The new Tysto
2009.08.23 Culture | Internet | by Derek Jensen
The new Tysto is coming. Tysto went live on March 7, 2004. Five-and-a-half years is a long time to stick with a look. WordPress has come a long way in that time, and we use WordPress over at Zarban's House of Commentaries as a content management system. As a magazine-style blog, it should be even better.
Why a national healthcare system is a great idea
2009.08.19 Government | Politics | by Derek Jensen
Back in the late 1600s, people noticed that houses sometimes caught on fire and burned down. This sometimes even spread to nearby houses and destroyed a great deal of property and killed or injured a number of people. At the time, the best defense was forming a community bucket brigade to pass water from one person to the next to throw it on the fire. But then someone had a great idea: form a permanent organization whose job it would be to put out fires. How do you pay for such a thing? Private fire insurance. How well did that work? Well, like an HMO, it was better than nothing.
Audio commentary: Horror of Dracula
2009.08.15 Entertainment | Movies | Movie Analysis | by Andrew Cole
Saruman dons the cape and fangs for his first turn as the granddaddy of all vampires, Count Dracula, in Hammer's second big horror venture. Grand Moff Tarkin dons pimp gear to take him on as Doctor Van Helsing. Alfred the butler comes along for the ride as Arthur Holmwood. Somehow I remember to mention that Michael Gough played Alfred the butler in the Batman movies but forget to mention that Christopher Lee was in The Lord of the Rings and Peter Cushing was in Star Wars.
Audio commentary: The Curse of Frankenstein
2009.08.03 Entertainment | Movies | Movie Analysis | by Andrew Cole
The puppy is alive! Alive! Peter Cushing takes up the role of the madman Victor Frankenstein, desperately trying to pursue his life's work of discovering the secret of life while constantly being nagged by his mentor, his fiancee, and his housemaid. Christopher Lee takes up the role of the mute, murderous monster with the greatest brain in Europe. I compare this first big Hammer horror classic extensively with Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein and with the original novel. I speculate on the doctor's youth, or lack thereof, and his disinclination to redecorate for 15 years. And I wax poetic about beaver hats, cravats, and nightgowns with built-in underwire bras.
The many characters of Arnold Schwarzenegger
2009.08.02 Entertainment | Movies | Movie Analysis | by Andrew Cole
Arnold Schwarzenegger has been featured in nearly forty movies over the years. Curiously, few film makers have bothered to explain why their beefy hero has a thick Austrian accent or even changed the name of the character to one that sounds like it might be worn on the name tag of a guy with a thick Austrian accent. Let's examine the major roles.
Audio commentary: Bride of Frankenstein
2009.07.19 Entertainment | Movies | Movie Analysis | by Andrew Cole
She's alive! Alive! The inferior-yet-still-classic sequel to Frankenstein is given the full Tysto treatment. I compare this film to the 1931 original and to Young Frankenstein. I compain bitterly about Una "Jar-Jar Binks" O'Connor. I welcome Valerie Hobston's cleavage as the replacement Elizabeth and welcome back Dwight Frye as the assistant-who-is-definitely-not-the-dead-hunchback-Fritz. I complain a bit about the presence of Doctor Pretorius and compare him to Doctor Waldman of the first film. And I finally get around to mentioning Jack Pierce, the legendary make-up effects artist.
Audio commentary: Frankenstein
2009.07.12 Entertainment | Movies | Movie Analysis | by Andrew Cole
It's alive! It's alive! It's the horror super-classic that introduced the world to Frankenstein's monster as we know it today. I compare it (sort of) to the novel and (sort of) to Young Frankenstein, as well as to Dracula, which I've also done a commentary for. I give a lot of background and talk about the economy of story-telling that lasts until the film slows to a crawl with talky drawing room scenes. I sympathize with Fritz and then blame him for the whole tragedy. I sympathize with the monster and explain that I want my misunderstood monsters to act with criminal negligence. I point out plot holes, such as how a brain in a jar could be better than the brain of a fresh corpse with a broken neck and how Maria's father knew she was murdered. I pan James Whale and praise Karloff as one of the greatest of all cinema heavies and one of the nicest men you'd ever hope to meet.
The origin of rock and roll
2009.05.30 Entertainment | Music | by Andrew Cole
What was the origin of rock and roll? Scholars (and by scholars I mean stoner music majors) have debated it for centuries, at least as far back as 1750, when Methius Palmer observed: "The backbeat in the Negro jump music causes one's body to rock, but the rhythm in the Negro spiritual causes one's body to roll. This, say I, is the original 'rock and roll' and not, as some have claimed, the polka." Indeed. But what exactly was the origin of rock and roll?
2009.05.03 Government | Politics | by Derek Jensen
Barack Obama gets an A- for his first 100 days as president on pretty much every issue. His cabinet appointments have been clumsy, and his handling of the stimulus package unnecessarily watered down good economics with bad to satisfy Republicans who then voted against it anyway. But for the most part, he has done an excellent job of rehabilitatiing the United States on the world stage and handling the break down of the economy. The test he has failed was on the subject of torture.
“Mack the Knife” and 5 other famous songs completely different from the originals
2009.04.29 Entertainment | Music | by Andrew Cole
It takes guts to find a song you like and change it to make it your own. And it takes brains and a real feel for music to find a song you don't like and realize it has potential if it were done differently. "Mack the Knife" is one of the great songs recycled from lesser songs. These aren't covers, tho—they're rearrangements and extreme rearrangements at that. A cover just remakes the song with the same arrangement and different vocalist and/or instrumentation. A rearrangement fundamentally changes the song's rhythm, tempo, chord structure, and/or lyrics.
Can clean energy compete?
2009.04.22 Business | Energy | by Derek Jensen
I've been reading a lot lately about alternative energy, and I find that some people have a bizarre view of it. They think that clean energy technology should have to compete with traditional energy in the free market. They decry subsidies, variability, and higher prices because those things are anti-competitive. That's wrong-headed, and here's why.
Panthers, and 5 other real animals that don’t exist
2009.03.31 Culture | Language | by Roland Grant
It isn't just mythical animals that have difficulty being properly identified. Some perfectly ordinary animals you might pass everyday on your way to work might just not exist. It's easy to imagine one group of people giving an animal a good name and another group of people hundreds or thousands of miles away encountering the very same animal and accidentally giving it a different name. Conveniently, these sorts of mistakes are cleared up by scientists who give the animal an entirely different name in a dead language.
Changing the game of electric vehicles
2009.03.23 Business | Cars | by Derek Jensen
There is a revolution afoot for electric vehicles. Check that. There is a revolution afoot for passenger vehicles. If the technology plays out as it promises to over the next few years, there will be a paradigm shift in the automotive world not seen since the invention of the electric starter motor. How fitting, actually.
Unicorns, and 5 other mythical animals that really exist
2009.03.17 Culture | Language | by Roland Grant
Being a Medieval zoologist was tough, and documenting exotic animals from far-off lands was particularly difficult given the limited availability of freezers and photographs at the time. Most such information came north from the Mediterranean, generally from Rome and often ultimately from Greece and Egypt.
Good tales grow taller as they travel, and tales of great African animals grew and morphed as they went to northern Europe. And Europeans had no problem making up animals altogether, usually from parts of other animals. But some of those mythical animals were real, albeit in ways that Medieval readers would not have recognized.
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