East Bay View (a blog about several things)

now 98% free of substantive content

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Portugal 1 Holland 0: Mayhem was the winner on the day

  1. That was quite funny.
  2. Sven must be happy.
  3. OK, blame the ref, but blame the players more. Mostly blame Figo, because it just feels right. Suspend him already, FIFA!
  4. That shot of Deco and Van Bronckhorst sitting on the sidelines together was pretty cute.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Every Game Ever Monte Carlo Odds!

(EDIT: Shit, when calculating the odds in the previous version of this post I got a sign wrong. Apologies to anyone who bet the house on Australia.)

These probabilities come 100,000 simulations of a model based on every international game ever played, which really just means that they start from the World Football Elo Ratings (using data from Advanced Satellite Consulting). Have to emphasise that these are based on past results only, and don't explicitly take into account factors like injuries, how good a team looks, and Ronaldo's weight.

Team Prob (TradeSports prob)
Brazil 24.3% (23.5%)
Germany 14.5% (11.1%)
Argentina 11.5% (20.6%)
Holland 9.6% (5.5%)
Spain 9.3% (7.9%)
Italy 8.9% (10.3%)
England 7.2% (9.8%)
Portugal 5.4% (3.7%)
France 3.6% (4.1%)
Switzerland 1.6% (1.7%)
Sweden 1.2% (1.4%)
Australia 1.0% (1.2%)
Ukraine 0.7% (1.3%)
Mexico 0.7% (0.8%)
Ecuador 0.2% (0.8%)
Ghana 0.1% (1.0%)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Guess it was the Group of Death after all

Nedved deserved better. The Czechs were superb for 23 minutes, then the Italians went one up and killed off the game even before they scored their second.


So the problem isn't individual referees, it's the strictness of the guidelines. The problem last time was with the shitty line calls (which could have been avoided with video replay) but that's been a minor issue here. I think in an effort to achieve consistency the refs have been instructed to card players for anything, resulting in way too many suspensions and enforced benchings. Deep teams like Argentina don't suffer, but what's the point of Ghana without Essien? Either the card guidelines need to be relaxed or the suspension conditions need to be loosened.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A meaningless win, a boring draw

  • Holland must be really confident that, at full strength, they can beat Portugal, or else they're really looking forward to England in the quarters, 'cuz they weren't trying to attack at all today. Portugal looking very sharp today, that should be a good 'un.
  • Seriously, there has to be more incentive for teams to win the group, like a bye through the next round or something.
  • And the yellow cards are wrecking the tournament. With the refs giving out five a game, many first choice players are on the bench. Come on FIFA, make the suspension requirement yellows in consecutive games. Bright side: we got to see more of Messi and Tevez. Limitation: they didn't play very deep.

Coming soon: The EBV Every Game Ever Monte Carlo Odds!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Halfway all-star team

Not taking into account today's games.

Shaka Hislop, Trinidad & Tobago
Also: Pereira Joao Ricardo, Angola; Artur Boruc, Poland.

Rafael Marquez, Mexico
Philip Lahm, Germany
Radhi Jaidi, Tunisia (why not? His header was great.)
Also: Geovanny Espinoza, Ecuador.

Juan Roman Riquelme, Argentina
Michael Essien, Ghana
Park Ji-Sung, South Korea
Dwight Yorke, Trinidad & Tobago (who would've thought he'd be the tournament's best holding midfielder? Also, don't ask me why T&T get two players and no one else does.)
Also: Xabi Alonso, Spain; Tomas Rosicky, Czech Republic (one really great game and a not-so-great one); Rodriguez Maxi, Argentina.

Fernando Torres, Spain (player of the tournament so far, with due respect to Riquelme, Wanchope, Essien it's not close)
Paulo Wanchope, Costa Rica
Carlos Tenorio, Ecuador
Also: Arien Robben, Netherlands; Agustin Delgado, Ecuador; Javier Saviola, Argentina; Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine (the only non-Argentinian megastar to come close to playing up to his rep); Zied Jaziri, Tunisia.

Super subs
Cesc Fabregas, Spain; Lionel Messi, Argentina; Tim Cahill, Australia.

England vs Sweden liveblog!

Thoughts from a wavering England fan:

1 min: Shit.

I'm a defender of Sven, but only picking two fit strikers seems more and more idiotic as the tournament goes on, miracle foot or no miracle foot. Well, it looks like we're not gonna see Owen again in this tournament.

3 min: And here comes Crouch. Surely we'll get to see young Theo today.

17 min: Jeez, the team is just so much better with Rooney. Owen probably would've scored four today.

20 min: Crouch actually wins a high ball and passes to Rooney! Historic.

33 min: 1-0 England! S!DYST! Keeper should've done better, but still, Joe Cole must have a foot like a traction engine! Deserves it, he's been England's most consistent offensive force this tournament.

Half-time: So will the English press stop whining now? Don't bet on it.

Paraguay's up 1-0, which means it's pretty sure we'll get Germany-Sweden and England-Ecuador next. As I've said, England really, really should win. Should.

49 min: 1-1! And from a set piece at that! No miracle clearance this time.

56 min: Oooh, now it's getting interesting. Sweden have moved up a gear.

Also: Sol Campbell! Ooh ooh!

80 min: They're all still trying. It's gonna be a draw though.

85 min: 2-1 England! Wrong again. Gerrard owes Joe Cole a drink, but so does everyone else in the team.

90 min: 2-2! Huh. All these late goals this tournament, they're annoying, can't go back to sleep. The woeful defending here means Fleet Street will have something to whine about after all.

Full time: It was fun, I suppose.

Monday, June 19, 2006

RIP Barbara Epstein

Founder and 43-year co-editor of the New York Review of Books.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Jamie Foxx! Colin Farrell! Some woman whose face we can't see!

(Image nicked from David Poland.)

Italy vs United States

Half-time: Italy 1 USA 1
We've already had the most embarassing own goal, the most embarassing foul and the most embarassing referee's call of the tournament. Embarassment: it makes badly played games so much more fun! As does blood.

Full-time: Italy 1 USA 1
And another red card and a slightly harshly disallowed goal; if you're not American it was pretty funny until the end, when both sides stopped moving. It's the Group of Death after all, and death's catching!

State of play: 16th June

Players of the moment: Pick an Argentinian -- Riquelme, Messi, Maxi, Tevez, Crespo, Cambiasso. Best of the rest is probably Angola's Joao Ricardo: his distribution was shit but he made the saves. And also Holland's Van Persie, Ecuador's Delgado, Sweden's Ljungberg, Paraguay's Bobadilla and Costa Rica's Wanchope.
Goat of the moment: Sven was absolutely right to give Michael Owen a second early shower. When the guy who just broke his foot looks fitter than you, you shouldn't be starting.

Groups A and B: Germany vs Sweden and England vs Ecuador is the probable second-round configuration. If that's the case, expect England to win more easily than the press will suggest.

Group C: Let's not go nuts about Argentina just yet. Running up the score against an off-colour Serbia is impressive but isn't enough to make me change my final prediction. If they beat Holland on Wednesday, that's a different matter.

Group D: Despite today's embarassment Mexico are reasonably safe. Both Portugal and Iran will be playing for three points this morning; if Iran wins or it's a draw the group becomes much more interesting.

Coming up: Portugal vs Iran will be very important; Italy vs USA won't be as one-sided as the sides' opening games suggest (one hopes); Argentina have given Brazil something to prove against Australia.

Maybe I'm not the first to say this, but

If Cambiasso's goal was a woman, I'd ask her to marry me.

Crespo's back heel must be the cutest assist since Pele's Pass to Nowhere.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Voice loses fourth editor in six months

OK, now this is getting funny. Also, still depressing.

England 2 Trinidad & Tobago 0

At least it was better than England's first game. England owe John Terry big time, specifically for his goal-line clearance at the end of the first half. Rooney was OK, or at least did more than Owen in half the time. Lennon was the sub who really livened up the game, buying space for Beckham, who set up Crouch's goal. Kudos to Dwight Yorke and his team, but if T&T were really committed to scoring things might've been different.

There's a decent chance of Germany-England in the second round. I still cling to hope that match would be as good as it sounds.

Non-football things

Best new album I've heard this year: Sonic Youth's Rather Ripped. I gushed over Murray Street, and this is 100% successful at what Murray Street was 90% successful at: a little noise in a grown-up context, and tunes, tunes, tunes.

Best new novel I've read this year: Ali Smith's The Accidental. Nobody's pulled off the different narrators/different styles trick better since, I don't know when, I'm tempted to say Faulkner, it's that sharp, flat and natural. There's even a freaking sonnet sequence in there that doesn't completely suck. Plus, finally, a justification for Pasolini!

Best new person I've met this year: You know who you are.

Best ironic salsa dancing method: The "hide behind a pillar" technique, narrowly beating the hip thrust.

OK, one football thing: If you have to play Hargreaves then right back is a good place to put him, but c'mon Sven.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

State of play: 14th June

Players of the moment: Sami Al-jaber came on as a sub for Saudi Arabia and immediately scored what should have the winning goal against Tunisia. Fernando Torres inspired a excellent-looking Spanish team and slid home a sweet goal. Artur Boruc kept the Germans out of the Polish goal until stoppage time.
Three-toed sloth of the moment: You think I've dissed Ronaldo enough for now? No? Didn't think so.

Group F: Brazil 1 Croatia 0
Croatia played pretty and even though Australia look better, they'd need a ton of luck to prevent a Brazilian win. So don't panic yet, except about Ronaldo.

Group G: South Korea 2 Togo 1, France 0 Switzerland 0
The complexion of the group hasn't changed much, it's just that everyone's a little worse than we thought. France better fucking score against South Korea though.

Group H: Spain 4 Ukraine 0, Tunisia 2 Saudi Arabia 2
Spain will have it even easier than I thought. Tunisia vs Saudi Arabia sounded entertaining, but they suck and so does the Ukraine, and none of them deserve to progress any further. Wide open as to who will, Ukraine probably are the best but I don't want to pick because of the goal difference, and I don't want to pick the Saudis because they didn't have the gamesmanship to hang on today. That leaves Tunisia.

Group A: Germany 1 Poland 0
Fun fun finish to this game. It seems Germany can't play good offense and good defence in the same game, but fuck it, they've got six points, you don't.

Predictions after one game apiece (changes of teams in bold, changes of order in italics):
A: Germany 1, Ecuador 2
B: England 1, Paraguay 2
C: Argentina 1, Holland 2 (coinflip for the order)
D: Mexico 1, Portugal 2
E: Czechia 1, Italy 2
F: Brazil 1, Australia 2
G: France 1, Switzerland 2
H: Spain 1, Tunisia 2 (three-sided coinflip for second)

Best team of the round: Czech Republic
Most impressive: Mexico
Least impressive: Based only on first games, Poland. If you include Poland's better performance today, then the USA.
Best player: Shaka Hislop
Best goal: Rosicky's second (w/ Nedved) against the Americans
Worst referee: Marco Gonzalez, England vs Paraguay
Thickest hooligans: England, since their fans threw stuff after a WIN.
Final prediction: No change, still Brazil over Germany.

Coming up: If England really are contenders they should beat Trinidad and Tobago around 3-0 tomorrow. If they're not they'll get an early one goal lead then switch to Sven's preferred 10-0-0 formation.

And the award for the most embarrassing Real Madrid striker goes to...


Since Aragones was wise and gutsy enough to play Raul off the bench. Actually Raul's looked OK for the 30-something minutes he's played. He hasn't scored of course, but today that wasn't relevant.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

State of play: 12th June

Players of the moment: Tomas Rosicky scored two goal of the tournament contenders for the Czechs. Coming on as a substitute, Tim Cahill scored twice and saved the Australian's asses. Arjen Robben powered Holland's easier-than-the-scoreline-suggests victory over Serbia & Montenegro, while Omar Bravo did the same for Mexico.
Goats of the moment: Team USA's defence was exposed by the Czechs as second-rate.

Group C: Seems pretty clear-cut at the moment; it just depends whether Holland or Argentina come top. The spirited challenge of the Ivory Coast and the so-so challenge of Serbia & Montenegro don't look like they'll be enough.

Group D: Mexico 3 Iran 1, Portugal 1 Angola 0
After taking the full three points off Iran, Mexico must be now favourites to top the group. Portugal can book their place this Saturday, but Iran have a puncher's chance.

Group E: Czech Republic 3 USA 0, Italy 2 Ghana 0
Alright, so it's not looking like a Group of Death, given that the Americans semm like they were never alive.

Group F: Australia 3 Japan 1
Big lead for the Aussies in the race for second. Japan, after folding like an umbrella, need more luck than they'll get to qualify.

Coming up: Tomorrow -- Our first chance to second-guess Brazil. Wednesday -- Spain show us that this time around they mean business, or maybe they become an international embarrassment.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Czech Republic vs USA

Half-time 2-0 Czechs: Rosicky's was the first Shit! Did You See That? goal of the tournament. Old Man Nedved is still awesome but Koller's hammy injury looks like it might be it for him. The Americans look mostly workmanlike, sometimes not even that, with no real playmaking at all.

Full time 3-0: Rosicky got a second S!DYST! goal thanks in no small part to Nedved's sublime pass. The Czechs just oozed class, though the defence wasn't really tested because of their midfield dominance. OK Europeans, you were right: the Americans are going home with a whimper unless they suddenly rediscover their edge, which doesn't look likely.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mexico 3 Iran 1

Iran were really that good for all but the five minutes when the keeper and defence decided to let Mexico win (OK, Zinha had something to do with it as well). They relied a lot on pace and flair to cover for deficiencies in positioning. Don't rule out an upset of Portugal yet, though. Mexico I underestimated: for most of the game they were a little off-key but they got better as the game went on. A much better game than yesterday.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

State of play: 10th June

Players of the moment: Shaka Hislop came in at the last minute to keep for Trinidad and Tobago and shut out the Swedes. Paulo Wanchope scored twice in a losing effort for Costa Rica.
Goat of the moment: Justo Villar kept for eight minutes for Paraguay before coming off crying. In that short time he managed to let in the winning goal.

Group A: Germany 4 Costa Rica 2, Ecuador 2 Poland 0
Ecuador is clearly in the box seat for the second spot. They'll try to wrap it up with a win against Costa Rica on Thursday, but even a draw would leave them with an edge.

Group B: England 1 Paraguay 0, Sweden 0 Trinidad & Tobago 0
England should be criticised, but unlike Sweden they got the job done. Given their lack of positivity today in a losing situation, Paraguay might well play for a draw against Sweden and take their chances against Trinidad, while relying on the Swedes producing no more than a draw against England. Since that strategy has a good chance of working, I'm staying away from the Paraguay-Sweden game.

Group C: Argentina 2, Ivory Coast 1
A very good result for Argentina. It seems the Ivory Coast are a good team who won't have much to write home about once the competition gets serious.

Coming up: Tomorrow my "Iran is really that good" theory gets put to the test against Mexico; Monday sees what all non-America-haters (yes, some football fans fall in this category) acknowledge as the match of the round, as the U.S.A. face the Czechs.

England 1 Paraguay 0: Why didn't I watch yesterday's games instead?

So I had to watch this while holding the cable connection in place with one hand, which has got to be unhealthy in some way. Was it worth it? No. That second half was hideous, both teams quite happy to let the early Paraguayan own goal stand alone. The English backline were standing way deep and a better team than Paraguay would have made more of the attacking possession they were gifted. Beckham set up the goal and Joe Cole played well when he wasn't lying down, but the English midfield generally weren't putting the ball in the right place. Crouch and Owen didn't fit together at all.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mission accomplished

Congratulations Mr President, you've done it, you've killed Zarqawi! You've won the War on Terror! So, can we go home now?



E GROUP OF DEATH: Czech Republic, Ghana, Italy, USA
One of the three excellent teams here will go home early, and everyone thinks it'll be the U.S. But there's a good chance the Americans will claim a draw with one of the European countries, and then it could come down to whoever puts the most goals past the unfortunate Ghana team. The other reason this is the worst group to be in is that even if you come second, you'll be up against Brazil in the next round, so don't expect anyone to hold back.
Predix: Czech Republic 1, Italy 2

D GROUP OF CRIPPLING INJURY: Angola, Iran, Mexico, Portugal
Portugal are favourites but they're not a slam dunk. Mexico are always strong, and the underrated Iranian team are very, very dangerous: in their form and mid-priced strike power they're reminiscent of Turkey four years ago. Forget Angola.
Predix: Portugal 1, Iran 2

F GROUP OF SEVERE PAIN: Australia, Brazil, Croatia, Japan
This and group C are the only groups with four good teams, not that the three that aren't Brazil are going to worry the champions. The winner of the three-sided coin for second place gets the reward of probably not having to face Brazil again, unless they make the final, which they won't.
Predix: Brazil 1, Croatia 2

C GROUP OF A BAD CASE OF THE FLU: Argentina, Holland, Ivory Coast, Serbia & Montenegro
There's a clear top two and bottom two, but it won't be easy for the favourites. Of the top two, Argentina have more talent, but Holland are more reliable. Either of the bottom two could upset the mercurial Argentinians, but the Ivory Coast seem more likely, having the advantage of still being a country. Every tournament a African team pulls off a stunner, and with Didier Drogba, the Ivory Coast are the most likely candidate.
Predix: Holland 1, Argentina 2

B GROUP OF MILD DISCOMFORT: England, Paraguay, Sweden, Trinidad & Tobago
England are strongly favoured. The Swedes will be more concerned about keeping out a dangerous Paraguay team. Trinidad & Tobago are there to make up the numbers.
Predix: England 1, Sweden 2

A GROUP OF WELLNESS: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Poland
Home advantage should see Germany through comfortably. Both Costa Rica and Ecuador are good enough to trouble the Poles.
Predix: Germany 1, Poland 2

G GROUP OF SPIFFINESS: France, South Korea, Switzerland, Togo
Togo are happy just to be there, and neither South Korea and Switzerland are that great. Those two teams face each in the last group game, so coming into that match with an edge in goal difference will be vital.
Predix: France 1, Switzerland 2

H GROUP OF ORGASM: Saudi Arabia, Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia
A mediocre group is enlivened by Spain's disaster potential. If the Spanish play to their abilities, the crucial game will be Ukraine vs Tunisia on the last day of group play. Expect the Ukraine to need only a draw and so to play ultra-defensively.
Predix: Spain 1, Ukraine 2

Full predictions here.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Screw movies, it's the World Cup

And I have a TV. No reception, but I'm working on it.

World Cup Preview pt 1

Ten countries have a non-trivial chance to win the lot:

No question they're favourites, they have the most talent and the best form. But their tactics leave their aging fullbacks with a lot of work to do, and one bad game by them could kill the dream.
Key players: Where to start? I hear that Ronaldinho chap is quite good. The rest of the attack is also tremendous, with Adriano and Kaka in better nick than that other R guy. Even their reserves rock: Rogerio Ceni, the world's most dangerous goalkeeper, might not get on the field.

World Cup lesson #1: You should never underestimate the home team. There's not a lot of experience outside the midfield, but there's enough firepower to make the squad more than a danger.
Key player: Michael Ballack has some injury and age concerns, but at his best he blends attack and defence better than anyone.

Devastating in the World Cup qualifiers but somewhat unsettled since. Still a very strong all-round side.
Key player: He might be on the outs with Man U., but it's still all about Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The nation will continue holding its breath until Wayne Rooney gets on the field. But even without him, the team's set-piece skill should take them a long way. But has the mental fragility really been strengthed enough to cope with the inevitable penalty shootout?
Key players: Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are the two best box-to-box players in the world; now if only they'd stop tripping over each other. Fortunately they have John Terry, the best centre back around, to clean up when they do.

Won in '98, didn't win a game in '02. The latter disaster was supposedly because the team was too old, which hasn't stopped them picking the same players this time. If they win their group, which they should, and if Spain don't fuck up, the draw from there works out nicely for them.
Key players: Thierry Henry should be the best striker at the tournament, while Zidane is one of the best players of the last decade. Maybe one of them will score a goal this time.

Spain are desperately hoping that Raúl will either suddenly stop being terrible or break his leg in the opening match. Hey, they got lucky with the draw (at least until the quarters), maybe they'll get lucky with him.
Key player: Raúl aside, there's something of a lack of starpower. But Carles Puyol should be a rock in defence.

Having lured Pavel Nedved out of international retirement, they won EA's 2006 World Cup. Organic glories will not be so easy to come by: first off they have to survive the Group of Death.
Key player: Petr Cech is as good a shot-stopper as any keeper today.

An immense well of talent run in circles by a wacky manager. Just like every other team, only more so. Since Brazil smacked them 4-1 in last year's Confederations Cup final they've been iffy.
Key players: Forget Theo Walcott, Lionel Messi will be the teenage star of the Cup, if Pekerman gives him some decent playing time. Shockingly, previous Golden Boy Carlos Tévez might not start either. Whoever the strikers are, Juan Román Riquelme should create a ton of chances for them.

They're still whining about the refereeing in Korea '02. If that's how far they got with Maldini it doesn't bode well for this time. Form's been good, but they have to survive the Group of Death.
Key player: Luca Toni had a tremendous Serie A campaign, scoring 31 goals in 38 matches.

They're still trying to work out how they didn't win Euro 2004. The talent is still there; the draw is a little on the rough side.
Key players: Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo are perhaps the only playmakers who can keep up with their fellow Lusophones across the Atlantic.

Who else to watch: Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be hoping to return England to its usual despair early. Andriy Shevchenko's one man show should be enough to lead an average Ukraine team to the knockout stages. It'll be a shock if Didier Drogba can do the same for the Ivory Coast, but if they get out of their group they may well go further than that.

Magnificent severing

Spuriously sourced reports are proclaiming a Weinstein Co. remake of The Seven Samurai.

Starring Zhang Ziyi.

It seems I'm the only person on the Internet who thinks this is a Good Idea.

Seriously, Everybody Else, calm down. Angelides is winning. Life is good. Watch/listen to this. Feel better, right?


Anyone want to see the Streets/Lady Sovereign at the Fillmore this Friday?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Canonball #989: Port of Shadows

France, 1938
Starring Jean Gabin, Michèle Morgan, Michel Simon, Pierre Brasseur
Adapted by Jacques Prévert with Marcel Carné from the novel by Pierre Dumarchais
Directed by Marcel Carné

Gabin is a deserter; he hitches to Le Havre looking for a ship out; he gets distracted into trying to rescue Morgan from her thuggish boyfriend Brasseur and her shifty protector Simon. Everyone says this isn't nearly as good as the next Carné-Prévert collaboration, Le Jour se lève (which I haven't seen). It certainly doesn't approach Children of Paradise, but it has its merits. In the "poetic-realist" tradition, its ideas of poetry and realism, as with most non-Renoir French movies of the era, are pretty 19th century. There are occasional lovely, foggy exteriors by the harbour, but the over-reliance on sets and the woe-is-woe fatalism -- "for example, if I see a swimmer, immediately I think he's going to drown, so I paint a drowned man" -- seem about as poetic-realist as an old country song.

But just as George Jones could transform bad songs into great art, the actors here transform a moderately bad scenario into moderately great art. The teenaged Morgan, in her famous see-through raincoat, brings a glamorous world-weariness to her role as the coy mistress. And ah, Le Jean. Along with Pépé le Moko, this is one of his definitive roles (not his best -- Grand Illusion, duh), representing a break with theatrical styles of acting. His kind, hotheaded, screwed Everyman doesn't have to overemote because he's so clearly flesh-and-blood, so close. As Renoir said:

"Gabin was at his most expressive when he did not have to raise his voice. Magnificent actor that he was, he got his greatest effects with the smallest means... Gabin could express the most violent emotion with a mere quiver of his impassive face where another man had to shout to get the same effect."

Actually, Renoir hated this movie. And it's true that it's out of balance: it accepts the triumph of authority without really getting pissed off about it. But I forgive it for a bedroom scene in which Gabin and Morgan allow their characters to believe they're gonna make it after all. We might know better, but that fragile moment is wise nonetheless.

Monday, June 05, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

The hateful New York Post review (which says, contra Gore, that "there is widespread disagreement about whether humans are causing global warming" and of course can't back this statement up in any way) you should've expected. More surprising is this merely obtuse Film Threat review, which first assails Gore for bringing up his personal life (c.f. every politician ever) and then spends the rest of the review personally attacking him. Like most cries of hypocrisy, this serves as a means of avoiding the presented argument. Further, anyone who expresses shock that American politics is ridiculously compromised would probably still vote for Nader.

Right, first the presentation, then the argument. It's not boring. The flashes of well-rehearsed wit and the cute, drowning CGI polar bear make it more entertaining than almost all the lectures I've ever endured. Gore's desire to present his case in the best possible light sometimes lapses into overstatement (c.f. every politician ever). Statistics pedants will note he chooses convenient, unnatural axes for his graphs. On the whole, the presentation is fair enough -- certainly fairer than Times-style but-a-spokesman-for-ExxonMobil-disagreed reportage. ("Reality has a well-known liberal bias" -- S. Colbert.)

The argument, then. Global warming exists: that's 100% proved. Global warming is caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions: that's 98% proved in real life, less so by the movie (some more science would've been nice). If global warming continues, it'll fuck us up: duh. So therefore we should do something about greenhouse gas emissions: amen. So what's missing?

During the entire documentary, Gore doesn't mention tax once. But the success of the Kyoto Protocol and its successors depends on worldwide implementation of clean technologies. It's possible that such tech could be legislated in the U.S. without an economic tradeoff. But there's no way that could happen in developing countries. Such upgrading would require tens of billions of dollars a year, and the U.S. would have to stump up a big chunk of that, and no matter how many of us point out that the military budget dwarfs this amount, that's never going to happen unless funds are raised specifically for this purpose. Which leaves us to choose between a currency exchange tax (which many economists think is a brilliant idea but is politically unworkable), an air travel tax (which might not be able to raise the amount needed) and a carbon tax (which is the most politically viable solution, yet even New Zealand, a far greener country, couldn't get the law passed). Democrats like Gore haven't shown any inclination to bring to bring these sorts of proposals into public discussion. This may be politically defensible in a country that's yet to ratify Kyoto. But it's a white flag, pathetic enough to make you vote for Nader.

I plan to be alive in fifty years. The work of people who think like Al Gore may reduce the devastation climate change will have caused by that time. But it won't eliminate it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand: Yes, they're gay, let's move on [movie note]

(Minor spoilers.)

So I guess they didn't want to call it X3 'cuz then people might have mixed it up with XXX. (Don't think anyone would've mistaken it for Three Times.) It's hard to compress 43 years of comics into three movies, even if they only ever had three different overarching storylines:
  1. An X-Man dies. Everyone is unhappy. The X-Man miraculously comes back to life*. Everyone is still unhappy; after all, this is a Marvel comic.
  2. A supervillain appears to have become good, and the X-Men join forces with him. But it turns out the supervillain is still evil. Psyche!
  3. Some alternate future bullshit you shouldn't bother trying to comprehend.
*Unless the X-Man is a Native American, in which case he stays dead.

So you probably know which overarching storyline they chose for this movie; but they also threw in tons of bits and pieces of little storylines, and it still works out OK, which can be explained by the

Reasons why X-Men: The Last Stand is actually quite good though not as good as the last two!
  • It was filmed in Vancouver, which you can tell from all the trees and lakes and shit!
  • Cyclops is hardly in it!
  • The Angel-as-a-boy bit is a neat piece of foreshadowing, and Angel-as-a-young-man looks really neat, even if his Big Moment is way telegraphed!
  • Halle Berry, who is quite quite hot, is very much in it, even though she's required to do too much of the "acting"!
  • The cure-for-mutancy schtick they stole from Joss Whedon is an intriguing idea, even though they don't do anything with it!
  • Rebecca Nolongermarried-Tounclejesse, who is quite hot although not quite as hot as Halle Berry but on the other hand is better at the "acting", is in it, and hopefully will now graduate to Charlize Theron-type stardom, although hopefully without the habitual uglification 'cuz that's just rubbing it in isn't it, but oh wait she's stuck in WB purgatory, never mind!
  • There's very nearly some sex!
  • Ian McKellan, who is quite good at the "acting" though you wish he'd take a more demanding role every now and then, is in it!
  • Wow, they killed off ______! And ______! But not ______!
  • Vinnie fucking Jones!
  • The finale has some real feeling to it, though you have to think Bryan Singer would've given it more!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Decalogue 1 and 2

(thunder, lightning etc.)

One thing I didn't know until yesterday is that different religions and denominations number the Commandments differently. So Catholics fold the graven image one into the first, while insisting that coveting deserves two Commandments. In total, the Commandments are the same, which hasn't stopped endless bickering over who's right. Since the Biblical passage isn't numbered at all, the reason the Commandments are counted as ten may just be marketing. (You can imagine test audiences saying "Fourteen Commandments? Yeah, like I'm gonna memorise all of those.") I just find it odd that something supposedly so central to Western morality is so arbitrary.

(Charlton Heston is awe-struck)

Jesus, why can't people deal with uncertainty? Maybe I have a stake in this: I deal with uncertainty for a living, goddamn it. But by Jove, people and their annoying questions: "So who's going to win the game?" "Is it going to rain tomorrow?" "Will my husband live or die?" And you have to hedge your answer in order to give a decent representation of reality, and there's a quiet moment, and then they ask you the question again, and you say to yourself "for Christ's sake", and you say to them "the Pistons, by six". And they bet the house on the Pistons and the Spurs win and they shout for the Lord to strike you down. This goes some way towards explaining the appeal of religion: both the theological and ritual aspects really do take some of the uncertainty out of (your) life. Uh, in Vishnu's name.