy Will Smith is not someone you'd expect to see in a movie like this, but he carries the weight of the entire movie much like Tom Hanks carried Cast Away, and he does it so well that you have to wonder whether he's acting at all. The direction is great: elements are introduced, played upon, and then reveal their importance in a grand dance of interconnected pieces. One small thing that struck me is that even though Will Smith is black and most of the people at the brokerage are white, race is not made much of as an issue. It's not even mentioned at all, which makes Mr. Smith into an almost-unseen type of character: the heroic man with whom everyone can identify.

Jan 1, 2007

New Year's Resolutions?

I'm a little ambivalent about doing any New Year's resolutions this year, largely because I find it difficult to predict my progress towards concrete goals. This may, in fact, be my problem: my goals are too abstract for me to make reasonable progress towards accomplishing them.

Let's take an example of one of my goals: find a better job. The difficulty comes in defining what, precisely, constitutes a "better" job. One that's in a better location? One that pays more? One that offers better opportunities for advancement? Ideally, I'd like to get all of those things, but often it's necessary to settle for just one of those qualities . . . it may even be necessary to take a cut in one of the other areas.

So, it's often difficult for me to decide what opportunities to pursue, and even then, they tend not to pan out. I didn't do such a good job of accomplishing my resolutions for last year, largely because Something Came Up. I think this possibly qualifies as the Lamest Excuse Ever.

So, this year, I've decided to take a slightly different approach. My overall goals are the same (I'm in pretty much the same position I was last year), but I'm going to try altering my approach to them. So, for instance, instead of resolving to lose a specific amount of weight, I'm going to try NutriSystem for a month and monitor my weight. If I lose weight, I'm going to focus on keeping at it for another month, and so on.

Likewise with finding a better job: I'm going to look at the want ads and apply for anything that looks good this week. Then, next week, I'll do it again. Sooner or later I'm bound to find something.