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Then There's a Pair of Us

Posted by Ogged
on 06.06.03

Ted Barlow (who just popped into the comments about Sense and Sensibility while I was writing this post--hello, Ted), in the course of a longer post about the movie Philadelphia, writes of two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks.

You put Tom Hanks in a movie, you might as well give him a white hat, an angelic choir, and an APPLAUSE sign behind him. There's just no ambiguity about the guy. (His multifaceted portrayal of Rick Gassko in Bachelor Party shows a complicated side that we haven't seen recently.) ... when I see Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, or Anthony Hopkins in Shadowlands, or Jim Broadbent in Topsy Turvy, I sit in awe of the seemingly bottomless depth of the characters on the screen. When I watch Tom Hanks mutter "I.... am.... love!", I think, "I could do better than that."

Amen. I've long had a "won't see a Tom Hanks movie" policy (violations: Apollo 13, when some kids I was babysitting wanted to see it; Saving Private Ryan, for which I have no excuse). Good actors act. Tom Hanks acts like an actor acting. Nevermind the APPLAUSE sign, you could just hold up a card in front of Hanks' face (SADNESS; RIGHTEOUS ANGER; MILD AMUSEMENT) and convey the same emotional sophistication.

So why does Hanks win awards? Here's a thought (a self-congratulatory one to be sure, but aren't they all?): because Hanks' problem is very specific, he has unrealistic facial expressions and a lot of people can't see that. If you haven't read this Malcolm Gladwell article about reading facial expressions, you really must. It's about the work of Paul Ekman, who has set out to map the emotions we show with our expressions. Among his findings is that most people don't know how to read faces. Others do.

Paul Ekman got his start in the face-reading business because of a man named Silvan Tomkins, and Silvan Tomkins may have been the best face reader there ever was...the author of "Affect, Imagery, Consciousness," a four-volume work so dense that its readers were evenly divided between those who understood it and thought it was brilliant and those who did not understand it and thought it was brilliant...Tomkins, it was said, could walk into a post office, go over to the "Wanted" posters, and, just by looking at mug shots, tell you what crimes the various fugitives had committed...Ekman had just tracked down a hundred thousand feet of film that had been shot by the virologist Carleton Gajdusek in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea. Some of the footage was of a tribe called the South Fore, who were a peaceful and friendly people. The rest was of the Kukukuku, who were hostile and murderous and who had a homosexual ritual where pre-adolescent boys were required to serve as courtesans for the male elders of the tribe...Ekman had told Tomkins nothing about the tribes involved; all identifying context had been edited out. Tomkins looked on intently, peering through his glasses. At the end, he went up to the screen and pointed to the faces of the South Fore. "These are a sweet, gentle people, very indulgent, very peaceful," he said. Then he pointed to the faces of the Kukukuku. "This other group is violent, and there is lots of evidence to suggest homosexuality." Even today, a third of a century later, Ekman cannot get over what Tomkins did. "My God! I vividly remember saying, "Silvan, how on earth are you doing that?' " Ekman recalls. "And he went up to the screen and, while we played the film backward, in slow motion, he pointed out the particular bulges and wrinkles in the face that he was using to make his judgment. That's when I realized, "I've got to unpack the face.' It was a gold mine of information that everyone had ignored. This guy could see it, and if he could see it, maybe everyone else could, too."

I'm very curious whether Ted has a reputation among his friends for being emotionally perceptive. It could be Hanks is portraying characters with a degree of verisimilitude that, for a lot of people, counts as authentic while, for others, it's a poor imitation. The one problem I have with making this argument is the question, does anyone actually believe that Hanks is a good actor?


 

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Who Knew What?

Posted by Ogged
on 06.06.03
This report is sure to make waves. It begins
A leaked US intelligence report has cast fresh doubt on the coalition claims that Iraq had banned weapons which served as justification for going to war.
The secret September 2002 Pentagon intelligence report concluded that there was "no reliable information" that Iraq had biological or chemical weapons.
It is believed the report was widely circulated in the Bush administration at a time when senior officials were putting the case for military action.

 

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Was it the "abstract" Part?

Posted by Ogged
on 06.06.03

The political philosophy pick-up line contest winners have been announced. Inexplicably, my entry didn't win. (Considering there were about 10 winners, that hurts.) Luckily, I still crack myself up.


 

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Report: Majority Must Approve Democracy

Posted by Ogged
on 06.06.03
We haven't heard from frequent commenter Magik Johnson, Defender of All That is Wrong with America, in a while, so I have to take this opportunity to note that Jack Balkin has a post asking "Blair is in trouble, why isn't Bush?" Balkin concludes
In short, I would suggest that the major reason why Blair is in more hot water right now for deceiving the public about why Britain went to war is that the democratic process is simply working better in Britain right now than it is in the United States.
I don't have a good answer to why the Left has been so limp, but my most generous read is what I'll call the Save Your Bullets theory. Start criticizing Bush too long before the election and in the last few months, when the Bushies begin their compressed, September to November campaign, all the Democrats' charges will sound like old news and they'll be left with nothing to stop Bush's momentum. A guy can hope, can't he?

 

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Sense and Insensitivity

Posted by Ogged
on 06.06.03

I finally consented to watch Sense and Sensibility a couple days ago and I have to say, chick flicks are brutal. Seeing baddies mowed down with a machine-gun is one thing, but when Colonel Brandon quietly departs after realizing Willoughby is favored, good lord, I could barely stand to watch. In fact, I couldn't stand to watch. I yelled to turn the damn thing off, so we watched the rest the next day when I had gotten over seeing the poor guy's heart stomped.

So what's the deal? I'll avoid half-baked theories of gender roles and aesthetics, but I wonder how much guys don't like chick flicks, not because they find them silly, but because they're emotionally wrenching and guys don't have an acceptable way (other than pretending to find them silly) to publicly react (did I just unavoid? sorry). Why don't guys want to see "Sleepless in Seattle?" Because we can't handle it!

TANGENTIAL NOTE: Did you know that in "real life," Greg Wise (aka Willoughby) is the father of Emma Thompson's child?


 

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More RSS

Posted by Ogged
on 06.05.03

Just upgraded to MT 2.64 and the XML feed now also has full posts with links and formatting. But if you're an aggregator reader, don't forget to stop by with a comment occasionally!


 

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See It When I Believe It

Posted by Ogged
on 06.05.03

You say mermaid, I think Daryl Hannah; but imagine that you believe mermaids are real and scary. Then you might think of something like this. Amazing.


 

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Brotherhood of Man

Posted by Ogged
on 06.05.03

This is meant to be funny, but seriously, people really are the same everywhere. (via IdleType)


 

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Ghosts in the Machine

Posted by Ogged
on 06.05.03

Remember the game Pong? You'll enjoy this.


 

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What Next?

Posted by Ogged
on 06.05.03
One gets the sense that there's some reticence to comment on the latest Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for fear of appearing hopeful. But at last the issue is being defined properly: not Israelis vs. Palestinians, but Israelis and Palestinians vs. their indigenous extremists. Can Abu Mazen control Hamas (or will Arafat reassert himself)? (via Oxblog) Can Sharon survive a confrontation with the settlers (will his right-wing coalition fall apart, only to have Labour rejoin)? These will be the key questions. The most balanced and sane analysis of the situation I've found anywhere is this online Q&A with Haaretz columnist Akiva Eldar.

 

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Nothing Became His Tenure...

Posted by Ogged
on 06.05.03
Of course you've heard that Howell Raines has resigned from the NY Times. (And of course you remember that your friendly neighborhood blogger didn't mess around with some namby-pamby "percent out the door" graphic when he predicted Howell was done.) That's the thing about bullying Southern autocrats, they have enough pride not to stick around where they're not wanted. Good for Raines, best for the paper.

 

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A Gracious Oops

Posted by Ogged
on 06.05.03
Unlike US papers' corrections, which are often mystifying, the Guardian has run a very clear correction to their story that Paul Wolfowitz said the war in Iraq was all about oil. (update via Instapundit) That's the same story I criticized here yesterday and that the blogosphere was all over. Unfortunately, when something so inflammatory is published, even a prominent correction can't undo the damage.

 

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Who are we kidding?

Posted by Unf
on 06.04.03

Ogged suggests I take up the slack given that he actually has to work at work. What blog has he been contributing to over these last few months? What possible delusion could cause him to think I would ever be able to pick up the slack? Unless, of course, you all really are interested in hearing about the difficulties of closing a leveraged acquisition. If so, I'm prepared to post like a madman.


 

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RSS Feeds

Posted by Ogged
on 06.04.03

If you're using a news aggregator to read the site, the RDF feed now includes full posts, with formatting and links.


 

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WMD

Posted by Ogged
on 06.04.03

Let's be clear about something: the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is important not because their absence means the war was unjustified, but because the primary stated justfication for the war may have been false. And, if it was false, we should know whether that was due to deception or incompetence.


 

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What Have We Learned?

Posted by Ogged
on 06.04.03

The next Wolfowitz tempest is approaching. Based on this story in Die Welt, the Guardian is headlining "Wolfowitz: Iraq war was about oil." To which the Daily Kos says "Assumming the report is accurate, Wolfy has undercut the "pretend" reason for war (WMDs) and admitted the real reason (oil), all in a single week. 2-1 Wolfowitz is gone by the end of the month." I can't find a transcript yet, but Chris L in Kos's comments links to this story, that puts in the quote in a rather different and benign context.

The difference between North Korea and Iraq, Wolfowitz said, is that the United States could not use economic pressure to strangle Hussein's regime "because the country floats on a sea of oil." North Korea, by comparison, is near economic collapse, and that offers "a major point of leverage," he said.

Based on what happened last week, let's just wait for the transcript before we go off the deep end.

UPDATE: Instapundit has the goods.

UPDATE II: Here's the transcript and this is the relevant part. Misconstrued again. Jesus.

Look, the primarily [sic] difference -- to put it a little too simply -- between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq. The problems in both cases have some similarities but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances which are very different.

 

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Bah!

Posted by Ogged
on 06.04.03

Light blogging today as, once again, I'm being forced to work at work. I'm sure Unf will take up the slack...


 

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Software

Posted by Ogged
on 06.03.03

I posted about these back before, umm, anyone was actually reading the site, but if you're an Internet Explorer user, MyIE is a great tool and, if you aren't ready to make the plunge into LaTeX, but want to get away from MS Office, OpenOffice is very nice, free, compatible with Office, and will work on any major OS.


 

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Stop, Listen...

Posted by Ogged
on 06.03.03

Frederick Turner, linked approvingly by Instapundit, claims that "the cultural revolution of the '60s had begun an attempt to reinstitute a class system" in the US. There's a lot to say in response to this, but I'll make just a few points.

It's entirely normal for a "socio-economic" class of people to hold a particular set of political views and for there to be a dynamic of inclusion and exclusion based partly on those views. That's what Turner describes and insofar as "left-liberals" have become a comfortable class unwilling to seriously examine their own assumptions, Turner makes a helpful point. But his article is simply assertorial.

Over the years all the real arguments for the left-liberal position, involving evidence and rational deliberation, have been exploded one by one.

What does this mean? What arguments? How have they been "exploded?" Turner doesn't say. But that doesn't stop him from going on.

Thus rational discussion itself has become a sign of bad taste, of a pugnacious Appalachian kind of insensitivity, with a hint of a possible tendency to tobacco chewing, gun racks, talk radio, pickup trucks, wife-beaters and incest. [emphasis mine]

What is that "thus" doing? What mountains of imputed motives are squeezed into that word? And how is it that the legacy of the 60's, with its particularly Jewish disputatiousness, has become what has traditionally been identified in America with WASPs? And if Turner is correct that such a change has occurred, isn't the WASPing of the Jews our clue that what we're seeing is the becoming complacent of a new affluent class that has nothing to do with their beliefs?

Turner goes on to throw a few more bombs.

...school vouchers are opposed in the teeth of the urban poor that want them, because decent education might help put an end to the urban poor who vote for upper crust leaders.

That's unserious; my generosity has its limits. The question for Turner is the question with which he finishes his piece, "what is going on here?" Is he criticizing the left for its liberal beliefs? Is he criticizing liberals for becoming rich and illiberal? Is he saying illiberality is part of liberalism? That those who fight for the oppressed feel the need to maintain an oppressed class for whom they can fight? He says (something like) all of these. He argues for none of them.


 

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Dept. of Misleading Headlines

Posted by Ogged
on 06.03.03

Why not just "Man Dies After Being Born?" (via Drudge)


 

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Stuff and stuff

Posted by Unf
on 06.02.03

I'm still working on my magnum opus re media consolidation, private property and all that other good stuff. Until its posted, I highly recommend this post from one of my favorite bloggers in the State of California.

As for my incredulousness about Ogged's law enforcement buddies, I didn't realize I was making a meaningful statement about class in America. I'm just trying to keep tabs on you, Ogged.


 

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Glory!

Posted by Unf
on 06.02.03

Are you aware that This American Life is one of the best radio programs going these days? If you're not, then you should definitely start listening to NPR (yes, I know, I don't like public subsidies for NPR and PBS - but that doesn't stop me from free riding on the taxes and pledges of others) and get with the program. I saw TAL live in Chicago this past weekend. It was definitely one of the best theater-type experiences I have ever attended. The theme was Loss. So they had Jonathan Goldstein do a piece on losing one's virginity (very funny, but also very touching), Ira Glass did a very interesting and moving interview with a guy obsessed with Louis Sullivan buildings in Chicago and a guy named Davy Rothbart read selections from Found Magazine, which specializes in publishing pieces of paper with interesting messages found on the streets.

But the highlight of the show was, without question, Sarah Vowell doing a piece on the lost history of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. There was American history, there was music, there was communal singing. But most of all there was the incomparable Sarah Vowell. Not that I wasn't in love with her beforehand. But I'm all out gaga now. Is stalking really such a bad thing, after all?

The show airs this weekend on your local NPR affiliate - if you listen real hard, you can hear the police restrain me as I try to storm the stage.


 

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Anonymous Blogging

Posted by Ogged
on 06.02.03

With an anonymous blog, I expected Unf and I to be able to let loose and not feel constrained by quite so many of the rules of propriety and reputation. I imagined crafting a provocative alter-ego, answered by the zany Unf. Turns out, there's no such thing as anonymity: I have Ogged's reputation to consider. Sometimes, when I'm in the mood to rant or shock, I find myself thinking, "but that's not the kind of blog we run." The constraints are more noticeable since we've only changed our names, not our point of view, but even if we were pretending to be something quite different from what we are now, we would run into issues of expectations and community. I don't think there's a neat moral to be drawn. We are released from much of our responsibility to our "good names:" we won't be fired or harassed because of anything we write here; but I also feel an unexpected responsibility to this "Ogged."


 

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Find and Seek

Posted by Ogged
on 06.02.03

The Apostropher writes about proponents of the "Bible Code:" a theory that there are decipherable numerical patterns in the Bible that can be used to predict the future. I've heard about this before, but no one else thought to add,

remember: there are no laws preventing these people from owning forks, much to the dismay of their foreheads.

The rest of the blog is good too.


 

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Speak, Duck

Posted by Ogged
on 06.02.03

Josh Chafetz at the OxBlog is having a contest for "worst political philosophy/political theory pickup lines." Bloggers are either taking that "worst" to heart or just showing why bloggers blog as opposed to, well, you know. So far I see entries from Kevin (most likely to be slapped) Drum, Kieran (wake me when you're done) Healy, and James (win the contest, forget the girl) Joyner. I enter thus:

"Look, this probably sounds a little abstract, but ten minutes with the invisible hand and I'll have you standing on your head."


 

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Ping-Pong

Posted by Ogged
on 06.02.03

Surely you've had the conversation in which one of you says, "have you seen some of those Chinese guys playing ping-pong? They're amazing." These are those guys (video). (this link, and the previous post's, via Attu, compiler of wackiness)


 

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Font Color

Posted by Ogged
on 06.02.03

Is it hard to see the links in the posts? Should I change the color?


 

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