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Saturday 16 March 2002, 23:30 GMT
Iran - a Land of Paradoxes. Israeli pundit Shlomo Avineri paints a more nuanced picture of the state of Iranian politics than George W "Axis of Evil" Bush did.

Sad to say, I fear that this viewpoint is far too reasonable to be influential. [Via Electrolite]
Steven Spielberg has made some changes to the 20th anniversary re-release of ET The Extra-Terrestrial. Replacing guns with walkie-talkies and eliminating potentially "offensive" dialogue. I suppose it's a case of keeping up with George "Greedo shot first!" Lucas.

Tim Carvell has some suggestions for re-edited versions of other Spielberg classics:
Hook (1991) Nothing can be done to fix Hook, the creepiest film in the Spielberg canon. Nothing whatsoever. I mean, I suppose Spielberg could trim the sight gags in which men are shot dead in front of young children. And he could cut the scene in which Captain Hook points a gun at his own head and threatens to commit suicide. And the scene in which a child is stabbed to death by Captain Hook. But Hook's problems are far too deep to be fixed by any digital manipulation. The movie should, instead, be modified to contain, every few minutes, an apology from Steven Spielberg and an explanation of why, exactly, he thought that children might enjoy a 2-hour-and-20-minute retelling of the Peter Pan story that—instead of being about a boy who never wants to grow up—is instead about a heartless yuppie's midlife crisis and his loathing of his own children.
[Via MetaFilter]
The Gift (revisited). Having watched the uncut repeat of The Gift last night, I'm even more impressed than I was on Thursday. There were flaws, to be sure - most obviously, Buffy's leap of intuition that led her to believe that she could replace Dawn, but also little niggles like how Xander knew to bowl Glory over at that precise moment given that he couldn't see what was going on and there was no sign of any signal - but the episode still worked for me.

I was going to try to write an episode review, but as you'd expect given that the Sky viewers saw this episode months ago others have already said it much better than I can. A particularly fine article which sums up why The Gift was such a satisfying finale can be found in a first rate essay by Paul F McDonald. [Paul F McDonald essay via uk.media.tv.buffy-v- slayer]
Virus 2: The Real Story of the 'Mir' Threat. Hopefully the tangible effects of these mutations will continue to be the stuff of Hollywood scripts rather than real life. Scary stuff. [Via Boing Boing]
Friday 15 March 2002, 22:30 GMT
Acclaim Entertainment: pushing the border of good taste that little bit further. [Via I Love Everything]
Dr Hunter S Thompson is not happy. [Via Bifurcated Rivets]
One of the highlights of The Gift last night was the extended "previously on Buffy" sequence. It so happened that the season 5 finale was also the 100th episode, and the final episode broadcast on the WB network in the US, and they put together a sequence which covered all five years in about a minute flat. As I watched it, I thought "I'll bet someone's listed the episodes online somewhere" and I was right. You can have a plain text version or a collection of screenshots. [Via uk.media.tv.buffy-v-slayer: text version, screenshots]
Deep Impact II: The Earthmen Strike Back. Hit them before they hit us, that's what I say. [Via Boing Boing]
Thursday 14 March 2002, 23:05 GMT
Word has it that Koyaanisqatsi will be released on DVD later this year. It's right up there with The Blue Planet as the perfect excuse to buy a DVD player, sit back and be dazzled. I can feel (yet another) visit to Play.com (my favourite source for all my R1 DVD needs) coming on. [Via CamWorld]
Memo to Britney: Shut Up or Put Out. A very reasonable analysis of how Britney's backed herself into a corner over that whole virginity thing.

My one quibble with respect to this article is that I think the writer is trying a little too hard to distance Madonna from Britney. I seem to remember that back in the mid-late 80s there were a fair number of pre-teen girls who were into Madonna - though admittedly that demographic was somewhat less of a target for Madonna than it is for Britney and her management. Furthermore, if the question of musical quality comes into it I can't help but note that the ups and downs of Madonna's musical career have has as much to do with her choice of quality producers as it has the strength of the basic material. Britney's spent three albums doing pop, and it's way too early to say that by her mid-twenties she'll have moved on as her fans age with her, just as Madonna did. [Via [parallax view]]
International Belt Sander Drag Race Association. [Via User Friendly Link of the Day]
Despite the best efforts of BBC2 to edit the episode within an inch of its life, The Gift, tonight's Buffy season finale was a powerful piece of work. Without getting into specifics - some of you might be in Scotland, or waiting for the uncut repeat (which is apparently going to be about a minute longer) tomorrow night - I can only say that all the regulars were on good form and there were some classic moments.

Unfortunately, a couple of scenes (Giles and Ben, and Spike's final fight) were rendered so disjointed by edits as to be nonsensical, but the core of the episode - the emotional punch to the heart of the price that was paid - was impervious to such tinkering. I had a tear in my eye at the end, and a burning desire to a) watch the uncut repeat tomorrow night, and b) see season 6.

Roll on the DVD release, so I can enjoy the roller-coaster ride all over again.
Wednesday 13 March 2002, 23:25 GMT
Animated Engines. A really nice set of animations, clearly showing how various internal combustion engines work. OK, so maybe I'm a bit of a geek, but I found it interesting and it's very well done. [Via Bifurcated Rivets]
Henry Raddick has written some really cracking reviews at Amazon.com.
Bigotry (Issues in Focus)

by Kathlyn Gay

[...]

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
A bold effort
February 27, 2002
With my Uncle Sandy's intemperate public outbursts becoming more and more needlessly graphic, I bought this book to help him address his homophobia. But it's a sad day when a supposedly intelligent 74 year old man dismisses a book as worthless solely on the strength of the author's name. I told him not to judge a book from its cover, but that's hardly an argument to persuade a man who to this day refuses even to shake hands with a man if he is wearing corduroy.
[Via ext|circ]
Tuesday 12 March 2002, 23:40 GMT
It turns out that the gunman I mentioned yesterday committed suicide, having earlier displayed various posters suggesting that wide screen TV was a con and criticised the chairman of Philips. What an awful end to a sorry tale.
Space is big. Really big. And this site proves it, with a series of images reminding us of just how tiny and ordinary our little corner of the universe is. Nothing very flashy here, just a good, solid site presenting information clearly and concisely. Recommended. [Via Boing Boing]
Channel 5 showed John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China earlier this evening. Good, clean knockabout fun with special effects that stand up surprisingly well sixteen years on. Kurt Russell's brash, somewhat klutzy "hero" was particularly good value.
The Worst Date Ever, No. 2. I know I linked to Davezilla only yesterday, but this story was just too good to miss.
Monday 11 March 2002, 22:25 GMT
CNN reports that a gunman with a bomb has taken hostages and holed up in the building that used to be the HQ of Philips Electronics. It seems that he's not happy about the quality of widescreen TVs. There must be more to the story than this. One to keep an eye on. [Via Bifurcated Rivets]
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Panopticon. An illuminating essay from Cory Doctorow on the wonders of Google, and why he feels sorry for the agents of law enforcement charged with snooping on all that data Carnivore collects.
AltaVista tried to get computers to do both the repetitive parts (capturing billions of documents) and the creative parts (figuring out what the documents are about). This yielded the largest collection of randomly organized documents in the world, a Web-accessible version of a library where all the books have been re-shelved by axe-grinding illiterates who wanted to make sure that no matter what you were looking for, you'd find porn.
Addicted inmates take desperate route for fix. Trust me, if you're eating - or if you've eaten in the last hour or two, or if you're planning to eat something within the next hour or so - you do not want to read this story. I feel queasy just writing about it. [Via not.so.soft]
Davezilla and his readers have compiled a wonderful list of bumper stickers. My favourite:
I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants.

Sunday 10 March 2002, 23:55 GMT
Two hours in, and 24 is turning out to be every bit as good as the US critics said. Yes, it's spoiled slightly by the way that the lack of adverts distorts the real-time gimmick. Granted, at this early stage the various strands of the conspiracy are getting a bit hard to track, but in my book that's potentially a good thing, so long as the writers and directors don't fall down on the job. On the evidence of the first two hours, 24 is shaping up to be the best one-off TV drama from over the Atlantic since the first season of Murder One. I just hope I don't miss an episode, because it's going to be a bugger of a show to keep up with.
Now I'm really worried. For most people, it's bad enough that the US government is updating its plans for the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons against members of the "axis of evil." But now it turns out that there's an even greater danger to world peace: as of next year, the US army will issue Special Forces soldiers with a portable PC which will enable them to send accurate target coordinates from the battlefield.

The idea is that this should help reduce the prospect of misdirected airstrikes. This is a good thing - if we must have bombs dropped, let's at least have them land where they're meant to - but there's one small flaw in this wonderful plan: they're going to use Microsoft's Windows CE operating system to control the portables.

I have this terrible vision of a horrified US Marine sitting staring at a Blue Screen of Death as a bomber passes overhead having released its payload of munitions 255 miles short of its target. [Via Red Rock Eater]
In the wake of the news that FIFA is planning to split this summer's World Cup matches into four quarters, Steve Anglesey wonders what other little changes FIFA has in store.

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