Saturday, March 22, 2003

Where is he now, then?

The (London) Sunday Telegraph is reporting that an anonymous source either in or connected to Mr Blair's war cabinet has said that the war cabinet has been told that Saddam Hussein was sufficiently badly wounded in the first attack that he required a blood transfusion, but that "unfortunately" he was not critically wounded. Also according to this source, Saddam's son Uday was apparently killed.
I think this speaks very well of the Americans, personally.

Sydney, Australia, is a port in the Pacific Ocean in a country that is very friendly to the United States. Therefore, ships of the US Pacific fleet call in fairly regularly. These visits probably do not have much military purpose, but Sydney is clearly a popular place for the US sailors to have some shore leave, and the US gets a fair amount of goodwill out of the visits. In particular, when aircraft carriers (usually the USS Constellation or the USS Kitty Hawk) have visited Sydney harbour in recent years, enormous numbers of people have queued up to go aboard and have a look around. (I have done this myself, and when I did this I was allowed to get much closer to the aircraft than has been the case at air shows, for instance. I was able touch the F-14s and F/A-18s, crawl under them, etc). And of course, when a carrier is in town, the bars and restaurants of Sydney are full of sailors.

On one such occasion, I recall a little piece in one of the Sydney newspapers. A woman had been driving down a freeway, and had had a flat tyre. This woman was struggling with the tyre at the side of the road when a rental car containing several young men in uniform pulled up. The woman was interrupted with "Excuse me ma'am, can we help you?", and the men quickly jacked up the woman's car and changed her tyre for her, before going on their way. Apparently, back in Iowa, or Kansas, or wherever, that is just the way young men are brought up. If you see a woman who has stopped with a flat tyre, you stop and help her. It is kind of sweet, really.
It's a peculiar week

For the last several years, Slate has run an on-line discussion in oscar week, in which Slate critic David Edelsten asks producer Lynda Obst (author of the hilariously titled Hollywood expose Hello, He Lied) gives some dirt on the mood in Hollywood, how the various parties are, and some thoughts on what is going to win and why. I thought that they had decided not to run the feature this year, but they did in fact run it half heartedly and a bit late. Obst basically comments that everybody in Hollywood is deeply uncomfortable about the whole exercise, and raises the prospect of political comments from stars and presenters at the awards. She says

Pity the poor actors. They can't do anything right. If they speak out they are dumb. If they don't speak out they are trivial. If they go, they feel guilty; if they don't go, we think they're wimps.

David Edelsten comments that as a critic he feels the same way. As a blogger I feel the same way myself. I am not really a warblogger. My hits are down this week, presumably because people are going to read actual warbloggers. On the other hand, I don't want to close up shop for a fortnight either. In any event, I will give my oscar picks at some point in the next 24 hours. And I am actually going to spend the best part of twelve hours tomorrow watching cricket and then the oscars.
Running the war and talking to the press do not require the same skills

I'm watching General Franks' press conference. Apparently he didn't want to give a press conference, because he doesn't think he is very good at talking to the press. Presumably Donald Rumsfeld insisted. He doesn't look especially comfortable, no.

Update: Franks improved as it went on, and gave off a good no-nonsense attitude. He managed to more or less ignore the somewhat pointed quality that some of the French accented questions had, too
My World Cup Final Preview

England has idiotic licensing laws when it comes to pub opening hours. Pubs are generally allowed to sell alcoholic drinks from midday to 11.00 pm (10.30pm on Sundays) and that is it. It is actually possible for pubs to get extended licences, but in doing so they are at the mercy of local councils, who generally want to impose all sorts of onerous conditions (and charge substantial amounts of money) for pubs that wish to do this. (Scotland has always had much flexible laws than England on this score).

This isn't normally a huge deal. I don't generally want to go to the pub before lunchtime, and most pubs don't want to open before lunchtime. There is one exception to this. If a major sporting event is on, I often want to watch it in a pub, because it's social and fun, and also because I may not have the pay television channels that are showing the event. Obviously, the licensing hours get in the way of this if the event is on late at night, as is often the case with events in the US, or if the event is on in the morning, as is the case with events being played anywhere in the eastern hemisphere.

When the football world cup was on last year, the British government was very aware of this problem, and changed the law for the course of the event so that pubs could sell alcohol in the mornings while the tournament was on. Lots of people met up in pubs, had a nice time watching the match, and then went about their days.

The present cricket World Cup has also faced this problem. Day matches have mostly started at 8am. Pubs have been closed until midday, and for day matches we have only been able to watch the second innings of matches in pubs. (Day/Night matches have started at 12.30pm and everything has been good). This has been annoying.

Tomorrow, of course, we have the final. Australia versus India. There isn't that much interest in it from English people, but there are lots of Indians and Australians in town to fill up a few bars where the match is showing. (The Australian themed "Walkabout" bar in Croydon has been filling up with steadily more excited Indians as the tournament has gone on). Pubs are perfectly welcome to open at 8am if they want to, but they may not start selling alcohol until midday. With this the case, quite a few pubs that might fill up with people if they opened early for the match will not do so, because they will not make much money selling breakfast and Coca-Cola. As far as I know, there is nowhere in Croydon that will be doing this, so I am going to have to go to central London. I know that the Walkabout bar in Shepherd's Bush will be open (and full of Australians, rather than just being Australian themed), and | may risk finding out that the shepherds in Shepherd's Bush are as dangerous as Neil Gaiman warned and go there. Sill, this is going to mean I have to get up at 6.30am on a Sunday. Mr Blair, it is time to change the law.

Any way, onto the match. Scott Wickstein has given a good preview, so I will just offer a few thoughts. In recent years, Australia's best seam bowler by far has been Glenn McGrath. One thing in particular that makes McGrath a great bowler is his tendency to pick out the best batsman in the opposing side before a series, and target this player specifically. He has done this with Lara, Atherton, and Teldulkar before, usually with great success. And he will be targeting Tendulkar tomorrow. McGrath has bowled extremely well in this tournament without really getting much publicity (18 wickets at 14.33 from ten games is outstanding just the same). However, I don't think that will matter tomorrow. I think McGrath will be pulling something special out of the fire for Tendulkar. I think this is his job, and he will rise to it.

As for the rest of the Indian side, Ganguly and Dravid especially are fine batsmen, but Bichel, Hogg, and Lee are good enough to stop them from getting too many runs. Lee started the tournament slowly, but since then has been improving. If he can produce another of those killer spells like he produced against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, that could almost win the game. Note also that he produced those spells on the slow pitch of Port Elizabeth. The Wanderers will suit him much better. I'm looking forward to watching him bowl.

As for the Australian batting, the Australian top order has had a little difficulty in its last few games. Ponting and Hayden in particular didn't really get the hang of the slow pitch in Port Elizabeth, and got out to inappropriate shots. Gilchrist looked better, but even so didn't put together a big innings, partly due to his honesty in the semi-final. (The fact that these highly rated players had difficulty and Andrew Symonds managed to get the hang of the pitch says enormously positive things about Symonds. His innings in the semi-final was in the end so impressive that I think he deserves serious consideration for test selection because of it). However, tomorrow in Johannesburg, the conditions will suit Ponting and Hayden much better. I expect a big innings from one of them. In fact, I expect a very big innings from one of them. After that, Australia have Symonds, Bevan, Bichel, hopefully Martyn to finish things off. I think Australia will score a lot of runs tomorrow. The test will be whether India can score a lot of runs too.

In December, I wrote a preview of the World Cup. I predicted Australia to win. However, I didn't do very well otherwise, getting all the other semi-finalists wrong (I predicted South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan). The reason I predicted what I did was that in recent years teams from the subcontinent have done badly on the fast pitches of South Africa. As it happened, though, the pitches have been much slower than expected, and this helped India and Sri Lanka to do better than I expected, and hindered South Africa, New Zealand and Pakistan. The more I think about it, the more I realise that the types of pitches we have encountered have turned the tournament upside down. With all the publicity about defaults, upsets, the Duckworth/Lewis rule and so forth, this fact has been lost a little in all the noise, but it is absolutely crucial. This ultimately is what has caused many of the fancied teams to stumble. The more I think about this point, the more impressive it becomes that Australia have not stumbled.

In December, I said this about India.

India are the great frustration of world cricket. They have on paper the best batting side in the world, although their bowling is ordinary. In India they can be magnificent. Elsewhere they are very inconsistent. (Actually, that is wrong. Outside India they lose consistently). Their present performance in New Zealand is not inspiring. I don't expect them to go very far in the tournament either. For them to have a shot at winning the tournament, one or more of their world class batsman (probably Sachin Tendulkar) is going to have to have an absolute blinder of a tournament, by which I mean he is going to have to score four or more centuries. He is going to have to do this against the bowlers of South Africa and Australia, which will be hard. To win, India have to score large totals consistently and prevent their opposition from doing the same. They do not have the bowlers to win low scoring matches. A win by India in the tournament is unlikely, although not actually impossible.

I think I at least got the qualifications right. India's world class batsman have performed. Tendulkar has indeed had a blinder, and although he has only scored one century, he has a couple of other scores in the high 90s. Ganguly has three centures, so a player scoring four is still possible, although I hope not.

What is impressive about Australia is that despite the pitches not suiting them, they have won every game anyway. You can criticise their performances in Port Elizabeth with the bat, but they still managed about 210 in each of the three games. This is better than anyone else has managed in Port Elizabeth. And the fact is, the pitch in Johannesburg tomorrow will suit them much better. And Australia's record playing in Johannesburg is superb. Australia to win tomorrow.
What does this mean?

There have been no attempts to attack Israel. By this point of the last war, Scuds were coming down on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Either the Iraqi military capability has decayed to the point that they either can't fire them or can't fire them that far, or Saddam is no longer in command to give the order. Either way, good.
Is Saddam Dead?, and more on television news.

As Steven Den Beste points out, it becomes steadily clearer that the initial cruise missile attack on Baghdad got somebody important. It may not have been Saddam (although it may have been) but if it was not it may have been one or both of Saddam's sons Qusay and Uday. In any event, I think Steven is right that this has profoundly affected the course of the war.

I have a television with digital (and a choice of several news channels) downstairs, but upstairs (where I am now) I have a television with only the five analogue channels. Thus if I listen to news coverage upstairs, it varies due to time of day, but I am largely struck with the BBC. I am getting a great deal of "It seems the war isn't going as smoothly as the Americans have hoped", and "America will wake up to the horror of discovering there are more casualties" and lots of editorialising. An Australian colonel was interviewed (and I was quite interested to hear what he had to say about what Australian servicemen were doing) but they spent a portion of this short interview asking him about the opposition to Australian involvement back home. This is different from Sky News (which is doing a much better job of just reporting what is happening), and I suspect that Fox News (which I don't have, but which would be available to me if I had satelite TV) would probably be editorialising in the other direction.

I happen to think there are times when you just report the news. And this is one of them.

Ideally, I think one needs to be watching half a dozen sources at the same time to figure out what is actually happening, in the same way that if you read half a dozen film reviews of a film you have not seen and none of them give away the ending, you can find that together they drop enough hints that you can figure out the ending. I am a little short for this war, and that is annoying.

(Actually, I am presently watching the BBC with the sound down. Please note that I am required by law to pay 112 pounds a year for the BBC).

Update: Sky News is reporting that US intelligence believes there was "frantic digging" after the missile attack the other night, followed by a number of bodies (possibly dead, possibly alive) being removed and carried off on stretchers. They also believe that one of those bodies was Saddam Hussein. Personally, I am coming around to the belief that they got him in the first strike of the war. If so, the war will be over within a few more days.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

A total of ten missiles of various kinds have apparently been fired from Iraq to Kuwait today. Two of them have apparently been shot down with Patriot missiles. This success rate doesn't surprise me much, but what does surprise me is that a higher success rate has not been claimed.

Some of the missiles have supposedly been Scuds. However, if Saddam does have working Scuds, I find it very surprising that they have been fired at Kuwait and not fired at Israel. We were all expecting Saddam to try to bring Israel into the war. However, this has not happened. It may still do so, but for now this seems curious.

One possibility is that the missiles fired at Kuwait were not actually Scuds. This piece from Steven Den Beste about what we should and shouldn't believe in terms of news coverage of the war is pertinent, particularly his suggestion that you should wait at least six hours before beginning to believe any report of a Scud.
Well fancy that

The South African cricket team look like they may pull out of a cricket tournament to be played in The United Arab Emirates next week.
Me too

Yes, we got Bush talking about Medicare on Sky News here too. Allow me to second Professor Reynolds' "Huh?"

There are reports that Mosul in the north of Iraq is also under attack, and also that missiles have hit Saddam's family home, and various presidential palaces.

It looks like it is going to be a long night. I think I shall keep blogging. Not entirely about the war, because I have two or three other pieces I also want to complete.

It looks like there is some sort of an attack coming into Iraq from the west from the direction of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Sky News is suggesting this is some sort of special forces operation.
India through to final

As it turned out, the rain did not come. We did have an interesting little spell of play around the 22-25 over mark, however. India were well in front, having Kenya around 5/70. Once 25 overs were bowled, India would win easily on the Duckworth/Lewis rule and go through to the final. However, there was some spectacular lightning visible nearby, and it looked like rain was about to start. The Indians rushed through their changes between overs, and bowled really quickly off short runups to get to 25 overs. The did this, but for some reason the scoreboard got stuck on 23 overs. For a couple of overs, Indian captain Sourav Ganguly kept looking at the scoreboard with a puzzled expression on his face, appeared to be doing mental calculations, and at one point even took a piece of paper out of his pocket and looked at it before putting it away. He ultimately bacame satisfied that 25 overs had been bowled, and the game proceeded without any rain. The boil went off it a bit after that, and Tikolo scored 59 for Kenya and Collins Obuya scored 29. Kenya were eventually out for 179, and India winning by 91 runs. It became clear by the second half of the pool matches that India and Australia were playing much better than any of the other sides, and their seemingly inevitable meeting in the final is now confirmed.

This is India's first World Cup final since 1983, and only their second. Indian people everywhere are getting extremely excited. The Australian themed pub I watched the game in today contained very few Australians and a great many loud and enthusiastic (and in some instances very drunk) Indians. The crowd in Durban (a very Indian city in itself) seemed as one sided and as enthusiastic. Huge numbers of Bollywood stars and beauty queens, Indian politicians, Indian millionaires, and no doubt Indian gangsters (although many Indian gangsters are banned from South Africa after the Hansie Cronje affair) are descending on Johannesburg for the final. India is having its biggest party in a long time. It will be such a shame for them if Australia spoils it.

We have a clash between US Marines and Iraqi troops on the Iraq/Kuwait border, with heavy artillery fire. It must be dark soon in Iraq.

Update:The ground and air wars appear to have been unfolding simultaneously. Sky News is reporting that the Iraqi border town of Umm Qasr, on the mouth of the Euphrates river, has fallen. British and US Marines are apparently acting simultaneously.

Ten thousand years ago, agriculture was invented and the first human civilizations came into being within spitting distance of these places.
Mid-match update

India scored an excellent 4/270 off their 50 overs in the second semi-final. They didn't start all that fast, due to some tight bowling from the Kenyans, but batted pretty well in the second half of the innings, thanks to 83 from Tendulkar and 111 not out from Ganguly (his third century of the tournament). This should mean an easy win for the Indians, if the match is completed. However, I doubt it will be. The sky looked very grey towards the end of the Indian innings. CNN is presently reporting that it is raining in Durban, and South Africans tell me that once it starts raining in Durban it takes a while to stop. We have had rain ruin one day night match in Durban already, and I think here goes another one.

If the match is washed out before Kenya have batted 25 overs, the match will be replayed tomorrow. As to why the match is being replayed and not continued, ask the organisers and the ICC. I assume that the match is replayed as another Day/Night game tomorrow, but I will go read the rules and check. I will post an update once I have done this. If the game is replayed and it rains in the evening again and the match is abandoned a second time, that would be particularly idiotic, particularly considered that the ICC Champions trophy final had exactly that happen six months ago. In that case, the tournament was ruined by the fact that at that time of year it rains in the afternoon every day in Sri Lanka. If the tournament had been able to be continued rather than replayed, the match would have been completed. Hopefully Durban is not like this.

Update: The rule is that a day match should be replayed as a day match, and a Day/Night match as a Day/Night match unless otherwise determined by the tournament Technical Committee. Therefore, if the game needs to be replayed it will again be a Day/Night match tomorrow unless there is some good reason for changing it. Meanwhile, Kenya are batting and are 1/20 off 10.0 overs. We need to play for another hour to get a result under the Duckworth/Lewis rule. If we can do that, an Indian victory looks certain.

Further Update: India 2/21 of 10.1 overs. India could of course win the match sooner by bowling Kenya out in less than 25 overs.
A peculiar interlude

Clearly, a huge number of presidents and ministers had prepared speeches, parliaments had scheduled meetings, and news organisations had plans for blanket coverage as soon as the war actually started. The missile assault last night has triggered all these things. However, although the Iraqis are firing a missile or two at Kuwait, not much has happened since. We are getting blanket round the clock television coverage of not much. Lots of footage of Kuwait City, with occasional sirens going on when there is an alert. It is rather peculiar. Everyone is nervous, and something is going to happen in the next 24 hours. But, mostly, we are still waiting.

As for the missile attacks themselves, we are hearing reports coming out of Iraq that there was one civilian killed. This seems kind of odd. Normally I would expect a statement coming out of Iraq that "These unprovoked and cowardly attacks on a civilian target killed 47 innocent children. This was a crime against humanity". The fact that we are not getting such claims almost suggests to me that the attacks really did take out someone important.

Update: Matt Drudge has found some suggestions along these lines, too.
World Cup second semi-final

There has been a lot of rain in Durban, so we may or may not get a game between India and Kenya today. There is a reserve day tomorrow, and the forecast is for "cloudy". This is a day-night game to be played under lights, so bad light will not be an issue. If the game is washed out today and tomorrow, India will go through due to having won the earlier game against Kenya. This would be fair, but it would be disappointing from the Kenyan point of view. They have come a long way, and I am sure they want to complete it on the field.

Update: The game has started on time, and India are batting first. The pitch and ground are apparently a little damp, but this isn't a major obstacle. Hopefully the game can be completed without any interruptions.
Are the Patriots working this time?

Iraq has now apparently fired some Scud missiles in the direction of Kuwait. (These are the same Scud missiles the Iraqis denied having. "Oh. You mean these Scud missiles"). It is being claimed that two have been shot down with American Patriot missiles. It is worth recalling that in the 1991 war the Americans initially claimed close to a 100% success rate at shooting down Scuds with Patriots, but in the months following the war the success rate claimed steadily dropped, ending up at less than 10%. As it happened, a major reason why the Scuds were exploding in mid air was simply that the second stage that the Iraqis had added to the Russian Scud missile (which is itself based on the German V-2 design - that's right, we are talking a World War 2 weapon here) was badly designed and built and the missiles had a tendency to break up by themselves.

Undoubtedly the Americans have in the twelve years since spent a lot of money improving the performance of the Patriot, and it will do better this time. However, one should always be sceptical of grandiose claims about its effectiveness. Shooting down missiles in flight is extremely hard.

Update: There is a good piece in Slate (and further links) talking about the failure of the Patriot missiles in 1991 and just how the new version has been supposedly improved from the old version. The attitude this time seems to be that the authors of the article will need to be shown pretty strong evidence before they believe the Patriots work.
Gas Alerts and the Like

I am watching war coverage on Sky News, the British 24 hour news network that belongs to Rupert Murdoch. I do not have satellite or cable television, but I do have digital terrestrial, which gives me about 40 channels. Sadly, these do not include any of the US based news channels, but they do include 24 hour news channels from Sky, the BBC, and ITV. I am with Iain Murray in thinking that Sky is pretty good. At the moment we are watching various alerts in Kuwait City telling people to put on their gas masks and go into the basement of their hotel, by the stairs and not the lift. The journalists are commenting that drills are one thing, but actually seeing people get out of a lift wearing gas masks makes you pretty afraid.
Here we go

Well, the war has started. It appears the intention was to start it this evening (ie Thursday) but instead they launched an attack last night because they thought they knew Saddam Hussein's location and wanted to take him out and so fired some missiles soon after the 48 hour deadline expired. The all out attack looks like it will be this evening, and I suspect it will take place immediately after dark. However, this gives us a window in which the war has clearly started and action by Saddam Hussein is clearly retaliation and not preemptive, but in which the main war starts. At the moment, is seems a few missiles are being fired in the direction of Kuwait (conventional weapons only, thankfully), and he may try firing something at Israel today, in the event that he has any Scud missiles that actually work.

I am not sure how to cover this. I will give my thoughts, but I am not sure how useful it is to repeat what the rest of the blogosphere are also covering (some of who know a lot more about what is happening than I do). If I just carry on talking about cricket and movies - particularly if the oscars take place on Sunday) - then there is perhaps a feeling that I am concentrating too much on trivia when more serious things are going on. Trust that I am not: the war is my most important concern right now.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

A nice quote

(Darwin) was possessed of a very large fortune, and could have done whatever he wanted. What he chose to do was dissect barnacles under the microscope, day in day out for eight years. This is not a choice that many of us would have made in the circumstances. We, but not he, are fritterers.

Anthony Daniels (via aldaily).
There seem to have been a lot of great parts for actors written this last year or two, both big and small

James Russell (again) draws our attention to this article from the Los Angeles Times that talks about good, genuine supporting roles in movies. The supporting categories in Academy (and other) Awards are often given to quite large roles, and sometimes studios will simply campaign for a Supporting Actor oscar simply because the don't think they can win in the lead category, or because they do not want two performances in the same film or the same actor in two different films to compete with each other. (This year, Julianne Moore in The Hours and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago manage some or all of these distinctions). How ever, what about performances that are genuinely very small but none the less outstanding? These don't get much credit. And it is quite correct that seeing little but terrific performances you may or may not have heard about in advance is one of the joys of moviegoing.

The article in particular draws attention to Toni Collette in The Hours, who is on screen for one scene only, but who is indeed sensationally good. (I would add that Claire Danes is also very good in an equally small part), Tilda Swinton, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Brian Cox in Adaptation, and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Punch Drunk Love (a performance I have already written about). Tilda Swinton seems to make a habit of taking little parts, in movies of variable quality (see The Beach or Vanilla Sky). The article also comments on several performances in About Schmidt, which I haven't seen, so I will not comment.

When the actors putting in these performances are unknowns, it is often a great pleasure to notice them and to speculate who is going to be a star. Sometimes you even get it right. But, quite often, as with most of the performances mentioned in this article, we find that actors who have a reputation already will, for some reason, take a small part.

Actors aren't generatlly supposed to do this: their actors will often advise them against it, or not show them the part in the first place. Which is why it is also interesting to see just which directors can get really high quality actors to appear in their films even in tiny parts. Steven Spielberg can have anyone he wants in his movies, and his small parts are thus chock full of top notch actors. (Woody Allen used to be able to do this, too). Even when Francis Ford Coppola makes a commercial movie he is doing mostly for the money, he still seems able to get a great cast. (Take a look at this cast for the John Grisham adaptation The Rainmaker). I am guessing that this is largely because he has lots of friends. Alexander Payne and Spike Jonze were able to get great casts for About Schmidt and Adaptation respectively, because they have repuations for being hip, up and coming directors. (In Jonze's case, the fact that he is Coppola's son in law seems to have helped his connections, too). Stephen Daldry didn't have quite that level of reputation going into The Hours, so I am not quite sure how he managed to get quite as stunning a cast as he did, but it might have something to do with actors owing favours to Harvey Weinstein at Miramax.

The one final way that we get top actors in smaller roles seems to be that one or two directors have almost put together their own repertory companies. Paul Thomas Anderson was able to cast Hoffman in Punch Drunk Love because he always casts Hoffman. He puts him in some big roles, and some small roles, but there is always something there. As to whether this is different from "X has lots of friends", I am not sure.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Generation X, and journalists with few clues about demographics.

James Russell (via Tim Stevens) quotes this piece from the editorial page of The Australian.

ACCORDING to a landmark survey reported exclusively in The Australian today, those least likely to express satisfaction with their jobs are so-called "Generation X-ers", aged 20-29 years. Since the characteristics of Generation X are said to be boredom and cynicism, this news in itself is hardly surprising, and simply confirms what most of us have long suspected: there is no joy in alternative music.

James asks one of the key questions, specifically "What the fuck does this have to do with alternative music?"

The question I wish to address is a different one, which is "Why can't the media figure out what Generation X is?".

The expression "Generation X" came from the title of Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel Generation X: Tales from an Accelerated Culture . The generation of people that Coupland was referring to were people born between about 1960 and 1965, who were between 25 and 30 in 1990 and are in their late 30s or early 40s today. These were the people of the last few years of the baby boom: people who felt a sense of disconnection because the culture was being defined and all the good jobs had been taken by people a few years older than them. There was a feeling that something else was coming, but that this group were in the crack between generations.

I was born in 1968, which by this definition makes me too young to be a member of Generation X.

In the book Growing Up Digital, published in 1998 (but it seems an age ago), Don Tapscott actually looks at post war demographics, and addresses questions like this. He observes that the post war baby boom occurred between about 1948 and 1965. After 1965 the birth rate dropped considerably, and Tapscott refers to this as the "Baby bust" years. The birth rate increased again from about 1978, when the baby boomers (who had in many cases left having children to later in life than their parents had) themselves started having children in large numbers. Tapscott refers to these children as the "echo boom". So by Tapscott's definitions, the baby bust generation are people between about 25 and 38.

However, in the 1990s the media started using the label "Generation X" to refer to what Tapscott called the baby bust generation. Possibly this was because people took a few years to actually read the book, and possibly because the media is just lazy and understands nothing about demographics. It was also perhaps because, at least superficially at first, the baby busters looked similar in terms of attitude to Coupland's "Generation X": they has a "slacker" reputation, and they seemed disaffected and cynical. (As it seemed to have turned out, the baby bust generation had its moment in the sun with the dot com boom, and is now sitting back, licking its wounds, wondering where its job went, and watching the echo boom generation overwhelm the world. Or that is how it feels). Tapscott noted this usage, but rejected it. He also noted that the media had taken to calling the generation in their teens in the mid 1990s as "Generation Y". He rejected this usage even more strongly, because the generation in its teens at that point (which was what his book was actually about) was a far larger and more important generation than was "Generation X", however it was defined, and naming it by reference to X was therefore not a good idea. (He seems to have been right on this point, and the "Generation Y" nomenclature seems to have faded away.

In any event, bearing all this in mind, I was rather intrigued to see people aged 20-29 described as "Generation X" in the article quoted at the start of this post. It now seems that I am too old, whereas before I was too young. Apparently Generation X has not been aging, but has been aged 20-29 for more than a decade now. As far as I can see, this tells me more about the media than it does about any particular group of young people. This section of the media knows little about the demographic patterns I have described above, but it just has a need to descibe young beople as bored and cynical from time to time. The "Generation X" label is a good thing to attach to them while you are doing this, even if you have no idea what it actually means. As I see it, people in the younger part of this group, say those aged from 20-25, really have little in common with those who are ten to fifteen years older than they are. Plus, they seem to me to be the least bored and cynical generation in a long time.

For that really was the point of Tapscott's book. He argued in 1998 that the echo boom generation had a different attitude to technology than previous generations, as it was the first generation for which access to computers and computer networks was ubiquitous through adolescence and teenage years. (The echo boom generation was the first where access to these things was possible through adolescence and teenage years. I used computers at high school and the internet when I was an undergraduate, but in both cases this was because I was a geek. In some sense the technology was an isolating factor, whereas later it became the opposite). As a consequence the echo boom generation has more access to information, is more internationally minded, and is better connected than the generations that preceded it.

When I read the book in 1998, this idea seemed a little revolutionary. Now it seems commonplace and Tapscott seems prescient. The people of the first few years of the echo boom generation have been entering the workforce over the last couple of years. These people's use of technology is ubiquitous. They have been immersed in information in a way that was not possible when we were teenagers, however much we would have liked to have been. If you grow up in such a way that technology is a part of everything, then suddenly the gap between the cultures of arts and science seems much less stark. Those of the new generation who have really taken advantage of the opportunities and access to technology and information available seem mindblowingly impressive for their age. And one thing that goes with this is that echo boomer women seem empowered like women of no generation before them. There seem to be lots of twenty to twenty five year old women out there who are smart, educated, and utterly unashamed of this in a way I've not really seen before. These young women are quite intimidating and impress the hell out of me. They're intimidating in a "Can I please have one" kind of way, but still intimidating. (Somehow I think they see me as an old fogey, sadly). I also think this generation is rather more used to cosmopolitan, ethnically complicated societies than those before it, at least in the US and at least in certain other parts of the world, and is consequently rather more colourblind, which is obviously good.

Still, this is the generation that is going to define the culture over the next several decades. The media would do better to notice this and write about it than it would to recycle stories about youth being aimless and cynical from a decade ago.

Update: Patrick suggests that I have made a similar definitional mistake to the one I am decrying by using the word "technology" to refer to "internet and mobile phones", when I should use the word more broadly. I think I will concede "partially guilty" to that accusation. When I say that access to the internet has led to the younger generation having a different attitude to technology than previous generations, I actually do mean technology defined more broadly. The increased access to information of all kinds through the internet (and the way in which the information is accessed) and similar technologies has profoundly mixed up the idea of the separation between arts and sciences and leads to a different attitude to a much broader range of technologies than just computers and moble phones. People are learning to think in a more scientific manner because of this. (See my comments here and also the Richard Dawkins article I link to from that piece). I once (only ten years ago) knew a particularly brilliant Ph.D. history student, who essentially wouldn't touch a computer and considered people studying scientific subjects to be very different to people studying arts subjects like herself. This type of position is far less likely these days.

Still, I will confess to being a little sloppy in a couple of places. I don't mean quite the same thing by "technology" when I am talking about "access to technology" as when I am talking about "attitudes to technology" and "understanding of technology". If I was rewriting, I would reword the post differently to make this clear.
Australia through to final,and thoughts on "walking"

As I reported in my update to an earlier piece, Australia batted first in their semi-final against Sri Lanka and scored 7/212 off their 50 overs. This would not normally be a terribly good score, but given the earlier results on the Port Elizabeth pitch, there was a certain suspicion that 212 might be a better score than it appeared. Sri Lanka got off to a good start, scoring 20 off the first 3 overs. Australia looked well and truly in it, though, due to a couple of near or dropped catches. (These were all very difficult, but the Sri Lankans were taking risks). Then, however, as I thought he might, Brett Lee went up a gear. He bowled Atapattu with a beautiful delivery that went at over 160 km/h and came in from outside off stump and that Atapattu didn't get anywhere near. Soon afterwards, McGrath got Jayasuriya, and Lee continued to bowl well, to remove Tillakaratne and Gunawardene for not much. Aravinda De Silva then started batting beautifully, including an absolutely sublime four through mid off. It seemed that Sri Lanka had some chance he could keep batting. However, Andy Bichel ran de Silva out in an amazing piece of fielding and throwing with a direct hit at the striker's end. A couple of wickets from Bradd Hogg, and Sri Lanka looked completely out of it at 7/76. Sangakkara and Arnold then put on a slow 47 off 14 overs, before the heavens opened. The match was abandoned, and Australia were declared the winner by 48 runs on the Duckworth Lewis rule. It would have been nice to have finished the game, and I would much prefer a situation allowing games to be completed on the reserve day. Realistically, though, Sri Lanka were a long way behind and had little realistic chance of winning. Some might compare this with the Australia versus England game and say that if Australia won that then Sri Lanka could have won this, but I don't really agree. On that occasion, Bevan and Bichel did a perfect job of getting the runrate right throughout the innings. On that occasion the required runrate didn't pass the six mark until around the 48th over, at which point a boundary or two was enough to win the game. In this case the Sri Lankan batsmen had allowed the required runrate to blow out to around 8 by the 38 over mark. The Australians never had a task that difficult. My response is well played Australia. I am thankful they will not be playing any more games in Port Elizabeth. In the end, the 212 that Australian scored was a good innings, and Andrew Symonds' 91 not out was worth a big century in most matches.

Australia have now made their third consecutive World Cup final, their fourth in the last five World Cups, and their fifth overall (out of eight World Cups held). This is easily the most by any side (The West Indies (two wins) and England (no wins) have each made three finals, Pakistan (one win) have made two finals, and India and Sri Lanka (one win each) have each made one final. If India beat Kenya, on Thursday, they will qualify for their second final.

An interesting thing about the Australian innings was the dismissal of Adam Gilchrist. The umpire ruled that Gilchrist was not out, but Gilchrist knew that he had hit the ball and walked off. Cricket has a tradition of "walking" when you know you are out, based on the idea that this is the gentlemanly thing to to, but it is more common in some cricketing subcultures than others. Australians do it more often that English sportswriters would have you believe, but they generally do not do it. Former Australian captain Ian Chappell did not walk. His justification was that some players would walk when they were out in unimportant situations, and would get a reputation for walking when they were out. Then, when there was a close decision in an important situation, they would not walk, but would be given the benefit of the doubt by umpires due to having a reputation for walking. Chappell preferred to accept the umpire's decision on the basis that you would get some go your way and some go against you and they would even out over time. You may or may not find this justification on Chappell's part convincing, but he at least had convinced himself of it. In any event, nobody can accuse Gilchrist of such cynicism, as he walked today in a World Cup semi-final: about as important a situation as you can imagine. The Australian sportswriters were apparently not made especially happy by this, although their articles tomorrow won't say this. And he will certainly be praised in the English press for his sportsmanship.

And I haven't forgotten my promise to explain the Duckworth Lewis rule. This will come soon.
This is really scary.

I haven't commented on the mystery Asian illness yet on this blog, mainly because I have been busy on some other things. Steven Den Beste has some thoughts. In particular, he comments that it seems clear that it is influenza. This surprises me not at all. Like Steven, when I heard "Guangdong Province, China" my immediate conclusion was that we had an influenza outbreak on our hands. It looks like the virus is more contagious but less deadly than the 1997 virus, although these sorts of things can still change as diseases mutate further. Therefore, there are reasons to be at least a little worried.

Steven comments that new strains of influenza normally come from China, normally because most influenza strains come from birds (particularly chickens) and the way that chickens, ducks, and pigs are kept in China leads to the creation of new viral strains. Essentially, pigs get infected with both chicken and human viruses, the DNA of the two viruses combine together, and then the new combined virus infects a human. (This can then mix DNA with a human virus that is already present in the person that is infected. The nightmare scenario normally involves an extremely deadly but not very contagious form of the virus spreading into the human population, then combining with a very contagious strain that is already present in some human, and then an extremely deadly and contagious strain causing a worldwide epidemic. This is why the actions taken in 1997 in Hong Kong were so extreme. An extremely deadly but not very contagious strain of influenza was present in the chicken population, which infected a small number of people, killing several of them. The entire chicken population of Hong Kong and nearby was killed, in order to reduce the chance of someone already sick with another influenza virus being infected).

I think that Steven's blaming it on Mao's collective farms might be excessive, however. The tendency for new strains of influenza to come from China is clearly older than collectivised farms. (It always seems to be Guangdong, too, not just China. The 1918 virus that killed between 20 and 40 million people appears to have originated there as well, as indeed does the 1889 virus). It may be that it is something to do with Chinese traditional practices that have been incorporated into the collective farms. Having pigs, chickens, and people living close together is pretty common throughout all of South East Asia as well as China, but the influenza outbreaks don't seem to come from Java, for instance. It may just be the density of birds and animals in that region is very great, or it may be that particular types of influenza viruses just happen to be endemic in the birds of that region, although I would expect that even bird viruses would spread around the world fairly quickly. (I need to try and find some agricultural statistics, I suppose, and finding accurate ones from places like China and Indonesia is going to be very hard).

Update: I have read in several places in the news media that the disease is "probably not influenza", without any explanation whatsoever as to why it is probably not influenza. Along with that, all these stories have given lots of circumstantial evidence that would tend to suggest that it is influenza. Can anybody explain to me what the media's justification is for saying that it is probably not flu.

Further Update: Patric Crozier asks a question as to whether people in China have built up resistance to influenza. I am not an expert on the subject, but I believe the answer is "no more than anybody else". Firstly, influenza spreads rapidly, so even if new strains originate in China, they don't necessarily infect Chinese people in general more than anybody else. A strain gets into the human population, and it gets all round the world pretty quickly. (In 1918, this apparently took about three months). Influenza is a virus that mutates a lot, and although it is possible to build up resistance to specific strains of it, it is very difficult to develop resistance to influenza in general. (This is why there is a new flu shot every year. Vaccine manufacturers build a vaccine for those strains that are in circulation at the start of winter, and hope that no new strains come along too quickly. You are encouraged to get a flu shot every year not because the previous year's innoculation has worn off, but because this years disease is different). (The innoculation appears to be longlasting. Very unusually, the 1918 virus was most lethal amongst people in their 20s and 30s, and older people were much less affected by it. A widely (but by no means universally) held theory as to why this is so is that an epidemic of a genetically similar but much less lethal influenza had infected the world thirty to forty years previously, and older people therefore had resistance that younger people did not). So, essentially, the Chinese are probably resistant to many strains (like the rest of us) but vulnerable to new strains.

Influenza is a complicated disease. Infection with one strain gives resistance to genetically similar strains, but not to strains which are genetically too different. (This is why you can get a different influence vaccination every year. Early cases are looked at, conclusions are reached as to what type of virus will be prevalent this year, and people are vaccinated for that type of virus. A different type will be prevalent the next year, so the previous year's vaccination becomes useless.

Even further update: Okay, it's fairly clear by this point that it isn't influenza, although it may be something else that has arrived in people via pigs, chickens and/or ducks in much the same way. We still don't quite know how serious it is, or whether it could still mutate into something more contagious or virulent. Still, some people are not not as concerned as others. I'm still at least a little worried, however.
Dear Guardian editors. I would like to apply for your now vacant cricket commentary position.

Cyberpunk author William Gibson points me to this intriguing World Cup report from the Guardian. (I am not on my own PC, and so I unfortunately do not have the tools handy to create a mirror in case they remove it). On the other hand, I myself think London is one of the best cities in the world. Mr Murray also needs to think about the fact that Moorgate station is one of the most interesting public transport interchanges in London, which is something I may even write about on Transport Blog some time.
First semi-final preview, undefeated World Cup winners, and the Australian team for the West Indies tour

Firstly, Australia play Sri Lanka today. While it is possible that Australia good lose to India in the final if Tendulkar has a good day, I am more worried about today's match in Port Elizabeth. Partly I am just nervous about the fact that the tournament is now knock out. Australia have won every game so far, but no game they have played has been absolutely must win. Everything now changes. The pitch in Port Elizabeth is dodgy, and Australia have got into trouble on it on their last couple of games. I think three miraculous recoveries in a row on that ground is rather too much to ask. Sri Lanka have better spinners than either New Zealand or England, and they have a history of beating Australia in key matches on pitches like this. There was the ICC Champions trophy last year, and also the final of the triangular one day tournament in Sri Lanka in 2000. (The 1996 World Cup final wasn't quite the same thing, but one must mention it, I suppose). Sri Lanka are a classic example of the sort of side who have played uneven cricket throughout the tournament, and have done just enough to make the semi-finals, but do have the players to make a serious run at winning the tournament. Pakistan won the tournament this way in 1992, and it will happen again at some point. On the other hand, if India come out and play their best on Sunday, I think Australia will respond by simply playing their best too, and if that happens I think Australia will likely win. (I suspect that the fact that Australia had an absolutely titanic struggle in the semi-final and then an easy win in the final four years ago was an issue, too).

However, in a possibly encouraging historical note, Australia have never been eliminated in a World Cup semi-final. They made the final in 1975, 1987, 1996 and 1999, and were eliminated before the semi-finals in 1979, 1983 and 1992. It's all an issue of the Australian batsmen's ability to play the Sri Lankan spinners. If they can do that and get a good score, they should win.

Secondly though, some people are getting a little nervous about the length or Australia's winning streak. If they do win the final, Australia will have won 17 one day internationals in a row, and will have gone through the World Cup undefeated. There is no precedent for 17 wins in a row, but there are precedents for going through the tournament undefeated. There have been a variety of tournament formats over the years, and the difficulty of doing this has varied, however. Just as an observation.

In 1975, the number of matches played by the finalists was 5. West Indies won all five, and won the tournament undefeated.
In 1979, the number of matches played by the finalists was 5. West Indies won four, and fifth game was washed out. WI were undefeated, but didn't have a perfect record due to the weather.
In 1983, the number of matches played by the finalists was 8. India won six and lost two games.
In 1987, the number of matches played by the finalists was 8. Australia won seven, and lost one game.
In 1992, the number of matches played by the finalists was 10. Pakistan won six games, lost three games, and one game was washed out.
In 1996, the number of matches played by the finalists was 8. Sri Lanka won the six games that it played, and won a further two through defaults. Sri Lanka had a perfect record, but it was blemished a little by reasons beyond their control.
In 1999, the number of matches played by the finalists was 10. Australia won seven, tied one, and lost two games.

So there have been three undefeated cup winners, but only one for which you do not put an asterisk against the statistic. However nobody has won more than six games to win the cup undefeated. Australia doing it by winning eleven would be quite impressive.

However, the fact that if Australia make the final they will have won 16 games in a row is apparently being much discussed in India. This is because Australia a couple of years ago managed to win a world record 16 test matches in a row. This winning sequence was broken by India. The Indians would like to think it is their job to break such a sequence again.

Thirdly, the Australian team was announced for the tour of the West Indies to follow the World Cup. No surprises. Steve Waugh is captain, Ricky Ponting vice-vaptain, Leg spinner Stuart Macgill is in the side in the "biggest idiot" position formerly occupied by Shane Warne. The selectors went for an experienced lineup, presumably being of the opinion that a tour of the West Indies is not a time for bringing new players into the side. Mainly, this means that NSW batsman Michael Clarke will have to wait a little longer for his first test match. He is only 22 and this is fine, but I would like to see him in the side soon. He looks just terrific, and in his one performance for Australia in a one day game he played superbly. This squad is for the test matches of the West Indies tour only, and another squad will be selected later for the one day series. It is quite possible Clarke will be in that one.

Update: Australia batted first and scored 7/212 off their 50 overs. The top order found batting difficult, and Australia lost early wickets, but were saved by 91 not out of 118 from Andrew Symonds. Australia lost more wickets wickets when attempting to boost the runrate around the 45 over mark, but Symonds stayed there, and Bichel pitched in (again) for 19 not out at the end. Symonds played very well, and didn't attempt to push his scoring rate faster than could be managed in the circumstances. (For the tournament so far, Symonds is averaging 163 and Bichel is averaging 117 for the tournament. If Australia make the final, and in the final Symonds is dismissed for less than 25, and Bichel either doesn't bat or is not out, Bichel will top the Australian batting averages for the World Cup. That would be remarkable).

Sri Lanka will not find chasing this target to be terribly easy. I am expecting Brett Lee to come out and bowl exceptionally fast in his first spell. He was dazzlingly effective against New Zealand on this ground, even though one might not have thought the conditions would suit him. A really good second half of the match awaits us.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

More on Fuel Cells

There is a good overview of the state of fuel cell technology in the New York Times. People quoted are talking more about fuel cells as auxilliary power sources, with the primary power device for portable electronic products remaining a conventional battery. We will see how this develops. In the long term fuels cells promise much longer operating times than even the best batteries, and this seems a big deal to me.

They are also talking about using snap in cartridges of fuel, rather than having the users refuel them directly. This is probably more convenient, although a situation where the packaging costs more than the fuel by a large factor (which seems inevitably the case here) does strike me as problematic. I can see the hard core geeks refilling the cartridges themselves, if nothing more than that.

Update:There's even more here. (via Instapundit). This emphases another issue: conventional Lithium-Ion batteries are heavy. Fuel cells are potentially much lighter. Both these articles mention the possibility of refueling on the fly: inserting a new cartridge of fuel into the fuel cell without needing to power down your laptop or PDA. Although this is nice, it actually isn't that important to me. The issue is now whether I have to power down as much as the time that it takes to recharge a conventional battery, and the fact that I need access to a power outlet for some time in order to do it. Next to this, the need to power down (Just to "hibernate" mode, so I don't need to close everything) is a relatively minor inconvenience.
Fuck You, Hansie Cronje

(Yes, one isn't supposed to speak ill of the dead. In this case I can't help it).

This piece (ultimately from the Sunday Telegraph of London) on the corruption of former South African cricket captain Hansie Cronje makes depressing reading. The man had more than 70 secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, in addition to 27 bank accounts in South Africa. As one of the investigators puts it, "He was a crook". The article suggests that at the peak of the game's corruption, the world's professional cricket players (and perhaps umpires) were between them receiving as much as $3 million dollars a month from bookmakers, and that many and perhaps most of the games being played in the world were being influenced in this way. Although the results of cricket matches are not being influenced by bookmakers as much as they were, it is still happening. The article also suggests that the South African government ended the enquiry into the murky underworld Cronje was caught in because it simply did not want the country to be embarassed by the extent of all this leading into the World Cup.

When I heard Cronje was dead, I assumed he had been murdered. It isn't surprising for someone who got mixed up in that whole underground world of Bombay gangsters that seems to encompass the Bollywood film industry, subcontinental gambling, and quite possibly gun running and terrorism to die suddenly in mysterious circumstances, and Cronje had managed to get mixed up in that kind of thing. When I head how he died (a small plane crashed while landing) I wasn't so sure: there are easier ways to have somebody bumped off. However, I am still suspicious, and as it becomes clear how entagled with this kind of thing Cronje was (ie very), I remain that way.

And yet, the South Africans still seem to look back at the time of Cronje's captaincy as a golden age that occurred before the fall from paradise, or something like that. I have said this before, but their inability to accept the seriousness of the corruption crisis is another indication of the seriousness of the general malaise that has gripped the game in that country.
And I could have seen "Far From Heaven"

On Friday I went to see the film Equilibrium. This was very bad, but in a fun way. It was kind of a mixture of 1984, Farenheit 451, Brave New World, Logan's Run, and The Matrix. We are in a future world in which World War 3 has occurred and in order to prevent World War 4, all emotions are outlawed due to the fact that emotions caused World War 3, not to mention World Wars 1 and 2, the battle of Thermopylae, Alexander the Great's conquest of the known world, and no doubt various other skirmishes. The entire population is required to take regular doses of a drug called Prozium, that gets rid of their emotions. A group of enforcers, called "grammaton clerics" get to kill "sense offenders", people who have taken to feeling emotions. These men, who wear black riot police type uniforms, also have the job of destroying any material that the dictator referred to as "father" has had rated "EC-10" for "emotional content". (I'm not quite sure where the "10" comes from, but I clearly left the Motion Picture Association of America out of my list of influences). These people are also trained in extreme killing skills, so they can shoot rooms full of armed sense offenders in total darkness, or win gun battles in cool looking but implausiable ways when there is only them against fifty or more guys with machine guns on the other side. Christian Bale plays one of these guys, . After we see him torch the Mona Lisa, and shoot Sean Bean for reading the poetry of W.B. Yeats, he misses his meds and starts feeling emotions himself. Then he arrests a peculiarly English sense offender played by a slightly overwrought Emily Watson, and blah, blah, blah.

In any event, it was a bit of a guilty pleasure. After watching it, I thought I would check out a few reviews, to see if the critics found it a guilty pleasure themselves. Let's see.

I guess Prozium just doesn't work that well. Yet it's effective enough to turn Preston and Brandt into remorse-free killing machines for much of the hyper-violent plot that leads up to the inevitable (and almost laughably gory) showdown – at least until the newly sensitive Preston witnesses the wholesale slaughter of a bunch of helpless puppies. Talk about cheap sentimentality.

(Michael O'Sullivan - The Washington Post). Yep. He got guilty pleasure. The massacre of the puppies was particularly ludicrous, yes. Let's try another one.

If "Equilibrium" has a plot borrowed from 1984, Brave New World and other dystopian novels, it has gunfights and martial arts borrowed from the latest advances in special effects. More rounds of ammunition are expended in this film than in any film I can remember, and I remember "The Transporter."

I learn from Nick Nunziata at that the form of battle used in the movie is "Gun-Kata," which is "a martial art completely based around guns." I credit Nunziata because I think he may have invented this term. The fighters transcribe the usual arcs in mid-air and do impossible acrobatics, but mostly use guns instead of fists and feet. That would seem to be cheating, and involves a lot of extra work (it is much easier to shoot someone without doing a back-flip), but since the result is loud and violent it is no doubt worth it

(Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times). Yes, him too. Okay, one more.

To help fight "sense crimes," the state employs ostensibly emotionless clerics trained to kill as efficiently as possible using a wildly implausible but strangely hypnotic fighting style that combines geometry, martial arts, and good old-fashioned ultra-violence. Bale stars as one such cleric, a stone-faced killing machine who begins to question his commitment to the job when his partner is executed. A chance meeting with an adorable puppy causes Bale to further question his allegiance to the evil, monolithic state, as does his relationship with condemned sense-criminal Emily Watson. During its weaker moments, Equilibrium's premise raises questions it has no interest in answering. What is courtship like in a world where emotions are forbidden? Does the state outlaw all emotions, or just powerful, easily identifiable ones? What about emoticons: Are they outlawed, too?

(Nathan Rabin. The Onion AV Club).
Christian Bale seems to get right into it. He knows that he isn't going to spend a huge portion of his career running around in black and shooting people while doing backflips, so he makes the most of it. Emily Watson's role actually isn't enormous, but in her scenes she has this "What am I doing in this movie? It's time I got a different agent" expression that Julianne Moore manages in Evolution. Still, she does the big eyes bit as well as anyone. I wonder why she did the movie. She has worked opposite Christian Bale before (in the English urban angst movie Metroland) so perhaps someone is doing it out of friendship to someone else. It isn't her kind of movie. I suspect though that most actors get a certain amount of pleasure out of doing something ludicrously over the top from time to time, and this was one of those times. From Christian Bale's point of view, however, this is two in a row (after Reign of Fire) so he probably needs to do something serious. Still, this one deserves to be listed in the Onion AC club's Films that Time Forgot feature in 2012. That one was just boring.
Can someone tell me where I can get cheap and reliable Moveable Type friendly hosting?

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