Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought - 2/29/08

Welcome to a special Leap Day edition of Friday's Food for Thought here at Hobson's. Random fact: The average American will experience fewer than 20 leap days in their life. This day is better than a holiday, because it only comes once every four years and is used to help make up for the inaccuracy of humanity's timekeeping system! Feel free to celebrate the day by pondering the briefness of human existence and the inability of humanity to accurately quantify the world in which we live. Let's kick off the festivities!

We'll begin with a brief look at the news today.

From WCBSTV: Students Punished After Buying Lunch With Pennies.

"29 N.J. Eighth-Graders Get 2 Days Detention After Forking Over Nearly 6000 Coins."

These students were given detention for holding up the lunch line when they each payed for their $2 lunch in pennies. Legal U.S. tender = against school policy.

Next we'll use a quote from good old Ben Franklin. I'm not sure if this ever appeared in Poor Richard's, but it is very fitting for the image of American culture that is thrust upon us by many major media outlets today.

A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.

And finally, everyone has seen the number one Youtube video of all time, Evolution of Dance. We know it, we love it; it's much better than the music video of some mopey punk-rock group being on the top. Some man (because no sane woman would do this) has made a parody of Evolution of Dance in which the comedian/dancer is replaced with an animated Optimus Prime.

How ridiculous was that? Too ridiculous. Have a great Leap Day!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Help one of our friends win a $2,000 scholarship

David Manes, a junior at Harding University and one of the authors of Political Cartel, is in a competition for a $2,000 student political blogger scholarship. He is in the finals, one of the top three bloggers in the competition.

Now, the public will decide who gets the scholarship. All you have to do to help is just go to the website and vote for David. It will take just a minute of your time, and you'll strike a blow for small school in near the foothills of the Ozarks everywhere.

Follow the white rabbit to vote.

Side note: I have not been able to vote on Harding's campus, and we think it is because of IP address being the same or something like that. If you're at Harding and don't have a box to check and a button labeled "Submit" to hit, then you should try again off campus, say, over spring break or something.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guest Blogger: Passive Aggressive

By Kelsey Moon

I’m not a very confrontational person. If I had my way everyone would get along and everything would always be sunshine and flowers. Unfortunately things don’t usually work out that way, but I have a hard time letting people know when something they’re doing is bothering me. In such cases I am frequently tempted to resort to that paragon of passive aggression: The Note.

Just a quick jot on a sticky pad or a piece of notebook paper stuck to the fridge, filled with all the biting sarcasm you can’t bring yourself to express to the recipient’s face, perhaps even adroitly hidden under a layer of innocent sweetness. It’s the perfect way to communicate frustration, except for one problem. They usually don’t go over very well. In fact, the passive-aggressive note almost always makes the person at whom it is directed even less inclined to do whatever it is you want them to do.

I have realized this and do my best to avoid writing them, no matter how tempting it may be. However, there are apparently plenty of people who embrace the temptation open-armed, because there is a website entirely devoted to documenting such zingers left by frustrated people around the office, the apartment, or any other shared space. The voyeuristic feeling I get while browsing Passive Aggressive reminds me a bit of PostSecret or Found, but who doesn’t delight in laughing at other people’s problems?

Some of the notes submitted are intentionally amusing, some are unintentionally hilarious, and others are just strange, as in the case of a girl who came home to find her roommate had employed the blitzkrieg approach and had left 11 nasty (and grammatically baffling) notes around their apartment demanding that she clean up her "dirty."

What a fantastic site. It is a perfect perfect place for reveling in other people’s tactlessness while providing an outlet for one’s own uncivil desires. So now I can both indulge my passive-aggressive urges and keep my friendships!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar Update - "No Country for Old Men" vs. "There Will Be Blood"

Well, the 80th Annual Academy Awards have come and gone, and I thought I would just make a small post in regards to my previous predictions concerning "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood."

These two movies were competing in 6 categories. I was right in 4 of my 6 predictions, but as I said in the original post, I hadn't seen most of the others, so I was just predicting between those two movies, so I don't know if I was right or not in regards to which movie would beat the other. So I'll weasel out of it by saying I was right four times, and two times I don't know.

Category: Achievement in Cinematography
I predicted a hands-down win for "TWBB," even over those movies I hadn't seen, and I was correct.

Category: Achievement in Directing
I said that the Coen brothers would take this for "No Country," and I was right.

Category: Achievement in Film Editing
I had no idea what went into this (and still don't), so I predicted "TWBB" would come out on top. Sadly, I was completely off on that one. "The Borne Ultimatum" took the Oscar in this category.

Category: Achievement in Sound Editing
My other failure at clairvoyance, "The Borne Ultimatum" took this category as well. I predicted "TWBB."

Category: Adapted Screenplay
Another victory for me, with "No Country" winning in this category.

Category: Best Motion Picture of the Year
The big one. This was another one I made a blanket statement about who would win, even though I hadn't seen the other 3 movies nominated. I predicted "No Country," and it took it.

My one other prediction, for Best Actor, was correct as well, with Daniel Day-Lewis taking it for his role as oil-man Daniel Plainview in "TWBB." "No Country" also won one of its categories in which it was not competing against "TWBB." Javier Bardem took Best Supporting Actor for his role in "No Country." A complete list of the winners can be found here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Board Game Review - Intrigue

Game Summary (from rule book): "You begin the game with a palace (encompassing 4 areas) and 8 scholars in your color. You send your scholars to foreign palaces and try to place them in high-salary positions. In order to successfully apply for positions at other palaces (and try to ensure a higher income), you must convince the palace owner of your scholar's excellent qualities. Competition for each position is fierce, and even a hired scholar can be replaced. Everything is allowed -- a little bribe under the table, promises, threats, persuasiveness, and flattery -- and every promise can be broken.

You make money in 2 ways during the game. You collect wages from all of your scholars employed in other players' palaces. You also make money from the bribes that you collect every time someone applies for a position in your palace.

The player with the most money -- collected by whatever means possible -- after 5 rounds wins the game!"

Intrigue is, well, interesting, to say the least. Once you get the game play down, it is very simple. There are only three things to do during your turn: collect the salary for your scholars working in other players' palaces, which is over in a few seconds; decide who to hire in your palace, which is where you'll spend most of your time; and send two of your own scholars to any of the other players' palaces.

The second action is where things get interesting. After people apply to your palace, you get to decide how much they get payed, and which player's scholars get hired when two are vying for the same position. To help you decide, those applying grease the wheels with a little cash, as well as try to wheel and deal to convince you that their scholar should be hired, and at a good pay. But the catch is, it doesn't matter what deals you make or bribes you take: nothing's permanent and every promise can be broken. This creates some very tense moments in the game.

I played with fellow Hobsonian Drew, his girlfriend Kelsey and her roommate, Kat. This, I felt initially, put me at a slight disadvantage, because Drew and Kelsey might work together, and the same might hold true for Kelsey and Kat. However, as I was delighted to discover, the game was so good at creating bad vibes between players that I needn't have worried about pre-game alliances. All it takes is one deal going south for you after you've just forked out for a hefty bribe to realize all bets are off in Intrigue. Thankfully, we all went into the game knowing that's what it was, a game, so there was no lasting harm, even after all of us were back-stabbed by those we trusted. Perhaps even because of it: everyone betrayed everyone else, so there were no hard feelings.

The game was well balanced throughout, and even at the end, when we were only going to get one or two more payouts from our scholars' jobs, it was still very competitive in terms of who would be hired and who banished to the island, although the bribes were a bit smaller. There were all sorts of deals, which were then completely ignored once one person realized the other would be unable to do anything in retribution. It was also interesting to see how being betrayed (or betraying) didn't really affect how you interacted with each other later. If you needed to make a deal to get one of your scholars into a high-paying spot, you made it, even if you had just had the rug pulled from under you last turn. The game is not about trust, but about manipulation, and as such, I enjoyed it very much (even though I lost).

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought - 2/22/08

It's time for another Friday's Food for Thought! Sorry to get it up so late, but here it is.


"We grow up hearing that trumpeters blew down the walls of Jericho, that Gabriel's trumpet announces the will of God, and that the largest and hippest of all animals, the elephant, has a trunk mostly (we think) for trumpeting. These grandiose images shape the classic trumpet persona: brash, impetuous, cocky, cool, in command. Anyone who has ever played in a band knows that if the conductor stops rehearsal because a fight breaks out, if somebody takes your girlfriend, if a tasteless practical joke is pulled, if someone challenges every executive decision no matter how trivial, it's got to be a trumpet player. That's just how we are."
- Wynton Marsalis

News Story: Google sponsors new race to the moon
I heard about this a while back, but now's as good a time as any to post it since there's a recent story about it. Google is sponsoring the Google Lunar X Prize, which has a $30 million prize for the first two teams to put a robotic rover on the moon that can transmit data and images to Earth. 10 teams have announced their entry into the competition.

The first X Prize was the Ansari X Prize, which was won by a team led by Burt Rutan (who I profiled a couple of weeks ago). To win the $10 million prize, Rutan's team had to put their privately-funded manned spacecraft, SpaceShipOne, into space twice in two weeks. There are a couple other other X Prizes now: the Archon X Prize for Genomics, in which scientists must sequence the genomes of 100 people in 10 days to win $10 million, and the Automotive X Prize, which is in development but will deal with "designing viable, clean and super-efficient cars that people want to buy."

Video: To show you all how I sometimes feel while editing stories for Harding University's newspaper, the Bison, here is "The Punctuation Police," courtesy of Picnicface.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Steven Spielberg's Video Game

Good ole' Steven Spielberg. We've learned so much about life through watching his movies. Such as never ever go into water above your knees because monstrous sharks are always lurking just a little outside of your vision. We also learned that aliens are adorable and should be kept in closets and protected from the all-seeing eye of an uncaring national government. Also, Nazis make the perfect bad guys.

One could make the case that Steven Spielberg knows a lot about what makes a good movie. He's been nominated twelve times for Academy Awards and has won three of those times. Not only has he racked up the nominations, but he has done it across four decades: from Best Director for Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977 to Best Producer for Letters from Iwo Jima in 2006. This man literally has a lifetime of experience in story-telling through cinema under his belt.

But now, the great film director has decided to try something new. It was announced some months ago that Steven Spielberg had contracted with one of the largest publishers of video games in the world, Electronic Arts, to direct two video games to be published under their label. One was to be a dramatic, narrative-driven game for the Microsoft XBox 360 and the Sony Playstation 3, and the other was to be a physics-based puzzle game for the Nintendo Wii. Few details were given, and much speculation abounded.

Could Spielberg make not one, but two great games that live up to his legacy as a director? Would he be able to direct a game that had very little narrative focus? Would EA shoehorn him into a budget and time frame that were impossible to accomplish like they have done for other developers? Would his games wind up looking like one of the many other craptastic games based on movie narratives?

The essential question derived from all of this is: Does Spielberg's directorial genius translate from the medium of moving pictures and narration to the medium of interaction, competition, and user-creativity?

I will admit, I was highly skeptical about this question for quite some time. No knocking Spielberg, but game design is hard work that few people can do with any success. However, now you can be the judge for yourself as to Spielberg's talent and ingenuity. Below is the very first video for his Wii game. It was released recently with little other information than its title: Boom Blox.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, so feel free to leave it in the comments. I believe that the video shows great ingenuity, and that Spielberg will prove he has a medium-transcending eye for design. If the game is released at a lower-than-normal price point, it has the potential to tear through the market as a must-have casual game.

Little is known of the progress of Spielberg's other game, but I'm feeling much less skeptical about both of them after viewing this video. Who knows, maybe he will even go the extra mile in his other game and throw in some Nazis!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Online Game - Fulfillment

I recently Stumbled Upon this little game from The Sect of Homokaasu called Fulfillment. Basically, it's a Tetris-like game of filling a space with uniquely-shaped blocks. There are many difference from Tetris, however, that make this game tougher and fairly addicting. In the first place, the blocks in Fulfillment don't drop from the top of the screen. They sit on the side and you must drag them onto the board within a certain amount of time. You also cannot rotate them. The pieces you have are the ones you have to fit in. The game starts with a 3x3 square and 3 pieces to fit in. The first level is extremely easy, sometimes even having simply three 3x1 lines that you drag onto the board. As you beat each level, the dimensions of the box and the number of pieces you have increase by 1. So the second level is a 4x4 square with 4 pieces. The pieces also start increasingly being more complex than normal Tetris pieces, becoming longer or having weird chunks missing.

I have only reached level 8. The game's difficultly starts ramping up fairly quickly as you get so many pieces to manipulate. Many times all you need to do is just be able to look at so many pieces and figure out how they fit then get them on the board in time, but at other times you will have to place pieces and continually be adjusting and readjusting them to fit them all. Each game only takes a few minutes, because once the game starts, it doesn't stop until you lose.

Fulfillment's taken up a good little bit of my free time in the past couple of weeks, so be careful if you start playing. Another thing it shares with Tetris is how you want to start a new game as soon as you lose one.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought - 2/15/08

Well, you've arrived just in time for another delicious round of mind-morsels. I take only partial credit for the following due to the impairment of my congnitive functions by way of what the Americans call "drugs." I've spent the last three days in my bed watching Heroes, meanwhile being under the effects of multiple medications intended to aid me in conquering the common cold. So far, all I've gotten accomplished is twelve episodes of Heroes, but if you're going to be sick that's not a poor choice of how to spend the day.


A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

Indeed, this quote might summarize the challenge of blogging.

West Virginia Radio Station Offers Free Valentine's Day Divorce For One Unhappy Couple

Big Train--Do You Speak English?

Hopefully nothing to terribly deep. Happy Friday to all.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another University Shooting

A man shot with a shotgun and injured at least 17 people (the ABC News story says 19 people, including the gunman) and then took his own life at Northern Illinois University around 3:20 p.m. Central time.

A man described by witnesses as being thin, white, dressed in black and wearing a stocking cap walked into a lecture hall began shooting. There were no fatalities -- other than the gunman -- but three students are in critical conditions (AP story says four).

There is not yet information on who the shooter was or why he did this.

From the Washington Post.

Five people -- four victims and the gunman -- were killed (3 victims and the gunman at the scene; two later in hospitals). 22 people were shot in total. He had a shotgun and two handguns, and he came out from behind a screen in the classroom and started firing. The gunman was apparently a former NIU student who graduated in spring 2007 and had no criminal record. Police still have no motive.

From CBS2Chicago (Story posted at 9:13 p.m. Central)

A New York Times story has slightly more detail (some of which are slightly different than the other stories), but no new information than in the other stories.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Writers' Strike Finally Over

After a 100 day walk-out, the writers of the Writer's Guild of America voted on Tuesday to go back to work. 92.5 percent of the 3,775 voting writers chose to end the strike after many talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. On Sunday, a tentative three-year agreement was approved by the governing board of the guild, which led to the vote to end the strike. Part of the agreement deals with giving the guild a greater profit from the digital distribution of television shows and other entertainment written by its members.

The producer's alliance estimated that the strike cost about $285 million in lost wages to the guild members and $500 million to other film unions.

Via the New York Times.

My thoughts: I had heard rumors that the strike could be ended by yesterday (Monday), and I was disappointed when it wasn't. I realize why they waited, however: today was the 100th day of the strike. Everyone likes nice big round numbers. I'm just glad it's finally over, which means I can start enjoying The Office and Smallville once again, and LOST will run for more than 8 episodes.

I just found this article that outlines which shows seem to be coming back and which are canceled after being off the air for so long. Thankfully, The Office has plans for about 8 new episodes for April and May. Some other shows, like Cavemen, the sitcom spawned from the Geico comercials, and Big Shots are dead, however.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Board Game Review - The Settlers of Catan

I’ve always been a fan of the classic board games: Risk, Monopoly, Scrabble and even some other not-so-rare ones you might have played but may not have, like Boggle and Stratego. I’ve also been known to partake in that game of kings, Chess, every once in a while. After I came to Harding University, I was introduced to such gems as Apples to Apples and was able to indulge my passion for party games that take more people than I normally had around to play with, like Catch Phrase and Scattegories.

But those were the games I stuck with, the old stand-bys. It was not until recently that I was exposed to some of the games off the beaten path. Last summer, my fellow Hobson's Buffet author Drew Spickes bought a couple games of the type you can only get from a specialty store or the Internet, and one in particular that we played all the time and I ended up buying for myself: The Settlers of Catan.

In The Settlers of Catan, each of the four players’ goal is to establish a presence on an island abundant in natural resources by building roads and settlements and controlling ports on the coast, while competing with other players for best position and trying to avoid a thief that will steal your resources. The premise sounds fairly basic, but there are a few things that make this one of the best games I’ve ever played, and that made it good enough to receive numerous awards from different publications and organizations.

The first thing you notice when you begin to play Settlers is the board. It is not a traditional board that you just set down and place pieces on: it is made out of 37 hexagonal cardboard pieces, which you set up in a random position every game. This makes the board, and thus the game, different every time you play, which keeps things interesting, even when playing more than once in one sitting.

Another aspect is the social interaction. You could play the game all for yourself, mercilessly boxing people in, cutting them off from the resources they need and trying to rip them off, but it will come back to haunt you in the end. When you develop ill will in the game, you risk having the other players turn against you and send the thief in your direction or refuse to trade with you, even if it might be in their interest to work with you. Trust me; I know. I’m a very competitive person, and I have to make sure that my competitive streak doesn’t take over too much when I play Settlers or I wind up being stuck, unable to move towards my goals because I can’t get the resources I need and looking at three unsympathetic faces.

While the objectives and game play remain pretty much the same every time you play The Settlers of Catan, the player interaction and board set up always make for an interesting, unique game. One of the best things about it is that even if you reach a point in a game where you know you can’t win, you can still have fun by picking a way of playing that makes things either more difficult or easier for the other players, or just changes the game entirely. One player can completely change the outcome of any game, even if they can’t in a way that gives them a victory.

For even more variety, you can buy expansions to the game. While they cost almost as much as the original game itself, they provide a lot more depth to the game, like adding other islands and pirates or letting you build cities and create knights. There are several other smaller expansions that cost a lot less, but can now only be found on eBay or the like, of which I bought several. My favorite smaller expansion adds in fish that you can harvest from the sea and then spend to get special benefits. Whatever way you want to play, expansions make a good way to change up an already expansive and fun game.

The Settlers of Catan is a wonderful addition to any board gamer’s collection, whether you only play games at family gatherings during Christmas and Thanksgiving or you play every weekend and even some nights in the dorm. Many people I've introduced it to have ended up buying it for themselves: my parents bought it since I take my game to school with me, and two friends each got it for their respective families. It finds the perfect balance of being easy to learn, yet complex enough to keep you interested the hundredth time you play, and with each game taking only about 45 minutes to an hour, it’s perfect for when you have a little time to kill and aren’t in the mood to try to take over the world or manipulate the real estate market. All you have to face in The Settlers of Catan is the deceptively simple task of managing a little island. How hard could that be?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought - 2/8/08

This edition of Friday's Food for Thought is brought to you by caffeine. I wouldn't have made it through this week alive without this wonderful little drug. And now for the amazing, the weird, and the just plain interesting!

First, from the San Francisco Chronicle:

British Stores Halt 'Lolita' Beds

"Woolworths stores in Britain have stopped selling "Lolita" beds for young girls after a parents' organization complained because of the name's association with the famous novel about a pedophile."

Second, a quote in honor of Super Tuesday happening this week in the US political scene:

In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet."
- Winston Churchill

Spoken like a true politician!

Last, but certainly not least, an incredibly interesting video! This video, entitled "The 1K Project II", it is a video collage of 1000 different replays of a car running on the same track in the PC stunt racer, TrackMania. I must admit to never having played this particular game, but the beauty in the presentation of this video transcends mere racing games!

See, wasn't that cool?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Oscar predictions: "No Country For Old Men" vs. "There Will Be Blood"

This year, the Oscars will be held February 24. Two movies, "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country for Old Men," both excellent, have 8 nominations each. Although I saw "No Country for Old Men" several weeks ago, I was only recently able to see "There Will Be Blood," and it made me start wondering which movie will win in what categories. I looked up the categories of their nominations, and I thought I would share my thoughts on the two.

First, though, we need to know a little bit about the two movies. From, the summaries and nominations (categories in which they will compete are italicized):

"There Will Be Blood"
"In his ruthless pursuit of wealth, misanthropic oilman Daniel Plainview tricks a local farmer into signing away his valuable drilling rights and rejects his own son, H.W., when the boy loses his hearing in an accident. As he becomes increasingly isolated and unstable, Daniel places his trust in a vagrant claiming to be his half-brother, and finds his position unsettled by H.W.'s return and the growing popularity of the farmer's son, now an evangelical preacher."
Nominations - Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Achievement in Art Direction, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Directing, Achievement in Film Editing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Achievement in Sound Editing, Adapted Screenplay

"No Country For Old Men"
"When Llewellyn Moss comes upon a corpse-strewn drug-deal-gone-wrong in the middle of a barren West Texas range, he takes the bag of cash he finds at the scene and soon draws the attention of the county sheriff investigating the crime. Sheriff Bell will become Llewellyn's best hope for survival, however, when he finds himself the object of a relentless pursuit by hired killer Anton Chigurh, a murderous sociopath."
Nominations -
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Directing, Achievement in Film Editing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Achievement in Sound Editing, Achievement in Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay

I decided I would go through each category they share and give my thoughts on how the two compare to each other. I can not necessarily say who will win that category, because I haven't seen all the other movies nominated, but I will say who I think will win in one of these two movies does.

Category: Achievement in Cinematography
Other Nominees: "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," "Atonement," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
I will go out on a limb and, even though I have seen none of the other three movies, say that "TWBB" wins this hands down. That's one of the things I noticed throughout the movie: the entire things, all 138 minutes of it, is shot to perfectly accent the scene taking place. There are some great effects using contrasts in light, as well as distance. "No Country" had some similar types of things, but not on the scale of "TWBB."

Category: Achievement in Directing
Other Nominees: "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "Juno," "Michael Clayton"
"Michael Clayton" is the wildcard for me, because sadly, I have not seen it. From what I hear it was excellent, and with 7 nominations, one less than "No Country" and "TWBB," it seems that critics liked it too. But like I said, I will only say who will win between "No Country" and "TWBB." And in that competition, I would have to lean towards the Coen brothers, and "No Country for Old Men." the Coens are responsible for movies like "Fargo," "O Brother, Where Art Thou," and "The Big Lebowski," and have been nominated for several Academy Awards, with Joel Coen winning in the Directing category for Fargo in '96. The director of "TWBB," Paul Thomas Anderson, has been nominated for an Oscar five other times, and has done "Magnolia" and "Boogie Nights." I'm no expert, and I don't really know completely what goes into winning Best Director, but I would go with "No Country."

Category: Achievement in Film Editing
Other Nominees: "The Bourne Ultimatum," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," "Into the Wild"
This is another category I don't know much about. I would pick "TWBB," but I don't know what to look for, so who knows. It did have some great cuts and such.

Category: Achievement in Sound Editing
Other Nominees: "The Bourne Ultimatum," "Ratatouille," "Transformers"
This is another one that I would predict "TWBB" winning with a strong margin. The score and the way sound is used in this movie is amazing. The orchestra is used to wonderful effect, and the sound (or lack thereof) that went along with Daniel's son H.W.'s loss of hearing worked marvelously. I went to see this with Drew, and as we walked out of the theater that was one of the things we both immediately latched onto, along with the cinematography. "No Country" was good, but I can't say much about it with "TWBB" in the running.

Category: Adapted Screenplay
Other Nominees: "Atonement," "Away From Her," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"
Having read neither "Oil!" by Upton Sinclair or "No Country for Old Men" by Cormack McCarthy, I can't tell you how true these were to the books, but if I had to pick one it would be "No Country." It just seemed a lot more cohesive. While both their plots had their own oddities, "No Country" fit together a bit better than "TWBB." Both were good, and I don't know how much the original books affect the decision for this category so I can't give a definite answer, but like I said, if I were forced to pick, I would pick "No Country."

Category: Best Motion Picture of the Year
Other Nominees: "Atonement," "Juno," "Michael Clayton"
The big one. It's a tough call, but I would have to just go with "No Country for Old Men." The entire thing, from screenplay to dialogue and action to sound and visuals just seems to all come together better than "There Will Be Blood." And I would call "No Country" to win the entire category, even over the other movies. I've seen a bit of "Juno," and while I liked what little I saw, it's not going to win. And I just can't see "Atonement" doing so either. "Michael Clayton," once again, is the wild card, but I feel confident enough in "No Country" that I would put it over that anyway.

So there are my predictions. And on a side note, I have one more. I think "TWBB" will win Best Actor as well, for Daniel Day-Lewis' performance. He was amazing. So, any disagreement? Let me know what you think, on these movies and categories or on others. And I'll see you on the red carpet (that is, if the writer's strike doesn't cancel the ceremony!).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Puppy Bowl IV

Last night, most of you watched at least some part of one of the biggest annual sporting events on American television, the Super Bowl. While I caught the beginning and the end of the game and was delighted with the results, the football game could not keep my attention for very long because I had very little interest in either of the two teams. So as my disinterest grew and not wanting to do any school work yet on that evening, I turned to the trusty TV Guide channel. Most of the entries were pretty dull - what can you expect when competing against the Super Bowl for ratings? - but one particular show caught my attention. Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl (Those with weak stomachs may want to abstain from following that link. It contains ridiculous amounts of nausea-inducing cuteness).

This was not just Puppy Bowl, however: this was Puppy Bowl IV. It is the fourth in a series that is presented as an alternative to the testosterone-infused, high-contact sport of football. It features about a dozen puppies in a football stadium-themed playroom with some toys and not much else. They are let loose to run around and play with one another while a "referee" looks on and cleans things up every once in awhile. In post-production, an energetic soundtrack is added and commentary is provided by Harry Kalas, the legendary voice of the NFL films. My description does not fully convey how mind-numbingly cute this show allows itself to stoop to being.

The action doesn't end when the play clock runs down though. Fans were able to vote online for a Most Valuable Puppy award, and a halftime show was provided by the BISSELL kitties. This whole affair really is something that has to be witnessed to be believed.

In a way, it is not surprising that this show has carved a small niche for itself beside the gargantuan audience of the Super Bowl. I know there are many females (and some males) who have absolutely no taste for football, but could watch puppies run around in circles all day without being bored. In a way, this is a brilliant and successful move by Animal Planet, and I think this point is emphasized by the fact that this is their fourth year running with the program.

In a way, I also think that its just a bunch of dogs running around a box; miniature football helmets or not.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Celebrity Profile - Burt Rutan: Engineer, Entrepreneur, Innovator

The ability to buy a ticket to go to the moon. Orbiting space-hotels. Military planes that can fly into space to attack a target. This may sound like science fiction, but these ideas and more are all goals of Burt Rutan, one of the pre-eminent aerospace engineers in America. And with Rutan working on these ideas, they may be accomplished sooner than we think.

Burt Rutan was born June 17, 1943, in Estacada, Oregon. His interest in airplanes and their design began at a young age, and he started building model airplanes when he was eight. Rutan completed his first solo flight when he was just 16. He graduated from California Polytechnic University with a degree in aeronautical engineering, third in his class. In 1974, after working with the Air Force for several years, Rutan began the Rutan Aircraft Factory where he designed and built his first planes. Later, in 1982, he founded Scaled Composites, LLC, which is one of the leading aircraft development companies in the world.

Rutan has had many successes with his unusually-shaped aircraft. In 1986, Rutan’s brother, Dick, and Jeana Yeager flew around the world in nine days without stopping or refueling in the Voyager, a plane of Rutan’s design that had two engines mounted at the end of its wings and attached to canards. More recently, in 2006 billionaire adventurer Steve Fossett flew the GlobalFlyer, an aircraft designed by Rutan and based on his design for the Voyager, around the world in the first solo non-stop, non-refueled flight. The craft set the record for the longest flight ever, with a total length of 26,389 miles.

Rutan is probably best known to the general public for winning the Ansari X Prize in 2004 through a section of Scaled Composites called Tier One. The X Prize was a competition with a $10,000,000 prize awarded to the first privately-funded organization to launch a manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. The winning craft, SpaceShipOne, was designed by Rutan and now hangs in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. In addition to winning the first X Prize, SpaceShipOne was the first privately funded aircraft to break Mach 2 and 3 and set several other records as well. Virgin Galactic, headed by Richard Branson, has announced plans to begin space tourism flights in late 2009 using spacecraft called SpaceShipTwo, which are based upon the design of SpaceShipOne.

Impressive as Rutan’s record in designing aircraft is, he is just as impressive himself with his leather bomber jacket and his thick white sideburns. His personality can fill up a room, even when that room is as big as some of the auditoriums where he often gets invited to speak. I was able to hear him give a presentation a year and a half ago at Idea Festival, a convention in Louisville, Kent., dedicated to ideas and inspiration. He gave a very animated talk on the future of aeronautics and the space program, and interwoven through his talk were his ideas on human innovation and breakthroughs. When he talked about those people and events that had inspired him in his childhood, we could see his eyes light up with the same excitement he said needs to be inspired in children today. Rutan was very adamant about that one point: children need to have people to look up to to inspire them to achieve greatness.

In addition to other projects, Rutan is currently working with Branson and Virgin Galactic at The Spaceship Company, founded by Rutan and Branson to be the base of Virgin Galactic’s space tourism. It will build the spacecraft used by Virgin Galactic and other buyers. Rutan continues to design and build airplanes, too, and still owns his company Scaled Composites.

Burt Rutan has been on the forefront of development in the aeronautics industry for more than 30 years, and has been recognized many times for his accomplishments. In addition to being named one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2005, he has received numerous awards ranging from the Grand Medal of the Aero Club in France and the Presidential Citizen’s Medal to being inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the International Aerospace Hall of Fame. Rutan has said he wants to continue to push forward and help mankind expand its capabilities in space flight. If anyone can bring the moon to normal, everyday people, it will be Burt Rutan.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought - 2/1/08

Today we are premiering the first of what we hope will be a regular feature here at Hobson's Buffet: Friday's Food for Thought. Each Friday, we will post an interesting or entertaining quote, a news story of the week (in the interest of being entertaining, they will probably mostly come from Reuters' Oddly Enough section) and a video. It will just be a small feature to try and further our goal of being interesting, and as we continue to post them, hopefully they will develop based on reader feedback. If there's something else you would find interesting, like a poll, a weekly photo, or anything else, let us know in the comment section.


"Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone else."
- Mark Twain, the original blogger

News Story: For the mature woman who has everything: a boy toy
Are you a middle-aged with a lot of money and a need to be "loved"? If so, have we got something for you! Jeremy Abelson, a New York City entrepreneur, is organizing a special speed-dating event in New York specifically catered to wealthy older women looking for younger men. The women involved must be at least 35 years old and either earn $500,000 a year or have more than $4 million dollars in liquid or entrusted assets or divorce settlements. Ableson is putting on the event after a similar one last year in which the roles were reversed, with elderly rich men looking for younger women. The thing that gets me about this is that some people actually take it seriously. One of the women participating, a fashion designer, said, "Younger men expect an older woman to be more accomplished. They are looking for you because you are intelligent." Or maybe it's that $500,000 a year.

Ninja Parade Slips Through Town Unnoticed Once Again