The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Friday, May 20, 2005


By far the best of the three new ones, and possibly better than Return of the Jedi. I'm much more of a Trek man than a Wars guy, but I have a decent level of appreciation for the latter (as in, "I wasn't bored by Episodes I and II").

--First, the political thing: Revenge of the Sith is much more blatantly political than, say, The Incredibles. It's ironic, since episodes I and II had many more details about the political situation in the Republic than this movie, which is more about their result. But for those of you looking for a thinly-veiled anti-Bush message, you came to the right place. Take it, Natalie Portman:
"So this is how democracy ends... To thunderous applause."
Now you, Hayden Christiansen and Ewan McGregor!
"Either you're with us, or with the enemy".

"Only the Sith speak in absolutes!"
Want more? Consider that everything falls to shit because the Senate grants unprecedented power to the leaders of the Republic. Take that, Patriot Act and nuclear option!

--Acting: Still kind of shitty, but that's not the point. The pacing and the visual majesty of the film -- operatic, as many people have described it -- makes the stone-faced, Britishish simple English a negligible issue. Ewan is more Guinnessy than ever, Hayden only offends us with an attempt at romantic dialog once, and has a great reaction shot when Padme (Portman) tells him she's pregnant (with Luke and Leia). The big acting exception is Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine, who takes Anakin under his wing, seducing him with the movie's juciest speeches. He stands out, a Merovingian in a sea of Neo.

--The Quirk factor: This has always been an important part of Star Wars' heart. Every one of those movies has a series of machines that make cute, or funny noises. The droids are hilarious every time the make a sound ("you're welcome"), and R2D2 is about as funny as he/it's ever been.

--Hayden's hair: outstanding! Jim Morrison IS Darth Vader!

--While Hayden's descent into evil is portrayed well enough, I agree with SF Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle that seeing Anakin do the worst thing he does in the movie (I won't spoil) would have been better than cutting away from it.

--Every shot is captivating, with more attention paid to each backdrop than in any other movie in recent memory. For instance, a 15-second scene in which a female Jedi is massacred takes place in the most lushly-colored world I have seen on screen since the schmaltzy What Dreams May Come, and I wish I could've seen more of it.

--More Yoda fighting, woohoo!

Anyway, it was the only one of the new trilogy movies during which the audience applauded during the ending credits at my showing. Congrats, George, you didn't fuck up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


(okay, one more)

Noted blogger Norman Mailer proposes a possible explanation for the bogus Koran-toilet study: Was Michael Isikoff set up?

I have no idea if this theory has any merit, but it wouldn't be that hard to do. Back in July of last year, someone gave the New York Post information suggesting Richard Gephardt would be John Kerry's running mate, possibly someone from inside the Kerry campaign. The end result was that a Murdoch rag got a big black eye. No reason something similar couldn't be at play here.

Chuck Schumer confronts FristChrist on his taking part in the filibuster of a Clinton judicial nominee, and FristChrist, well, he has something of a diva meltdown.

Congratulations to Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor-elect of Los Angeles.

That makes two rising stars in the Democratic Party, running the two most important cities on the west coast.

I had just started my satirical article when it occurred to me to check Tom Burka's blog and make sure he didn't do it first. It's a good thing I checked.
Bush To Retract War

Cites Protests, Poor Sourcing, Newsweek Debacle as Impetus

George W. Bush retracted the Iraq war today, saying that it had been based on information from an unreliable source and that the original premises for the war were wrong.

"We had one source for the war -- two, if you count Judith Miller -- and it now appears that that source didn't know what he was talking about," George W. Bush told reporters. (Ahmed Chalabi had no comment, but told reporters that he would consider "telling them everything they wanted to hear" for 10 million dollars.)
Going on from there, he does a better job on it than I probably would've done. But if I may add a few paragraphs...
When reached for reactions to Bush's retraction, a number of right-wing webloggers -- or "bloggers" -- were reluctant to comment.

"I am not sure what to make of this," said University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, who runs the blog "If one of my readers were to show me a way to shoehorn this news into a criticism of the MSM, I might have something for you," adding, "heh."

John Hinderaker of Power Line, Time Magazine's 2004 Blog of the Year, was harder to pin down: "Um... Dan Rather sucks!" When pressed for futher comment, John added after a lengthy silence, "Dan Rather... really sucks? Oh! And that rabble-rouser Gandhi sucks too!"

Jeff Jarvis and Mickey Kaus are currently collaborating on an upcoming piece for the Wall St Journal arguing that CNN conspired with the Bush administration to start the Iraq war in spite of poor intelligence, as a springboard to allow Eason Jordan to make an off-the-record comment at an economic forum some time later. "Trust us, it's air-tight," Kaus told reporters while holding a sock puppet labeled "Ed." up to a microphone.
This is the last time I'm dealing with the Newsweek story, by the way. I'll close with one observation: It's the perfect story for all involved. For the right, it gives them a chance to bitch about the media. And for the left, it gives them a chance to have their heads explode from irony overload, particularly given the scant attention given to the Downing street memo, and the cutesy callousness of the right's little "newsweek lied, people died" crusade. Lastly, it's wonderful for the administration, because it allows them to explain away a spat of violence in Afghanistan that people in the administration said would have happened anyway before the debunking of the Newsweek story occurred.

UPDATE: Sully goes after Instapundit's coverage of the Newsweek story (compared to his coverage of Abu Ghraib), and Glenn responds by... well, by punting. (Alicublog)

This precise moment marks 25 years since the geological event that fascinated me more than any other in American history, that being the eruption of Mt Saint Helens in Southern Washington. When I was 10 years old, my family took a car trip up to the Pacific Northwest, during which I got to see the mountain up close for the very first time. I'll always remember how eerie it was: the lack of standing trees, the strange, lumpy nature of the plain below the volcano, the crater and the smoke it gave off, lonely Spirit Lake, saturated in some areas by tree remnants, and so on. I still have a small container of ash from the '80 eruption that I bought there.

I could tell you anything about the initial magnitude-5.1 earthquake (and the harmonic tremors that preceded it), the bulge, the landslide, the mudflows, the pryoclastic flows, Harry Truman and his cats (now buried 300 feet below the initial landslide), geologists like David Johnston (who died 5 miles from the mountain that day) and Harry Glicken (who survived, but died a decade later during the eruption of Mt Unzen in Japan), and the visit to the area by President Carter, who I'm sure was happy to tour a catastrophe that had nothing to do with the capture of a regulatory agency by a narrow energy interest.

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Monday, May 16, 2005


Sick as a dog all day. One would think such a condition would lend itself to blogging, but nooooo.

Back soon.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


So says Robert Novak (with video).