July 28, 2012

The tangled timeline of the “Bourne” films

With the release of The Bourne Legacy right around the corner (August 10), Peter Chattaway unravels the franchise’s increasingly convoluted continuity.

Politicizing tragedy

Jeff Jacoby:

Politics is important. Without the peaceful clash of political ideas in the public realm, our democratic liberties couldn’t be sustained. Like anyone who makes a living commenting on public affairs, I understand that our political beliefs and our moral self-image are entwined, often quite emotionally.

But there are limits, or should be. “Sometimes There’s Nothing Wrong with Politicizing a Tragedy,” Time magazine’s Michael Grunwald wrote the other day. Yet when human sorrow becomes just another reason to impugn the politics of those we disagree with, how are we a better or healthier society? There is more to life than “delivering the hard zinger.” Bill Raspberry understood that. If only more of us did.

Danny Boyle’s “Witty, Subversive & Spectacular” Olympics opening ceremony

The Playlist:

And Boyle had a particularly tough act to follow, given that the Beijing opening ceremony in 2008 was generally deemed to be the most spectacular ever, with 15,000 participants, and a budget of over $100 million. Could Boyle even hope to compete, with a quarter of the budget and a tenth of the volunteers, and make not only a home country that’s not easily impressed happy, but also entertain a billion viewers around the world as well?

Yes, as it turns out. The director knocked it out of the park with a gloriously indiosyncratic spectacular that didn’t try to beat Beijing at the same game, but instead emphasized a very British group of values that also felt like something from Boyle through and through.

Beijing’s opening ceremony will be the standard by which all other opening ceremonies are judged for the foreseeable future, but London’s ceremony — thanks to Boyle’s quirks and oddities — was no slouch. And the Underworld soundtrack certainly didn’t hurt, either.

Studio Ghibli and Hideaki Anno unleash the “Giant God Warrior”

Here’s some anime trivia: before becoming famous for Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno worked for Studio Ghibli as a key animator on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Nausicaä’s “god warriors” — massive bio-mechanical creatures responsible for the world’s devastation — would later serve as inspiration for the mecha in Anno’s seminal series.

Anno and Ghibli are collaborating once again on Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo, a live action tokusatsu short film made with traditional filmmaking techniques (i.e., no CGI). According to Anime News Network, the short film will play until October at Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art as part of an exhibition highlighting traditional filmmaking techniques. If the teaser above is any indication, the finished short is going to be something else indeed. Hopefully, it’ll receive a wider release once the exhibition is over so that the rest of us can take a gander.

July 27, 2012

Boycotting Chick-fil-A is “a poor use of our political capital”

Alan Noble on the current Chick-fil-A kerfuffle:

Making Chick-fil-A the symbolic battleground for the definition of “marriage” is a poor use of our resources. Are we making a public statement by supporting or boycotting Chick-fil-A? Sure, but only in a coercive and circuitous way. Rather than deal with the issue directly, we’re devoting resources to coerce a company to adopt our values. This method of political activism leaves almost no space for public discussion about the issue, since our “activism” is comprised of buying or not buying a chicken sandwich. The purchase doesn’t convince anyone of the rightness of our cause, just the extent of our power. If we want healthy public political discourse, we need to be encouraging charitable dialogue, rather than economic arm wrestling.

And speaking of Chick-fil-A, Glenn Greenwald perfectly encapsulates what I find so troubling about many of the political responses to Chick-fil-A (emphasis mine):

It’s always easy to get people to condemn threats to free speech when the speech being threatened is speech that they like. It’s much more difficult to induce support for free speech rights when the speech being punished is speech they find repellent. But having Mayors and other officials punish businesses for the political and social views of their executives — regardless of what those views are — is as pure a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech as it gets, and beyond that, is genuinely dangerous.

If you support what Emanuel is doing here, then you should be equally supportive of a Mayor in Texas or a Governor in Idaho who blocks businesses from opening if they are run by those who support same-sex marriage — or who oppose American wars, or who support reproductive rights, or who favor single-payer health care, or which donates to LGBT groups and Planned Parenthood, on the ground that such views are offensive to Christian or conservative residents. You can’t cheer when political officials punish the expression of views you dislike and then expect to be taken seriously when you wrap yourself in the banner of free speech in order to protest state punishment of views you like and share. Free speech rights means that government officials are barred from creating lists of approved and disapproved political ideas and then using the power of the state to enforce those preferences.

If you don’t like what Chick-fil-A is doing, then you, as an individual, have every right to protest them. (Though, as Alan Noble points out, you might want to avoid a boycott.) However, when government officials start using their power and position to punish a business that — as far as anyone knows — has not actually broken any laws, but rather, has aligned itself with an unfavorable ideological stance, then we’re quickly moving into some disturbing territory.

Coming soon to the CW: “Battle Royale”

I haven’t really been a fan of American remakes of Asian films — the less said about The Departed, the better — but this might represent a new low. The CW, home to The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl, may turn the subversive Japanese cult classic into a television show.

This is bad on so many levels, not the least being that, much like an American remake of Akira, remaking Battle Royale robs it of the impact imparted to it by its Japanese-ness. Without that cultural context, the show will just be a bunch of really attractive twentysomething actors pretending to be teenagers who mope around, get dramatic, and occasionally kill eachother in ways that are completely OK to show on primetime American television. You know, quality programming.

Related: Opus’ review of Battle Royale

What does it mean to read Genesis literally?

Dr. John Walton, Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College:

The account in Genesis 1 is not intended to be an account of material origins. If that’s so, the Bible has no narrative of material origins. And if that’s so, then we don’t we have to defend the Bible’s narrative of material origins against a scientific narrative because the Bible doesn’t offer one. We can let the text be what it is and take it for what it is. That’s the most literal reading that you could have.

If that quote bothers you, then watch the whole video, which features N.T. Wright, John Polkinghorne, Alister McGrath, and many others. It may turn out to be less controversial and heretical than you think.

Google offering high-speed internet service via Google Fiber

Very cool: For $70/month, Google will give you 1,000 megabits/second upload/download speeds, no data caps, and one terabyte of storage. By comparison, I currently pay a little over $50/month for speeds of (up to) 10 megabits/second. Google’s even offering free 5 megabits/second service (for a one-time $300 construction fee). It’s coming to Kansas City first, but hopefully it’ll be expanded into other markets.

If this ever comes to Lincoln, I’ll drop Time Warner in a heartbeat. Or, as MG Siegler puts it, “Now please bring this everywhere in the U.S. and force the cable companies to get busy innovating or get busy dying.”

July 26, 2012

Freeform Pro for ExpressionEngine

Solspace has announced a huge update to the venerable Freeform add-on for ExpressionEngine. Freeform 4 is a complete rewrite of the add-on, including a new interface. Freeform Pro includes a “composer” which allows you to build forms on the fly. Freeform is one of those add-ons that I install by default in every ExpressionEngine site I build, so it’s great to see it get some much-needed love.

Related: EE Insider has a short preview video of the new Freeform interface and Eric Miller Design walks through the Freeform redesign process.

Who really invented the Internet?

Michael Hiltzik responds to Gordon Crovitz’s recent Wall Street Journal claiming that “It's an urban legend that the government launched the Internet.”

So the bottom line is that the Internet as we know it was indeed born as a government project. In fact, without ARPA and Bob Taylor, it could not have come into existence. Private enterprise had no interest in something so visionary and complex, with questionable commercial opportunities. Indeed, the private corporation that then owned monopoly control over America's communications network, AT&T, fought tooth and nail against the ARPANet. Luckily for us, a far-sighted government agency prevailed.

Protip: If you’re looking for things to help disprove Obama’s “you didn’t build that” statement, don’t use the Internet as Exhibit A.