Press "Enter" to skip to content

Month: April 2004

Splish splash

Water Margin rocks out, as expected. I got a particular kick out of it because I know Ti Lung from A Better Tomorrow, and it’s funky watching a younger version. Others may recognize Tiger Tanaka from You Only Live Twice as Master Lu, the focus of the plot. But probably not cause he’s decked out in full old master regalia.

Anyway, it’s all kinds of epic but a little disjointed, which is not surprising considering that it’s just a few chapters of the vast novel Outlaws of the Water Margin. It’s easy enough to follow if you don’t mind all the seemingly marginal characters running around — it’s not that they’re unimportant to the saga, it’s that they don’t do as much in this segment. In some ways this was an excuse to put all the Shaw Brothers stars together in one movie.

The martial arts sequences are generally fairly short, except for the big climax. The weapons work is very cool, and there’s a lot of wrestling (mostly from David Chiang as Yen Ching the Young Prodigy) which is something I haven’t seen much of in Hong Kong movies.

Definitely worth watching.

Whittemore on espionage

A couple of quotes for Jere. First, about history:

Well, it was simple enough, he thought now. Anna was often on his mind these days because of Assaf. And so in the desert this morning his memory had abruptly tumbled back through the years to Stern, all the way back to Egypt and the Monastery where it had actually begun for Anna and him, although neither of them had known then that it was a beginning, so long ago in Cairo.

Stern… Anna… secret histories.

I suppose we all have them tucked away inside somewhere, thought Bell, these precious and secret events with their secret beginnings. Understanding as little as we do, we always seem to be connected to others in ways we never suspect, in a sweep of time we can’t fathom, in moments we’re only able to recognize years later. As if for each of us the important things in life become but one single story in the end, one beautiful secret dream we grasp too late.

And about the inevitable effects of undercover work:

As for the Runner, he was simply trying to survive in his innermost being, and what surprised him most was how remote his old self now seemed. He found himself recalling Yossi as he might recall a childhood friend. He knew every detail about the life of this other person, but it was all a memory from another world. Yossi’s hopes, Yossi’s fears… they were simply no longer his. Halim understood disguises, and the lean new face he saw in the mirror, with its deep-set eyes and white hair, meant little to him. It was the inner changes that astonished him as Yossi slipped away into the past.

The steps of survival were always so small, it seemed to the Runner. Yet how vast was the sad finality of these changes he was witnessing.

About history again:

Years ago in front of the fire in the great central room of his house, during the second winter of the Lebanese civil war, he had listened sadly, helplessly, to the outpourings of Ziad’s heart and watched the shadows of Ziad’s terror loom on the far walls of the room like some primitive dance of death in a cave on the edge of the underworld. He had felt very close to Ziad then, so close he had wondered whether he might be in danger of confusing Ziad’s destiny with his own.

Yes, well, his friend had given him many things over the years, far more than he ever knew. And wasn’t it strange how all of this had ineluctably come to pass for the Runner? Even with the most careful planning and all the will in the world, there never seemed a way to know which little moment from the past would mysteriously blossom into a man’s inevitable, entire future.

When did it begin, I wonder?

But when did what begin? Which part of the intricate scheme of things? The sordid nightmare of life which was Lebanon? His complex feelings for Ziad? A man’s estrangement from his country and culture?

And that was just it. For years he hadn’t had time to ask himself that sort of question, which a recluse like Bell pondered day in and day out. Yet once there had been long leisurely hours when he and Bell had explored it together in the ruins of the Omayyad palace in Jericho, sitting beside the magnificent mosaic of the pomegranate tree with its three gazelles and the lion.

Before the Six Day War. Yes, Halim remembered those times very well.

Edward Whittemore was a CIA field agent after World War II; in the 70s and 80s he wrote the Jerusalem Quartet, four novels about the Middle East. At first, they’re magic realism, but by the end they’re almost pure espionage. The final novel — Jericho Mosiac, from whence the above quotes originate — is a fictionalized account of Eli Cohen’s espionage career. As a whole, the Quartet is a superb depiction of the Middle East.

Met you tomorrow

Not that I am not all about the Luke Wilson, but I cannot help but think that 3001 ought to list C. M. Kornbluth in the credits somewhere. "Marching Morons" comes to mind.

The IMDB boards are all a-twitter because the plot is stolen from Futurama. Which, I guess, is evidence of Kornbluth’s predictive skills.

On finance

Kerry raised $50 million last quarter. This isn’t even close to what Bush raised (and both Bush and Kerry are also going to benefit from 527 money), but it’s going to be very important to the Democrats in the months ahead.

Note that had Edwards won the nomination, he would have bumped into the federal matching fund caps already. Like it or not, that’s a powerful electability argument. Me, I don’t particularly like it. Maybe I should spend some time teaching my neighbors how to do their own research instead of relying on TV ads.


That took a lot of the pleasure out of The Apprentice. (Gonna be spoilers here.) Long story short, Trump made two errors:

1. Complaining that Team Troy set the rental price too low at $35-40K. The Director of Sales for the building told them that it had been renting for around $40K; given the time they had to rent it, it made sense to nail down any offer in that range and hope that the other team would whiff, which they very nearly did.

2. Firing Troy for not having an education. The guy’s run a couple of businesses and he lends out money for a living and you fire him because you think he’s going to do something stupid that he’d have learned not to do at Harvard? What, like picking a lousy location for lemonade sales? Wait, that was Kwame. Sigh. Paging Larry Ellison and Bill Gates. Not to mention that Troy’s the only person so far who’s had the balls and integrity to bring his friend into the boardroom.

Next week, Trump fires two people. Kwame’s next on the chopping block, and I’m guessing it’s one person from each team so that means either Nick goes or Amy goes. Nick’s a good bet. Amy and Bill face off… Bill probably wins. Course, I thought Troy was going all the way, so take that with a grain of salt.

Brain movement

So, did a lot of stuff happen while I was incommunicado or what? I refer, of course, to Nomar going on the DL.

Good things about WDW:

  • The new Kali River Rapids ride at Animal Kingdom. Top-notch water ride with the best line experience ever. Worth going to Animal Kingdom for, which is good, cause not much else is.
  • The new Aerosmith-themed roller coaster at Disney/MGM. It’s got rollover loops, just like a real roller coaster! Add in Tower of Terror, and Disney/MGM is definitely the right place to go for thrill rides at Disney.
  • The Adventurer’s Club at Pleasure Island is good clean fun. Bonus points cause we got to watch the Club’s “maid” badgering underage kids for wearing belly shirts.
  • Epcot. Epcot always rules. Mission Space is a great ride. Test Track disappointed, but so it goes. Reminder to self: Scandanavian history.
  • The weather. 70-80 degrees. And I’m tan now. Well, sort of.
  • DisneyQuest. Free Asteroids, Defender, Stargate, Berzerk, Centipede, Tron, Arkanoid, Joust, etc., etc. No Gorf, though, sadly. And I guess a bunch of modern games but really it’s all about the classics for me.
  • Spoodles over at the Boardwalk. I had a really good Moroccan tuna steak with lovely cous cous. Too expensive by a few bucks, certainly, particularly since the service wasn’t all that, but still very very tasty. Plus cheesecake. Mmm.
  • Chatting with the Splash Mountain manager for about an hour while his ride was down. He was incredibly polite and seemed happy to spend time talking even though he was in the middle of a crisis situation. He handled the crowds really well, too. What’s more, his boss spent some time helping people as well — it’s smart to make sure that even high level managers get face time with customers now and again.
  • Port Orleans French Quarter is a decent place to stay. Not too expensive as Disney goes, and a good location. Although the sheets are too short.

Other good things would be Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park, in that the Hulk coaster and the Dueling Dragons coasters are excellent. And their Spiderman ride combines the tech Disney uses for the Animal Kingdom dino ride and the Disneyland Indiana Jones ride with 3D movies to immensely good effect — in fact, it’s probably the best ride I’ve ever been on period. On the other hand, going to another theme park really highlighted how good Disney customer service is in comparison to, well, almost anyone else.

Mouse ears

Well, that was a vacation and a half. My digital camera broke midway through, so I have few pictures. I still had a metric ton or so of fun. More details later.