Monday, September 02, 2002

Spent last night at the Four Seasons for a black-tie affair. I could get used to wearing a tuxedo and drinking Martinis on a more regular basis. Too bad such occasions are few and far between.
Am I the only person who thinks "You'll Never Walk Alone" is a bizarre message with which to end the MDA Telethon every year?

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Check out Astronomy Picture of the Day for a new image and accompanying explanation every day from NASA. And don't miss the archive section.

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Went to my local Apple Store last night for the after-hours, early-release festivities for the much-anticipated OS 10.2 ("Jaguar"). Finding a telling clump of cars in one corner of the parking garage, I entered the closed mall through a nondescript beige door between a dumpster and a Pepsi machine, convinced I’d be one of maybe twenty or thirty geeks to show up for the event (assuming I didn’t get lost along the way).

Much to my surprise, upon emerging from the cinderblock labyrinth behind the stores into the mall proper, I found a long line of people against the walls and darkened storefronts, stretching around a far corner and out of sight. Taking my place at the end of that line, at about 9:50 p.m., the line rapidly grew behind me until it again disappeared around another far corner. After about 20 minutes I heard an Apple employee say he’d counted 600 people so far, and the line continued to grow—I’m guessing at least 1200 people showed up before the night was through.

The store doors opened at 10:20, and they only let a few people in at a time. It was 11:15 when I finally made it inside, and somehow it was worth the wait. I looked around at machines and software for about half an hour, got a copy of Jaguar, and stood in line another 30 minutes for a cashier. When I left, about a quarter after midnight, about 40 people remained in the original line, still waiting to be let in.

Overall, it was extremely gratifying to see so many people turn out for a software release, and to show their support. True believers, I guess. Now comes the hard part—taking the plunge, leaving the security of 9.2.2 behind, and upgrading to OS X.

Monday, August 19, 2002

What I'd like to see is a sandwich bag made from one of these roll-up TVs. Take out your sandwich, then flatten out your bag to watch some lunchtime tube.

Sunday, August 18, 2002

I don't normally look twice at sports photos, but this one really caught my eye:

There's as much real-life drama in the dynamic between and among these various faces, reflecting the different parts they're playing in this instantaneous scene, as in any Biblical composition of horrified disciples in a Renaissance painting.

Note, for example, the incredible, direct line of action that extends from the older man's pelvis on the lower right, all the way across the image, through arms and suspenders, to the accosted Oriole's head at the upper left. Even the eyes of the three guys not "directly involved" form another line, pointing right to the sweet spot of the composition. Note also that the image has the same triangular tension as the famous Iwo Jima photo (and resulting sculpture), and more or less the same number of figures.

I think the older man's arm around the neck of the guy on his knees is one of the most interesting stories in the scene—because he's morally balanced somewhere between trying to prevent the fight, and also realizing he's in a position to inflict pain on one of his opponents. To me his dilemma is all the more interesting because he's a pitching coach, in a mature position of authority, past his physical prime (and with the supposed "white hair of wisdom"), yet suddenly possessing the opportunity and justification to choke the life out of a young player.

Finally, notice that the Red Sox catcher's jersey is being pulled right off his torso, despite his "armor" plating. You can read the stretched-out word R E D arcing forward between their forearms, like a verbal metaphor for blood spurting from his chest. The more I look, the more I find in this amazing, everyday shot.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

We've watched the bats for three nights running now. While I'd originally though there were three or four, for the last couple of nights there have definitely been only two. It may be that there were only the two that first night as well, and I overestimated their number due to my inexperience watching them fly.

Monday, July 22, 2002

We watched three or four bats dance around above our back yard last night at dusk (about 9 p.m.), doing the most interesting tight-turn, figure-eight-esque formations, around and around, really fast. In terms of pattern, it was almost like watching moths circling around a giant invisible light bulb. They must have been gobbling up the mosquitoes (I hope). I swear, those bats were making 90-degree midair turns. Perfectly silent. It was really fascinating to watch. First time we've seen them.

Friday, July 05, 2002

Had a nice Fourth of July gathering at our place yesterday after the neighborhood parade wound down. We grilled up some fajitas and served them out on the deck with some dips and sangria—simple but effective. More than a dozen people showed up (Mike & Karen, Ben & Tracy, Brenk & Amanda & Beck, Jamey & Ginger & Erica, Gregg & Suzy & Caitlin, and Wendy & Dave & their fetal twins), the biggest crowd we've hosted since moving into this house a year ago next week. Only trouble was, there wasn't enough room around the umbrella table for more than 8 to 10 people, and the sun was oppressive. Chalk that up to poor planning on my part. But the grill performed like a champ, and the misting fan was quite a boon.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Minority Report: Plot Flaw

UPDATE:  My argument below was picked up by Jason Kottke and his readership.


Like many others, I enjoyed Minority Report, but hated the spoon-fed ending.

But the film did make me think, and I'm always happy to see a movie that makes me think. Not quite "Memento-league" thought required, but I'll take what I can get. Unfortunately, after about an hour of ruminating on this one, beyond the few "expected" plot flaws, a major flaw turned up that actually guts the entire structure of the plot. The flaw is so subtle that they either completely missed it in production, or were counting on the audience to miss it. And yet it destroys the logic of the story.

NOTE: If you haven't seen the film, and don't want the plot spoiled for you, please read no further.

If you are reading further, be aware that you may have to turn this mindbender over in your head for a few minutes before you see precisely what I'm driving at, but once you see it, it "clicks," and there's no turning back. I've already bounced it off a few respected minds, who were forced to conclude as I did—but I fear it will be more difficult to explain in print than by talking face to face.

The problem, stated as succinctly as possible, is this:

1. Sydow's character sets up the "fake" child molester/killer in the hotel room with the fake photographs, for Cruise to find.

2. BUT, the ONLY thing that triggers Cruise to go and find the fake killer is the fact that he (Cruise) sees himself on his monitors killing the killer—based on the Precogs' images.

3. In other words, Sydow did absolutely nothing in the story to encourage Cruise to discover, or even cross paths with, that fake killer. Cruise's ONLY link to the fake killer is the Precog images of him killing the fake killer.

4. So here's the real heart of the flaw: From Sydow's character's point of view, upon establishing the fake killer, there was no way whatsoever to know that Cruise would actually ever stumble across that fake killer. Or if so, when? (Ten years hence? Twenty?)

5. And yet, for the plot to work, we must believe that Sydow established the fake killer in order to get Cruise out of the way in time for Precrime to go nationwide (because Cruise had stumbled across the Ann Lively secret).

6. So, to restate, the entire major storyline of the film, whereby Cruise is set up to kill, and therefore take a fall, depends on Sydow getting Cruise to find the fake killer. But Cruise only finds the fake killer based on the Precogs' subsequent images of Cruise killing that fake killer, WHICH SYDOW COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE KNOWN FOR SURE WOULD BE SHOWN TO CRUISE, EVER. AND EVEN IF SYDOW COULD SOMEHOW HAVE BEEN SURE THOSE PRECOG IMAGES WOULD ARISE (WHICH HE COULD NOT HAVE), HE COULD NOT POSSIBLY HAVE KNOWN WHEN THOSE PRECOG IMAGES WOULD ARISE.

7. The only way for the plot line to work, as written, is to assume that Sydow was intending to send Cruise a postcard saying "you'll find your son's killer at . . . ," or by some other device alert Cruise to where the fake killer could be found. But for that "postcard scenario" to have set in motion the Precogs' visions, IT WOULD NOT ONLY HAVE HAD TO HAVE BEEN INTENDED BY SYDOW, IT WOULD HAVE ACTUALLY HAD TO HAVE BEEN UNDERTAKEN. The "planned postcard" (or whatever) necessarily would have had to have been sent, and received, because its delivery and receipt necessarily would have had to have been part of the foretold future that was unfolding. And yet, repeatedly, up to the encounter, Cruise lets the audience know that he has no idea who the man in the hotel room is supposed to be, or what connection he might have to him. (Indeed, if he did know why he was heading to the hotel room, it would likewise ruin the plot.) Therefore, logic dictates that Sydow did not alert Cruise, and did not intend to alert him.

8. Which leaves us with what actually occurs in the movie: namely, that Sydow very clearly intends the Precog system alone to do the alerting for him. After all, he knows Cruise will see his own future felony—and he's counting on it. But, as demonstrated above, there's no logical way for Sydow to know if or when this plan will ever work.

To illustrate the problem from another angle: The way the movie is written, Sydow could just as easily have left 20 stooges waiting with fake photos in 20 different hotel rooms. There is nothing in the movie to preclude this. Accepting this as a premise, in the movie, Cruise finds one of the fake killers, but never finds the other 19. Easy to understand, because there was nothing from Sydow to lead him to the other 19. Problem is, there was also nothing from Sydow (and indeed nothing, outside Cruise's own Precog loop) to lead him to the one.

Bottom Line: Sydow simply can't depend on Cruise's own time loop to do the alerting. It makes no sense. And even if Sydow crosses his fingers and "hopes" a loop will arise, and his wish miraculously comes true, there's no way for Sydow to make sure the loop arises in the nick of time to save Precrime from political demise. That would require two miracles.

I find it hard to believe a movie in which so much was obviously invested, in terms of story, research, realism, and effects, could overlook such a fundamental logical error. It's my understanding that a think tank of scientists and futurists worked on developing this film for at least a couple of years (not to mention the screenwriters). And yet, the film goes by so quickly, with such twists and turns, it is an admittedly difficult error to notice.

If you don't yet follow or believe my interpretation, I guarantee it will hit you in a day or so. It's an extremely subtle problem, but it will "click" for you.

Monday, April 15, 2002

First day at the new job. Many forms to fill out. People to meet. Hallways in which to get lost. Work to do.

Sunday, April 14, 2002

I spoke yesterday afternoon with a friend about the consequences of being provoked into a confrontation by an unworthy antagonist. I asserted that by staying on the chessboard, one necessarily validates the opponent. A better option might be to ignore the challenger, and not play his game. Simply step off the board.

At midnight on Saturdays, my local PBS station has been rerunning episodes of the classic British series The Prisoner, which I haven't seen since I was a very small but fascinated child. Last night's episode (unknown to me beforehand), was Checkmate, the episode in which Number 6 literally finds himself as a pawn on a human chessboard, at the whim of others, before once again trying to make his escape from the village.

This image of conformity versus individualism has been a visual metaphor in my brain as long as I can remember. I find it odd that the analogy came up in conversation a few hours before I actually saw the television program for the second time in my life.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

It feels like the last few desperate days of summer vacation, just before school begins again. I start a new job on Monday, and I've tried to cram about a year's worth of projects into the past few interim days I've taken off. One of those projects was to see if I could get this site up and running. But now that I have, I may not have the time to do anything with it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002