Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End - A Reviewet

I mostly agree with this assessment of Pirate's of the Caribbean 3: At World's End, that like Matrix, after the first movie with high promise the series sucked it up, though like Matrix, I have to give the 3rd pirate's some credit for tackling some "Big" ideas (fyi "" should actually be air-quotes and should be interpreted at least semi-ironically).

So the whole series has the standard insidious theme of the fantasy genre these days from Superman to Harry Potter that I hate, that technology and rationality and commerce is bad, and that thievery is good. But I can't fault Pirates too much here because that's true of the entire genre. (Mage: The Ascension and Alan Moore explore this well).

But a nice touch was the (last-minute) introduction of the goddess Calypso. But I liked her because she wasn't just a run of the mill goddess, but the anthropomorphic embodiment of the spirit of nautical adventure (much like Dream in Gaiman's Sandman).

Without her, the seas becamse rational and suitable for commerce, but without her, the seas lost their magic.

As a result, as soon as she was freed, what would have been a rational, orderly by the books naval battle between two fleets, turned into cartoonishly improbable scene of swashbuckling derring-do-well between two ships in a whirlpool. Ridiculous, but fully in line with the film's internal logic of Calypso.

So I actually liked (ridulosity of) the last half an hour or so, but yeah, thought the first two hours were completely disposable prologue.
Final Grade: C+

And as an aside, I thought it was obvious that the end was merely a hook for Pirate's 4, as obvious as Charles Xavier stirring at the end of X-men 3, which despite protestations otherwise, was clearly a hook for X-men 4.

It still blows me away how many not just sequels, but sequels to sequels there are this year (pirate's, shrek, ocean's, spidey, fantastic 4, rush hour, bourne). Not to mention Harry potter and Die Hard which are the 5th and 4th in their series. Maybe next year will the be the year of sequels to sequels to sequels.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Eating on $21/week? No problem.

The latest fad amongst politicians, sparked by Oregon's Governor, is to see what it is like to eat on $21/week (the average subsidy from the food stamp program). I don't see what the big deal is. The governor lamented that he had to go to bed hungry, while an NYU Nutritionist on NPR contended that it was "impossible" to eat healthily on $21/week. Impossible? She later clarified that the only way to do it is if you cooked, and since it is unreasonable to expect Americans to know how to cook, it was impossible!!!

Of course, most of the world lives on far less food than that, and the nutritionist readily conceded that the typical diet in China is healthy and could easily be accommodated in $21/week. But for Americans, it is impossible. Bah!

So I normally spend far more than that for food (mostly due to luxuries like rare tuna steaks and fresh herbs, and eating out for lunch, and dinners), but honestly, I could do quite well on $42 a week (for two people), and still cook and eat the same things.

Shopping list: (from local safeway)

One dozen large eggs. $1.79
One gallon milk. $2.75
Safeway Large 32 Oz yogurt. $2.50
12 bananas. $3.00
18 oz Kellogg Corn Flakes (18 servings) $2.00

4 lbs. Green Cabbage. $2.
1 lb. Celery. $1.99
2.5 lbs onions. $1.99
2 lbs carrots. $1.89
1 lbs broccoli $1.50

5 lbs potatoes. $3.29

14 oz skippy peanut butter (12 servings) $1.50
1 loaf 24 oz safeway 12 grain bread $1.69

2 lbs botan calrose rice (20 servings) $2.00
1 lbs barilla pasta (8 servings) $1.00

1 lbs dehydrated black beans (12 servings) $1.19
1.5 lbs perdue boneless/skinless chicken thigh (8 servings) $2.99
1 lb lean ground beef (5 servings). $2.99
8 oz Safeway Cheddar (8 servings) $1.50

2 bulbs garlic. $0.44

Total: $41.10
(plus room for $18 worth of a 20 week supply of corn/sesame oil, vinegar and salt and pepper, and soy sauce and assorted spices/condiments)

It wasn't even hard. My first attempt came in well under. These are all meals that I would normally eat, and with plenty of left overs. Probably would gain weight if I ate everything there. And if I were to adjust probably could cut some carbs in favor of vegetables and more meat. But enough to have (stir-fried) chicken 2 nights. Mexican with refried beans and cheese and sauteed onions and rice and yogurt (yogurt makes a healthy replacement for sour cream). Cheese burgers (1/4 pounders) one night with baked fries and sauteed onions. Beef/Potato Hash another night. Bean/pasta salad for one nights. Baked potatoes with beans and cheese and yogurt on another night. Breakfast is at least maybe 2 eggs each and hash browns, for 3 mornings. With enough cereal, yogurt, bananas, milk on other mornings, to be stuffed. Enough for at least 12 peanut butter and banana sandwiches (could mix it up with grilled cheese) plenty of carrot sticks and celery (with peanut butter). Probably could do a bit more veggies, but I think what I have is not far off from the fairly vegetable heavy diet I normally east. With ~10 lbs of vegetables, that's roughly 60 servings. Could make cabbage cole slaws (using yogurt and vinegar and sesame oil). Diced celery with sesame oil and vinegar is quite good. If I had to rebalance, maybe fewer carbs, more veggies. I count roughly 90 servings of carbs. That's 2 people over 7 days, still about 6 per day.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Be Green: Don't recycle paper.

I worked out yesterday that not-recycling paper is better for the environment than recycling. Aside from the sludge created from washing the ink off used paper, I did some rough calculations using info from the Energy Information Administration, to find that recylcling paper probably leads to more greenhouse gas emissions that recycling. Sure, you get some greenhouse gas savings from the energy savings from recylcing paper (but actually not that much because much of the energy used comes from wood chips, a carbon-neutral source), but you get a huge gain because paper in a landfill sequesters the carbon underground, and not in the atmosphere, just like a forest. And beyond that, not-recycling increases demand for paper (which in the US is made from farmed trees), which hence incresees forest land, further reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Anyway, made me feel a lot better about the huge piles of the largely unread Sunday New York Times (I pretty much subscribe only for the magazine) I toss out each week because my apartment doesn't recycle.

Friday, May 04, 2007

heroes = X-men, Age of Apocalypse, and Go Whedon

So last week's Heroes cribbed from Watchmen. This week was heavy on X-men, and in particular Age of Apocalypse, which like most of X-men hasn't aged well, (I am starting to read them again as they are re-released), though still the favorite x-men storyline from as a kid. But I guess its Jeph Loeb basically cribbing from himself (and current events) so I guess it's ok.

As an aside, picked up volume 3 of Joss Whedon's Astonishing Xmen, and he's finally hitting his stride. Finally bringing x-men up to the level where I'd still read them today, with real stories, and slightly less infantile love stories, and bringing in nice "beats" as my cousin A- calls them, and cinematographic techniques like camera moves, and some reasonable explorations of ideas. You'd think I'd like Whedon as writer, given that he wrote perhaps my favorite tv show of all time, but his past comic book forays (Fray, ala Buffy in the year 3000, Firefly) have all been somewhat flat. So not quite there yet, but definitely good stuff.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A student or a south korean student

One point All things Considered made on the recent virginia tech tragedy, I very much appreciated.

After the recent tragedy in Virginia Tech, the host compared headlines in the US vs overseas, and whereas most foreign press headlines in UK, France, Bangkok, etc. reported the event as "South Korean Student ..." most American headlines reported the event as "Student..." And expressed it as another example where the international press just doesn't understand the US.

It has always been a personal project of mine when traveling to ask visible minorities (often Chinese, as often can more easily converse) in places like Australia, Italy, or France, and ask if they feel Australian, Italian or French, and typically the answer is an incredulous "of course not" "what a silly question!" Though for me, the answer was always easy. Though it is far from perfect in the US (and I had to fight for it at a forum for multiculturalism at MIT), I, like the headline writers, have no problem leaving the pre-hyphenated part of -American out.