Sneak peaks

I caught Sneakers, Phil Alden Robinson’s 1992 film with Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, and President Laura Roslin last night. It was tempting to add the word “classic” in there, but I’m not sure that’s an accurate description. And yet, Sneakers might be my favorite movie I don’t own. Sure, some of the scenery is kind of dumb — crypto doesn’t work that way, of course — but it’s shocking to see that a movie about a group of nerds being, well, nerds managed to get the “nerd” part so right.

What struck me about the film last night is how well it has aged — it’s old enough to vote this year, and yet, it feels like it could have been made yesterday. One does not even need to look solely at the broad strokes of the plot in order to draw that conclusion: though some of the specific technology dated rather badly, if anything the details of the plot are somehow more meaningful today than they were in the early 1990s. A film about the importance of privacy in our lives, with large number theory and cryptography as a major plot point, capped off with a tacit admission that the United States government is spying on American citizens without their knowledge?

Ripped from tomorrow’s headlines… today!

YouTube Wednesday

First:

We’ve all seen the pictures, and we probably all understand on some level exactly how hard this was to accomplish, but check this: real time, showing altitude and airspeed, with the various radio calls (be sure to put it on HD mode and blow it up so you can read the CVR transcript), along with the attitude and position of the plane during the whole flight. Six minutes is a lot less time. My admiration for that flight crew continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

Second is this. It is a collection of movies of dogs welcoming their owners home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Anybody who owns a dog will probably get a little weepy.

You guys are in big trouble

is going through a discovery of the absolute total brilliance of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. I’m having the same experience. It’s awesome. Part of me wishes I could forget I know about the show so I can experience it again from scratch, it’s so good. Battlestar Galactica is like.. dramatic crack. Better than Babylon 5. Way better than Star Trek. Vastly better than the original Battlestar Galactica which, let’s face it, was kinda cheesy like all TV from that era. It’s a modern parable in ways that B5 never could be, mostly because — while I love jms — it isn’t being written by J. Michael Straczynski.

All of you who knew about its brilliance but failed to tell me about it are in a big, big trouble, assuming I can figure out who you are.

Coming up next: Massive BT traffic spike on the dochazmat home network as I aggressively download all of Season 3 to get caught up. Woo!

(PS: Does anyone know of a decent command-line BT client that doesn’t require 8,518 packages? Or maybe just a god BT client for *nix in general that won’t require me to install 8.518 other packages? PPS: I hate python.)

New gambling opportunity

Dear Lazyweb,

I miss this show. Fox totally caved when yanking it off the air, and CityTV hasn’t had it for donkey’s years (buncha cowards and/or philistines). It was, like, the best thing ever — and became even more magnificent after a night shift when you couldn’t sleep but were too tired to make any sort of coherent sense out of what you were seeing.

Please help me find copies of it again; I will be your bestest friend for ever and ever.

Love,
Dr. Hazmat

Update below.


I went back and re-read all the negative commentary about
Banzai from places like Asian Media Watch and I honestly don’t understand any of it. I got teased when I was a kid, too, I don’t think it was a function of TV or movies or anything else — I think it was a function of pinheads. Eventually you get past it, or you don’t, and one of the benefits of getting past it is that you get to take responsibility for your own sense of self-worth and stop paying attention to what other people say about you, particularly if those things are baseless. Banzai was pretty clearly parody from the moment you saw it; I guess the reason it was offensive had to do with fake accents and the fact that it was even less plausible and more absurdist than, say, Takeshi’s Castle (which seems to enjoy an inexplicable popularity and still manages to escape comment from organizations like AMW).

The media element that has offended me most as a nominal ethnic in the last decade was probably The Last Samurai, for most of the same reasons why I thought films like The Legend of Bagger Vance and The Green Mile were mildly offensive — because it suggested that minorities had some kind of redemptive power that exists solely to better white people, usually misguided white men. Spike Lee, among others, refers to this as the “magic nigger” movie and it drives me fucking bananas (ha ha — get it?). Having Tom Cruise be redeemed by his co-option of traditional Japanese culture (which, by the way, he had set out to destroy in the first part) was offensive; having it be suggested that he then became the embodiement of that culture was another thing entirely. Why The Last Samurai gets a pass in this department and Banzai, or, for that matter, Lost In Translation gets nailed for having negative stereotypes is a total fucking mystery to me.