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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 02:23:25 PM EST) Reading, Watching, Listening, MLP (all tags)
Listening: "Making History: How Great Historians Interpret the Past". Watching. Links.


Listening
Latest Teaching Company course Making History: How Great Historians Interpret the Past by Allen C. Guelzo. Pretty interesting course on historiography, though he doesn't really use the term. Goes through the history of history starting with the ancient Greeks to the present day, identifying various trends and themes in history, Some themes are "declension" or decline, celebration, the attempt to identify patterns or cycles, "inversion" where the supposedly noble are shown to be vile or vice-versa (he uses Tacitus as an example) and so on.

Concentrates almost entirely on Western history, there's virtually nothing on Asia for instance. You also get a kind of potted history of the Western world, since he starts every lecture with a brief description of what was going on. He also includes some figures who you don't really associate with history, like Kant and Saint Augustine.

Guelzo has a great, sonorous, speaking style, and presents everything in a compelling way.

Overall, excellent course, very enjoyable to listen to. The only downside is that it's a pretty high-level overview without much time to go into detail, or examine historical methods.

What I'm Watching
Saw The Lincoln Lawyer on DVD. Pretty good legal thriller, with a good central performance. Does get a bit silly and the ending feels a bit rushed, but an entertaining movie

What I'm Watching 2
Finally got around to seeing the original, unedited Star Wars: A New Hope, from before George Lucas 1997 "Special Edition" edit. I think the TV versions were pan-and-scan, so this must be the first time I've seen it in widescreen since the original theatrical release.

I didn't mind the 1997 Special Edition that much when I first saw it, but it hasn't worn well. The animations now look cartoonishly unrealistic, and on a second viewing it's harder to ignore the tone-deaf stuff going on in the background, like the comedy pratfall of a Jawa falling off a lizard soon after Luke has buried the charred corpses of the only the family he's ever known.

So, it felt like a huge sense of relief to see the originals. The spaceship models and creature effects generally hold up a lot better than the crude CGI. You do get more sense of weight from the models, they seem to move more deliberately and realistically than the wildly fluttering CGI versions. The exception is the compositing, like the unconvincing blur whenever a landspeeder is in a real environment, and even as a kid I noticed the squares of uneven black around the TIE fighters.

The improved atmosphere more than makes up for any problems though. Han Solo's ruthless nonchalance as he shoots first is brilliant, and there's actually some tension as he leaves without being let off the hook by Jabba the Hutt. It's actually far more impressive to see the tiny squadron of Rebel fighters advancing towards the vast bulk of the Death Star, than the larger CGI fleet Lucas put in later.

Definitely an improvement.

Changes, complaints.

What I'm Watching 3
Saw The King's Speech on DVD. Much acclaimed drama about George VI's friendship with his speech therapist, mixed in with the story of how he grabbed the throne after his older brother wanted to marry a divorced American.

Pretty good and effective film, entertaining to watch I didn't rate it as well as the critics did. I think that as I've mentioned before and as with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" it goes back to whether you judge a movie by its average features or its best feature. Those films are good all-round with no bad elements, but having nothing new and nothing truly superb. So the critics like them, but I tend to appreciate a flawed movie with one really amazing element.

Overall though, a good movie well worth seeing.

Only thing I wondered was: why didn't they just use the loud-music-through-headphones trick with the big speech at the end? Ample time to prepare, and they had a big room with power sockets to themselves. Also apparently Churchill was really on the other side, and did his utmost to try to stop him rather than helping him.

Links
Socioeconomics Behaviour in disasters, via.

Followup. Ikea not really abandoning the Billy bookcase.

Video. Tom Selleck's moustache. Animal attack. Robot dance. Sexy and I Know It

Pics. Computer criminals, from. Map monsters, via. Topless pulp fiction (NSFW, toplessness). Vets X-ray contest. Animal, human eyes in closeup.

Tech. Microsoft Has Lost $5.5 Billion On Bing Since 2009. iPads not used for work. Facebook tracks you when you're logged out, stop it. It's the end of the web as we know it.

Politics. UK. UAF seeks women to counter all-female EDL protest. US. It's Hamilton vs. Jefferson All Over Again. Classlessness. "Mamet is clutching a new holy book and believing everything in it as a matter of course".

Random. Prison camp cross-stitch. How Steve Jobs ruined comics. Draw a stick man.

< kinda slow here lately | I had tacos for lunch. >
Like a worn-out shoe | 4 comments (4 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Han Solo's ruthless nonchalance by wiredog (4.00 / 3) #1 Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 02:44:40 PM EST
One of the things that made it a bit more than a kids movie. Made his turn from mercenary to hero at the end so much better, too.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

It makes me wonder by MartiniPhilosopher (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 04:39:14 PM EST
who is really behind the changes in Star Wars. George seems to be blind to the obvious clean ups. I'm willing to be that even in the new, new editions you can hear Mark scream "Carrie" as he gets out of the X-Wing at the end of the battle. If he is focused on making his original vision, wouldn't that also include cleaning up the flaws from the effects of the day? Make the background behind the TIE fighters an actual star field or making the emperor not a floating head inside that hood?

It feels more like he asked his kids what they wanted to see in the old movies more than anything else.

That could be the reason why we have yet another dancing frankenstein with jazz hands before us.

Whenever I hear one of those aforementioned douche bags pontificate about how dangerous [...] videogames are I get a little stabby. --Wil Wheaton.

Well by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #3 Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 04:54:27 PM EST
As I said here I think movies are made by teams not by individuals. George Lucas was a useful team member if there were other people around to keep him in line, but he's not really capable of making a good movie on his own.

The Plinkett reviews point out that in the behind-the-scenes footage of the prequels, other people seem to be afraid of George Lucas and scared to contradict him.

So I think it's just George Lucas behind the changes,
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
CGI by duxup (4.00 / 1) #4 Wed Sep 28, 2011 at 12:50:07 AM EST
Not just Star Wars looks great with models.  Star Trek II's models were awesome.  

CGI is still often so wonky it is nearly almost painfully unrealistic and dated within a few years.  Not just dated by being leap froged in terms of tech but dated as everyone picks a color pallet for this year, or stupid lighting effects, whatever and then they dump it for the next cheap trick.

Also Tom Selleck hell yah.

____
Like a worn-out shoe | 4 comments (4 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback