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Earthquake!

Monday,  12/22/03  05:15 PM

earthquake - 12/22/03 11:15AM
Magnitude 6.5
That's a big blue square hiding under all those aftershocks.
(we're the little green circle at the lower right)

 

The Return of the King

Monday,  12/22/03  05:26 PM

I saw Lord of the Rings, the Return of the King this afternoon, with Alex and two friends.  The best movie I have ever seen.

Mumakil!
Mumakil!

Gollum!
Gollum!

Some thoughts:

  • A perfect adaptation of Tolkien's masterpiece.  I'm a big-time LOTR fan, from way back; I can remember winning a LOTR trivia contest while in college (reward = beer).  I know Director Peter Jackson didn't put "everything" from the books into his movies, but he captured their essence perfectly.  Given the constraints of time and the difference in medium, it was great.
  • This is how CG should be used in film.  The purpose of the movie was to tell the story, not to show off the CG, and the CG blended perfectly with live action.  It was really hard to tell the "real" creatures from the "fake" ones.  Gollum in particular was awesome.  As were those huge Mumakil (elephants).  And the Ents were perfect; they were the stars of the Two Towers.
  • Yeah, it was 3½ hours.  But it didn't seem that long.  There was no fat - what would you have cut?  Maybe the ending was a little drawn out, but hey, it was dramatic.
  • The biggest thing missing was the Battle of Bywater.  In the books, after the hobbits save Middle Earth by defeating Sauron and throwing the ring into the Cracks of Doom, they still have to defeat Orcs which have taken over the Shire.  Although it was an enjoyable final coda to the books, it was a bit superfluous.  Given the constraint of time and the desire to tell a coherent story, I don't feel the movie lost anything by omitting it.
  • I love Christopher Lee and I was prepared to be upset that Saruman had been entirely cut from the final movie.  He was terrific in the Two Towers.  But having seen the Return of the King, I have no quibble.  Saruman wasn't necessary, especially since the Battle of Bywater was cut (in the books, Saruman takes over the Shire in revenge for the hobbits' role in defeating him at Isengard).
  • I missed the romance between Eowyn and Faramir, and the part about Faramir remaining Steward even after Aragorn takes the throne.  This was perhaps the biggest plot gap; in the books, Aragorn is revealed to be king by healing Eowyn and Faramir.  In the movie, it just, uh, happened.
  • The father-daughter stuff between Elrond and Arwen was probably the biggest invention.  I think Jackson might have enlarged the role of Arwen for Liv Tyler, which gets no argument from me :)
  • It was not necessarily an actor's movie - the story came first, and the characters second - but the casting and acting were great.  John Rhys-Davies as Gimli and Orlando Bloom as Legolas were particularly inspired, and Viggo Mortensen was perfect as Aragorn.  Ian McKellen's Gandolf tracked the story very well; in the beginning he was a kindly old wizard, then he became a warrior, battled the Balrog, returned to direct Minas Tirith during the battle, and then faded to an old wizard again.  Elijah Wood was a terrific Frodo - you could feel the ring dragging around his neck - and Sean Astin was spot-on as Sam.  The lesser roles were perfectly acted, too; I'd single out Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, and Miranda Otto as Eowyn in particular.

LOTR3 x 4

My favorite part?  Wow.  There were so many great scenes; so many which would have been "the scene" in a lesser movie.  My view may change, but right now the scene which really stands out was the lighting of the torches of Gondor, signaling Rohan.  Those breathtaking few minutes capture the entire magic of the film.

Okay, enough raving.  I liked the movie.  And yes, I will see it again.  I bet it will be even better the second time, and the third, as the full range of glorious detail is revealed...

 

Monday,  12/22/03  11:24 PM

The greatest week in rock history?  We're talking mid-December, 1969.  And it is tough to argue - albums from the Beatles ("Abbey Road"), Led Zeppelin ("Led Zeppelin II"), Creedence Clearwater ("Green River"), the Rolling Stones ("Let it Bleed"), and the Temptations ("People Puzzle") were released, along with the debut albums of Santana, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Crosby, Stills, & Nash.  Wow.

M81 galaxy in infraredWired reports Heat Telescope Shows Cool Sights.  More space goodness from my alma mater, CalTech.  "The new telescope will not orbit Earth, but rather will trail behind the planet as it circles the sun, away from its heat."  That's an, er, cool picture of galaxy M81 over on the right; infrared converted to false color.  Wow.

David Burbridge on the Flynn Effect, namely that intelligence test scores in most industrialized countries have risen substantially over a period of decades.  Interesting stuff!

Dave Winer blogs his attendance at a Howard Dean event.  I tell you, I get way more political information about candidates from bloggers than I do from "big media".  And it is more honest, too.  At least bloggers are open about their bias, and more or less self-correcting.

Hey, guess what?  IPOs are back!  This is good news because with a public exit as a possibility, investors will be more willing to invest in startups, thereby fostering more innovation.

J. William Gurley explains why a recent court decision may inadvertently delay the progress of the Internet in the United States by certainly years and potentially decades.  The core issue is whether Internet services are considered a "telecommunications service" by regulators...

Auren Hoffman: There is no consolidation... period.  "U.S. consumers and businesses have more choices when buying products than they ever did before.  That competition translates into lower prices, better features, and higher quality."  I fully agree.

iTunesBrian Briggs reviews Digital Music Stores.  All of them!  Napster, BuyMusic, eMusic, MusicMatch, Wal-Mart, Rhapsody, and of course iTunes.

Boo hoo.  So SCO lost money this quarter, due primarily to legal fees :)  Even if you can stomach them on moral grounds, which I can't, you certainly have to feel they're a lousy investment.

Think you have a tough job?  How would you like to convert a C++ application to COBOL?  Wow, that's real work.  [ thanks, David ]

Robert Scoble goes through airport security:

I was wearing my "I'm blogging this" PDC shirt in the airport.  I was going through the security line in Seattle.  Here's the exchange that happened:

Security guard #1: "What's a blog?"
Security guard #2, before I could answer, said: "It's a weblog", and launched into an explanation.

I love it!

Okay, finally, three men from Yemen sue NASA for invading Mars.  [ via Xeni Jardin ]  I am not making this up, but it sure sounds like a headline from the Onion, doesn't it!

 
 

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