URLs du Jour


a sign

  • I seem to have been watching a lot of "comedy" movies lately that generate, at most, an occasional amused snort.

    So when I heard that Harold Ramis had passed away, I went to his IMDB page. And just the "Writer" category has: Ghostbusters; Groundhog Day; SCTV; Caddyshack; Meatballs; Stripes; and (last but not least) Animal House.

    The world just got significantly less funny. RIP.

  • I've been a Tom Wolfe fan ever since I used to sneak peeks at my dad's copies of Esquire back in the 60s. George Neumayr has a good interview with him over at the American Spectator website. For example, this story about hanging out with Muhammad Ali and his retinue:

    Most of [Ali's] hangers-on had nothing to do with boxing. One night we went to a nightclub. There must have been a dozen people at a big table and everybody was ordering drinks and every kind of food. When the waiter brought the desserts, Ali got up and stretched, said it was a little stuffy in the restaurant, and left. I was pretty quick to get out too. That was the kind of thing that that story was full of. Ali just didn’t want to pay the bill.

  • I missed Breaking Bad in its first run, but AMC had a marathon of all 62 episodes at the end of 2013, and that is precisely what TiVo is good at. Mrs. Salad begged off, but I finally managed to watch them all when she was asleep or out of the house.

    Holy cow, what a fine show. Only problem is, when I'm out in the real world… That guy over there with the metal-band shirt? Meth addict! Two guys just sitting in that car? Meth dealers! That restaurant that nobody ever seems to go to? Money laundering for the meth trade!

    It's probably a good thing I read Jacob Sullum's "Meth Mouth and Other Meth Myths." Bottom line:

    Over-the-top warnings about methamphetamine—encapsulated in the slogan "Meth: Not Even Once"—aim to scare people away from a drug that might harm them (but probably won't). By contrast, Hart argues, exaggerating the hazards posed by methamphetamine causes definite damage by encouraging harsh criminal penalties (such as a five-year mandatory minimum for five grams), fostering distrust of accurate warnings about drugs, suppressing useful information that could reduce drug-related harm, driving users toward more dangerous routes of administration (as efforts to reduce meth purity, if successful, predictably would do), and justifying ineffective policies that impose substantial costs on large numbers of people for little or no benefit (such as restrictions on the methamphetamine precursor pseudoephedrine, a cheap, safe, and effective decongestant that is now absurdly difficult to obtain). In other words, hyperbole hurts.

    Although Breaking Bad's overall theme is probably still on point: becoming a drug criminal is probably not good for your family, friends, or your own self.

  • Back in 1968, computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra wrote a letter to the editor of the Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery). Begins:

    For a number of years I have been familiar with the observation that the quality of programmers is a decreasing function of the density of go to statements in the programs they produce. More recently I discovered why the use of the go to statement has such disastrous effects, and I became convinced that the go to statement should be abolished from all "higher level" programming languages (i.e. everything except, perhaps, plain machine code). At that time I did not attach too much importance to this discovery; I now submit my considerations for publication because in very recent discussions in which the subject turned up, I have been urged to do so.

    The editor, Niklaus Wirth, stuck on the title "Go To Statement Considered Harmful"; the "Considered Harmful" phrase took on a life of its own.

    But after 46 years, the go to statement is still claiming casualties, as this Wired article about Apple's recently-revealed iOS vulnerability in its Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) code. If you know any C or C++, you'll get a chuckle out of the bug.

The Spectacular Now

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Warning for fellow geezers: this movie shows high school students drinking, using bad language, and having ze sex. I guess that's what's happening these days. IMDB bills this as Comedy/Drama/Romance, but (just like Blue Jasmine) there aren't a lot of laughs.

Plot: high school senior Sutter Keely (really) is the self-admitted "life of the party", but his hot girlfriend Cassidy dumps him (for some reason I didn't quite get). Now, Sutter is a nice guy, but he is way too fond of ethanol. And getting dumped is a fine reason to overdo even more. So one morning he wakes up on the lawn of Aimee Finicky (again, really), a fellow student.

Aimee is an introverted nerd, a reader of science fiction and fantasy. And not as hot as Cassidy. Aimee knows Sutter—everyone knows Sutter—but he's been unaware of her. They are drawn to each other, becoming friends at first, then graduating to a more serious relationship. Sutter's friends are dubious about the whole thing. Can this relationship work?

Both Sutter and Aimee are sympathetic and likeable characters. But we discover the serious cracks in their personal foundations, especially Sutter's. He's the product of a broken home, and his mom has kept him in the dark about the details. I already mentioned the boozing. He's also neglectful about his future plans, living in the "spectacular now". This is a pretty unusual theme for a teen movie to hit on, I think.

It's cleverly written, not predictable, and the acting is first-rate. Although this was a low-budget indie movie, the main actors are moving into bigger roles: the guy playing Sutter is going to be Mr. Fantastic in the new Fantastic Four movie, and the girl playing Aimee is the heroine in the Hunger Games ripoff, Divergent. So good for them.