The place that's on the other side of the world from China
Apparently, the other side of the world from the United States is mostly the Indian Ocean
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Apparently, the other side of the world from the United States is mostly the Indian Ocean
I just clicked on an article The Stupidest Business Decisions in History. First on the list was the record label Decca, declining to sign the Beatles to a record contract.
For those that aren't aware of the background: in the late 50s and early 60s, the Beatles were a cover band that, not to put too fine a point on it, played a lot of dives in Hamburg Germany. Along came Brian Epstien to be their manager, and set to work getting them a recording contract.
Epstien got them an audition with Decca, and early in the morning of January 1, 1962, the Beatles recorded 15 songs for them.
If you click through to look at the set list, notice it's mostly cover songs, along with three Lennon/McCartney originals. Also note that, with the exceptions of Money and Till there was you, none of these songs made it into their main-line releases. (Versions of some of them can be found on Live at the BBC).
The fact is... these demos are pretty underwhelming. There's just none of the raw energy you can hear on Please Please Me, and the Lennon/McCartney compositions don't come anywhere near the quality of their later work. (Four of the tracks are available on the Anthology 1 set, for those that are interested).
Of course, in rejecting the Beatles, Decca executives famously said "guitar groups are on the way out". But the fact is, even if they had prescience to know that was wrong, there's precious little evidence on the Decca audition recordings that the Beatles would or could lead a world-wide resurgence of guitar groups..
So, while Decca didn't handle things very well, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that John, Paul, George, and Pete Best were not the Fab Four (or even the Fab Three plus another guy) yet, and it probably would've been a mistake for Decca to sign them to a recording contract.
Ever visited a web page that has text from one side of the browser to the other? (GNU is a particular offender.)
Here's a bookmarklet to give you sane margins:
White space can be a wonderful thing.
Update: fixed stupid typo. document, not documents
If you've got $17,000 to spend on a garden, your grocery budget may not be the most productive place to look to save money.
That's bad enough. An annoyance; mostly harmless. But now, there's 'click-jacking'. I suppose the lesson here is to stay away from facebook (done and done, at least for my part). But how long will it be before this "invisible action" crack is used some place else?
Update: I read down into the comments at the link, and apparently, 1) this is actually rather old, and 2) there's a Firefox add-on to guard against click-jacking. Too bad I like to use Opera, though
Michelle! (aww, they're married)
Looks like Jack picked the wrong day to quit shooting heroin!
I was just reading through the customer ratings for a used reseller over on amazon. Here's one that caught my attention:
"Great transaction - item exactly as described...couldn't ask for better!!!!"
The rating? 4 out of 5.
There is, of course, a lot I could write about regarding the second season. But I'm going to stick (I think) to just one topic, and the keystone of the whole plot. That is the Secret Evil Cabal Within Our Own Government (SECWOOG) vs. Heroically Restrained President Allstate.
Probably the most obvious problem is that President Allstate is too Heroically Restrained. Even early in the season, he is looking for a way to dodge a military response, apparently unaware that even attempting to detonate a nuclear bomb on American soil is still an act of war.
Then, after the bomb has gone off, he's still dragging his feet. The President simply cannot make military decisions based on the doubts of one field agent, even if it is Jack Bauer. And when he calls off the attack based on the initial reports of unverified evidence?
I know I'm supposed to be rooting for the President at this point; instead I'm thinking this is really not a guy I'd want as Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Senator Allstate was one of the few intelligent characters in season 1; it's really a disappointment they had to make him into a dope for season 2 to work.
Of course, there's plenty of problems on the other side of the issue. They're seriously going to go to war based on a single piece of uncorroborated evidence? Yikes.
And you can add a double "yikes" for the fact that they know the head of NSA is compromised. Any sort of SIGINT has to be viewed with at least some suspicion at that point.
And why on Earth do they need to launch their response less than 12 hours after the nuke went off (besides, of course, the fact that the structure of the show requires it)?
Ah, well. It was still fun to watch, and as usual, the best parts are when Jack Bauer is on-screen...
Suppose you've got some high-value prisoner. Does moving him around to different facilities every few weeks make sense to anybody? And speaking of (allegedly) highly secure facilities, does it make sense to have it staffed with 5 guys and a couple janitors? Does it make sense for it not to have it's own back-up generators?
OK, Mrs. Senator Allstate is now working on being a full-on psychopath. And Senator Allstate is... oh, wait! Senator Allstate susses out the adultery-for-blackmail trap his wife set. Hurray for at least one character that's not a dope! (On the bad side, how does Little Miss Hottsie Tottsie not realize any way forward from her situation results in her getting fired in very short order?)
Man, the Bad Guys really suck at tying up their hostages. That's 0-for-2 on Bauers getting the drop on them because they can't secure their prisoners.
And the Über mole is revealed. As I mentioned earlier, there are a limited number of choices for suspects, and once we know there are two moles, Nina's alibi has to be called into question. It was actually a good ploy to suggest George Mason (aka the Management Weasel Jack tranq'ed in hour 1) as the best alternate suspect.
And Teri Bauer gets killed because she thinks she and Nina are BFF
Other final thoughts:
A lot of the stuff that I commented on is really just nit-picking and having fun. But one thing that really does bug me is when characters do something really stupid. That's why I was so glad Senator Allstate didn't fall into his wife's adultery/blackmail scheme; it would have required him to be stupid on at least a couple of levels.
The whole Drazen family seemed to have this weird watered down, vaguely Eastern European accent. Was that on purpose, or were these guys just bad at doing accents?
Dennis Hopper's part was disappointing... it really doesn't compare well to his similar small-but-pivotal role in the first "Speed" movie.
One of the problems with the whole "this all happens in 24 hours" premise is that for at least some of the characters (like Teri and Kim Bauer in season 1), they really should be emotional basket cases well before the end of the 24th hour. I get that dramatically, they can't let major characters spend 6 hours curled up in a corner, but the result is that they seem to become emotional zombies.
Watching the series on DVD loses some of the immediacy of the "happens in real time" premise too. When it's being broadcast, the plot clock follows along with the wall clock. On the DVD... not so much. Even if you wait to start watching at the top of the hour, if you take out the commercials, previews and coming attractions, you're left with about 42 minutes of actual show. I suppose you could pause the DVD at each commercial break, but... well, yeah, right.
On the other hand, watching the series on DVD gave the plot a little more immediacy, since I watched it over the course of a few days, rather than the 5 months the broadcast version took.
Jeeze, Mrs. Senator Allstate is quite the piece of work, isn't she?
Apparently the cure for Exploding-Car Onset Amnesia is to be nearly shot, and then dramatically rescued at the last second.
Kim Bauer just has the awesomest track record in picking friends.
Yay, Dennis Hopper!
Beep boop... beep boop... only four hours left!
Jack rescues his family, and it looks like the whole Gaines team is dead. I guess that means we've seen the last of Evil Twin Photographer Dude? Wow. I realize I've been obsessing a bit on this guy, but it seems like all the most preposterous elements of the plot have centered up on him, including
Oh, look--here's the New Assassin Dude, and it's David Gilmour, circa 1985!
Oops... Dreamy McKidnapper is still alive, and Kim's going all "Stockholm Syndrome" on him. Does she ever do something that's not stupid?
They're going to send the Staff Hottie undercover (har) on a date with the new Assassin Dude? Yeah, what could possibly go wrong?
Pro tip: when a car slides down a hill, it usually doesn't explode in a fireball like it's full of dynamite. I'm just sayin'. And now, we have exploding-car onset amnesia. That kind of thing happens all the time. Right?
OK, so the Bad Guys removed Real Photographer Dude from the plane's passenger list. Still, why not just jump him in the airport parking lot or something? (Yeah, yeah, I know--sploding plane gives the set-up part of the plot some much-needed life (particularly for a show that hadn't been picked up past 13 episodes yet)).
...and the real Bad Guys start to show up. Has Zeljko Ivanek ever played anything other than a tightly-wound, bitter antagonist?
...and the official motive is revealed: revenge. They are still violating one of the basic rules for evil overlords: "#4: Shooting is not too good for my enemies." They almost certainly could have had Senator Allstate, Jack Bauer, and his whole family dead--all they had to do was dispense with this contrived frame-up plot.
Ah, well. I should say, though, in spite of my plot-point nit-picking, I am enjoying the story. Plus, Dennis Hopper shows up in the second half. He always did a good job as a mentally-unbalanced bad guy.
OK, so their plan for explaining how the Photographer Dude survived the plane explosion was... hope nobody would notice he was supposed to be on the exploding plane?
And their goal is not only to assassinate Senator Allstate, but frame Jack as the shooter? Needlessly, needlessly complicated.
Just finished Hour 6. The whole blackmail Jack plot is moving along (although the whole Guy Who Is Not Who He Seems To Be bit doesn't make a lot of sense... if he was just there to kidnap Jack's wife, why didn't he move at his first opportunity?
Meanwhile, the whole Evil Twin Photographer Dude subplot has pretty much disappeared. They are going to get back to that, right?
Also, Jack's kind of a big-mouth with the whole 'Search for the CTU Mole' thing, isn't he? So far, he's told Nina, Jamie, and the known-to-be-on-the-take Management Weasel Dude. Mr. Tight Security.
OK, so the Bad Guys want to assassinate Senator Allstate for reasons yet to be explained. Apparently, this is their plan:
I'm sure Hour 3 will feature developments whereby it is explained how the Photographer Dude could have survived the exploding plane (actually, I've read more of the wikipedia page on this season than I should have, and I know that somehow this is going to become an even-more-ridiculous assassination-by-blackmail plot).
(I also know enough about 24 to not hold my breath waiting for explanations as to why the Bad Guys are executing a Fantastically Contrived and Hopelessly Fragile Evil Plot)
Oh, brother moment #1:
"If I give you a phone number, could you hack in and get all the internet passwords connected to it?"
On the other hand, there is this:
[T]he most potent FX are Downey's eyes -- those big, expressive brown orbs that seem to be highlighted with natural mascara to make them pop. Downey uses his body like a dancer or an acrobat, but has there been any other actor since, maybe, Bette Davis whose eyelashes are so vital to his performance?
His eyelashes? Dude...
Alternate hypothesis: it's a spoof account put up by somebody who only uses it when they're stoned.
Update: alternate hypothesis wins.
OK, here's the set up:
The important thing here is that this detour is completely spontaneous. The Bad Guys had no plans to make this detour. So what happens? The Bad Guys transfer the hostage to a new vehicle (with a new driver). CTU chases original Bad Guy vehicle, new Bad Guy vehicle gets away with the hostage.
You see the problem, right? How could the Bad Guys have a vehicle and driver waiting at an unplanned rendezvous point?
I realize that the plots of '24' are pretty contrived anyway, but it would be nice if they at least tried to be internally consistent.
I just came across this (nearly month-old) post over at SF Signal. Instead of replying over there were no-one will see it, I thought I would post something here (where no-one will see it). Anyway...
What Book Are You Reading Now?
System of the World by Neal Stephenson.
Why did you choose it?
Stephenson has been on my read-on-sight list since I discovered Snow Crash and The Diamond Age 15 years ago.
What's the best thing about it?
Well, it's Stephenson. Interesting characters, unique situations, and one-of-a-kind prose style.
What's the worst thing about it?
A couple things. First, the 17th-century politics of England and France are an important back-drop to the story. I knew virtually nothing of this era of history before I began reading the Baroque Cycle, and it made it tough going. This is actually my second attempt to read through it, I just got bogged down in the details of history I didn't know the first time.
Second, System of the World (at least as far as I've got) hasn't featured some of the most interesting charcters of these stories (Eliza, Jack Shaftoe, Enoch Root). Eliza has made an appearance, and I suppose the story will eventually get back to Jack and Enoch, but for now its focusing on Daniel Waterhouse, who (for me) has been one of the least interesting major characters of the series.
Update: finally finished The System of the World 4/2/10. Final verdict: the Baroque Cycle is definitely worth the time and effort to read, especially if you enjoyed Cryptonomicon.