Sunday, August 28, 2005

Road to Empire

Read a really interesting article and discussion at Kuro5hin, on the rise of China and what their future might be... The basic premise of the article being that China will not be able to translate it's current economic power into a global empire like what the US developed over the last century. The reasons given is the lack of economic power gained through innovation and technology, cultural adoption and military power.

I think the second and third are non-issues. Empire creates culture, not the opposite.. and military strength will come with economic development, be it home grown or imported military tech. The interesting question is the source of China's economic power and if it can move from a manufactuing economy to an innovation economy.

I'm inclined to believe that in the short term the lack of free thinking and the lack of original/disruptive thought will limit them in innovation.. but I don't think this will last very long.. China and Asia has always had a society that deferred to authority, but I don't see this lasting for the next 30 years.. but a LOT can happen in that time, I guess..

To me the big question is if the Chinese Government will have the guts to loosen it's grip on control, to let the people (and education system) encourage risk taking and think outside the square... Centralised control works well with manufacturing, but innovation needs freedom.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

BattleStar Galactica

Just started watching the second season of BattleStar Galactica. This is TV of a quality I have not seen since the last Whedon show was on air, and I would say it's as good as the very best of Joss' work.

Have been watching each episode twice, the second time with producer/writer Ron Moore's podcast commentary, which is brilliant. I think there is a distinct similarity between Moore's approach to writing and Joss' approach, which is very character centric. Going beyond the characters, BSG is just brilliant on every other level too. I love the (very firefly and Space: Above and Beyond style) camera work, the beautiful, beautiful music, excellent plotting and pacing and fantastic performances. Not to mention that Boomer, Starbuck and #6 are so very, very hot!.

With Carnivale gone, and Scrubs and Veronica Mars on hiatus, seems BSG is the only show worth watching..

Monday, August 22, 2005

Session 416

Looks like the first piece of Serenity viral marketing is showing up on the net.. This short film has turned up on P2P networks.. and it shows a very, very disturbing encounter with sweet little River Tam. Here's hoping that we se lots more!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Aeon Flux

After Chunga mentioned the release of the trailer, I went off and had a squiz.

At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man.. I'm not really impressed with what I've seen. Fair enough, the storyline of Aeon (where it exists) is pretty haphazard, and probably not suited to a film.. but what have they done??? Looks like they've decided to rip off The Matrix and 1984.. but wait! Didn't The Island beat them to the punch??

Aeon Flux has the elements of a great story in it.. just needed a good script. The idea of Monica and Bregna seperated by a Berlin Wall style de-limitarized zone.. where people can see how the "other side" live is a great starting point. Add to that Aeon, the amoral assassin.. she doesn't fight for freedom or justice.. she just wants to destroy Trevor Goodchild's perfect creation.. the idea of an anarchic state and a perfect utopia (well, dictatorship) side by side.. struggling for mindshare... Reducing Aeon to the same old "small band of rebels against the big evil government" story just screams of lazyness and Hollywood's fear of doing something truly original...

Compare the plot of film with the short "War" (where Aeon gets killed in the first minute, and the story followers her killer, then his killer and so on)... Aeon Flux was daring TV, this is lazy film.

Things I DID like? Theron does a decent job of Aeon's voice, even though she obviously can't move like Aeon can.. The look of Bregna is right.. the version of Cybil and Onan's "wall run" looks pretty cool too. Now if they can just fit the Demiurge story somewhere.. :)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

In Affectionate Remembrance of Australian Cricket

While it may be somewhat premature to publish an eulogy at this stage, it seems a certainty that England will handily beat Australia in the 3rd Test of the 2005 Ashes series. Let us hope that we are least spared the humiliation of an innings defeat.

The third test at Old Trafford has clearly shown that England are a class above Australia, in all aspects of the game. The Australian bowlers offered no challenge to the English batsmen who plundered 444 runs in quick time, aided by no less than seven dropped catches by the hapless Australians. On what seemed a very good batting pitch it seemed that Australia would at least match the English, but only to be down to 7/210 at stumps on day two.

This capitulation by the Australian team is unprecedented. This was not the results of a few out-of-form players. The entire team's performance was second rate.

In terms of individual players, there are a number of questions to be asked. It seems certain that McGrath returned from injury too early. Was there an injury concern for Clarke? Why did he leave the field after only two overs had been bowled? What manner of sheer idiocy convinced the Australian selectors to start with Gillespie when Kasprowicz performed so well in the last test. Kasprowicz should have been selected on his batting form alone.

The most serious criticism, however, should be directed at the Australian leadership. Whatever thought process that made Australia decide to put the English in to bat in the second test was in evidence again with their stubborn refusal to put in place a defensive third man to stem the avalanche of runs. Not allowing Warne to bowl a single over in the first session was also unfathomable. The tactics successfully employed by Australia over the last decade to intimidate opposition teams will not work on these Englishmen. They are better than the Australians and they know it. Australia can no longer hit their way out of trouble, instead they must rely on a conservative approach against England.s pace attack and the newly found skills of Giles.

Serious consideration also needs to be given to the makeup of the team. England have shown the versatility and offensive power they gain with a single brilliant all-rounder - Flintoff. While Australia (nay, the world!) does not have a player of that calibre, the current line-up needs to be reconsidered. Playing with three pace bowlers and Warne limits the bowling options considerably. With Gillespie's current form it's safe to say that Australia are employing only three specialist bowlers. Perhaps the inclusion of Kasprowicz or Clark for Gillespie and Shane Watson for one of the batsmen will provide a better balance.

Australia may not have lost this series yet, but no matter what the result, there can be no doubt that the Englishmen have been the superior cricketers all summer long.


Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Pinker and Penrose

After looking through the list of publications by the illustrious contributors to Edge two books really stand out.

First is Sir Roger Penrose's book The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe. This book has the lofty goal of covering mathematically the basics of modern physics. Consider it to be A Brief History of Time with equations, lots of equaions. I don't pretend I'll be able to understand much of it, but maybe I'll put to use those 3 years of maths and physics I did at uni...

The second is the much more controversial work of Steven Pinker - The Blank Slate. Pinker is an advocate of evolutionary psychology which states that the human mind is a product of our evolution from primates. This is the theory that is finding more and more scientific evidence that we are who we are du to 90%+ nature and very little nurture. This has enourmous ramifications for society, of course...

Hey, nice coat...

So it's been more than a week since I FINALLY got to see Sin City. Easily the most highly anticipated movie (by me anyway) in a long, long time. So did it live up to expectations? Damn straight it did! Expectations were met, exceeded and then stomped all over. This film has set a new bar for comic adaptations, and proven that noir is alive and well (just not that common).

Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of Frank Miller's stories The Hard Goodbye (Marv's last hurrah), The Big Fat Kill (the Old Town hookers vs Jackie Boy vs the Mob) and That Yellow Bastard (the Hartigan/Nancy/Yellow Bastard story) have captured the essense of Sin City on film like it was always meant to be on cellulite.

The look of the film is just perfect beyond words. The settings and mood are taken directly from the pages of the comics, and the digital backlot only helps focus attention on the performances. This isn't comic-meets-hollywood like X-Men or Spiderman. This is real PULP, but on the screen. The stark colouring and minimalist sets really drive that point home. The Opening sequence with Harnett and Shelton really sets the mood and style of the film. Never seen a better opening for a movie.

The performances were uniformly brilliant. Micky Rourke was just malevolence incarnate as Marv. Jessica Alba just oozed sex appeal that you could almost taste. Elijah Wood's Kevin was a brilliantly realised evil. Rosario Dawson and Devon Aoki captured Gail and (Deadly Little) Miho to such perfection that I can't imagine anyone else doing the part. That's not to mention anything of Willis, Owen, Del Toro and the rest of the huge cast.

I know people have criticised the movie for it's voilence. Sure, it's violent.. but it's so over the top that it just blends into the atmosphere of Sin City rather than beign the main feature. In fact I found some of it quite funny (specially the scenes with Jackie Boy's head)... I copped a few strange looks from my fellow film-goers for that, I recall.

This film will go down in history, I have no doubt. It won't be the next Pulp Fiction, I don't think.. but it damn well should be.