Favorite Lies Promoted by Tony

Vin Diesel is a stage name for actor Vincent Dieselli.

Vin Diesel is actually named Mark Vincent. Rumors that he enjoys Dungeons & Dragons, meanwhile, are actually completely true.

Tony once injured his ankle by attempting to perform a 540° indy nosebone on a skateboard he borrowed from some kids at the Fine Arts Center after he’d been playing too much Tony Hawk.

He actually injured his ankle playing frisbee. When one of our friends belatedly found out the truth, he compared this disappointing revelation to finding out about Santa. Another friend reportedly has not spoken to Tony since discovering the truth of this event.

Octopi are mammals.

A group of jolly computer nerds once created a fake online encyclopedia page to trick a friend who shall remain nameless (unless she decides to identify herself in comments here). This group changed references of “slimy” to “furry” on this faked page, among other adjustments. I’m not even sure what role Tony played in this—perhaps simply chronicler—but in telling others this story, the legend lives on.

Philadelphia was settled in the 1930s by vikings.

Philadelphia was founded in the 17th century and built around a design by William Penn—a Quaker, not a viking. Some of Tony’s other claims about Philadelphia are slightly exaggerated, though perhaps not as patently untrue as this one, such as the claim that Philadelphia is entirely steam-powered (whereas expert estimates place this at approximately 88%).

(This post has been fact-checked by Tony for accuracy in recalling lies.)

Short Movie Review: Three Days of the Condor

The 1975 spy thriller directed by Sydney Pollack is centered around CIA analyst Joe Turner (Robert Redford, just prior to his crusading reporter turn in *All the President’s Men*)—a kind of proto-Jack Ryan. Turner’s employed by the agency to read books, newspapers, and magazine and try to find material: new ideas, hidden codes, etc. Returning from lunch one day, Turner finds his entire office brutally murdered and is forced to go on the run. He kidnaps a woman (Faye Dunaway, not long removed from her performance in [*Chinatown*](http://doombot.com/2008/10/20/review-chinatown/)) and sets about trying to figure out how to evade contract assassin Joubert (Max von Sydow). This might seem like your archetypal conspiracy flick, but what makes it resonate for me is not only the still-curent themes (guess what’s the motivation behind the nefarious plot?) but the fact that Turner is a hero after my own heart: he’s totally unqualified as a spy except for his inquisitive mind and the fact that he *reads so damn much*. What better argument for literacy? The two final showdowns, between Turner and Joubert and then between Turner and Higgins (Cliff Robertson, perhaps best known to current moviegoers as Tobey Maguire’s Uncle Ben), the only CIA director who Turner thinks he can trust, are nerve-wracking and marvelously juxtaposed, leading to the delicious ambiguity of the ending.

(I would be fascinated, incidentally, to see somebody pitch a modern-day sequel with Redford reprising his role, kind of like Gene Hackman in *Enemy of the State* or Paul Newman in *The Color of Money*.)

Short Movie Review: Quantum of Solace (Jason version)

I suspect I’m not the only one here who wants to say something about this movie, so I’ll qualify my post in the title.

Decent movie, good music, great opening credit sequence (by MK12, creators of the excellent Man of Action). As my brilliant girlfriend points out, it’s such a direct sequel that it probably should’ve been called Casino Royale 2: Bolivia or Bust! It lacked the slow drama and high-society allure that its predecessor offered with the poker tournament (opting instead for a brief, tuxedo-clad shootout during an opera), but it still felt enough like a Bond movie to me thanks to the womanizing and intelligence-gathering and such. And, in a way, it’s nice to see the occasional Bourne Identity-style fight scene that doesn’t end with the protagonist getting all angsty about killing bad guys.

Party Like It’s 1979

Marvel at these images of Swedish dance bands for the names, for the typography, and, most of all, for the fashion. From now on, when something is awesome, I will exclaim, “This is the Schytts.”

Short Movie Review: In the Heat of the Night

Norman Jewison’s Academy Award-winning classic is a story about racism in the south, set against the backdrop of a murder investigation. Philadelphia homicide detective Virgil Tibbs (Sydney Poitier) is passing through the small town of Sparta, Mississippi at the time of a murder. Virgil reluctantly agrees to stay and help Chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) solve the crime, despite—or perhaps *because* of—the blatant bigotry he encounters. As much as you’re encouraged to feel sympathy for Virgil, a black man beset in the deep south, he’s no saint: he’s stubborn, arrogant, and frankly, kind of a know-it-all. And Gillespie pegs him when he points out that Virgil can’t leave town, because he wants to show up Gillespie and the rest of his redneck police department. There’s no question that Poitier is a great actor, but Steiger provides him an excellent foil here, as the two characters ultimately grow into a grudging mutual respect.

What struck me most is that the movie was made in 1967—just about forty years ago. Even though the Civil Rights Act and National Voting Rights Act had already passed, racism was still highly entrenched, especially in the deep south. Forty years ago may seem like a long time, but it takes on a different perspective when I think that it was only thirteen years before I was born—and at the time, my dad was the exact age I am *now*. There’s also an unpleasant echo of the bigotry [still so prevalent in this country](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proposition_8)—in particular, a scene when one character angrily shouts at Gillespie that he had “no right” to let Virgil stay in the room during an interrogation. To espouse a sentiment of entitlement that involves *depriving somebody else of rights* is not only unwittingly ironic, it’s kind of sickening. It’s a shame that we haven’t learned from our mistakes of the past.

Short Book Review: The Sparrow

The back-cover blurb of this book kind of made me want to announce, in an echoey voice, “Jesuits … in … spaaaace!” That doesn’t feel quite appropriate anymore, as it’s kind of somber. The characters feel real enough, though reading their many laughing-’til-they cry conversations is funnier to them than to me (you kind of had to be there). Lots of it feels awkwardly or flatly voyeuristic to me as a result, but maybe that was on purpose.

As for the alien world they visit, the details might seem predictable and not as shocking as intended to anyone who’s already read The Time Machine, but the class commentary of H.G. Wells’s book was actually the centerpiece. In The Sparrow, author Maria Doria Russell (a former academic) is more concerned with the scientific precision of how such a society could come about (and be thrown into turmoil), but the real thematic core is how to reconcile faith with tragedy. Essentially, it’s a modern update of so many tales of missionaries meeting new peoples and dealing with unintended consequences. I suppose I’d recommend this to anyone who thinks you’d have to be crazy to be a Catholic priest, or to anyone who’s ever wondered how the universe can seem to guide you and screw you in the same week.

Short Book Review: A Fire Upon the Deep

I’m pleased to say that io9’s list of recommended sci-fi novels didn’t steer me wrong. Some Amazon reviewers characterized Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep as terrific for hard sci-fi fans but light on characterization (pick a novel for that, they say), but I think it was a pretty good balance. The story is based on a simple premise, that the galaxy is broken into “Zones of Thought,” with faster-than-light travel, artificial intelligence, and godlike transcendence only possible as you get farther out. This premise gives rise to a fascinating series of interwoven plots culminating in a climactic race to save the universe at all costs. Vinge has an excellent grasp of scale and “human” (or “person”) nature, peppering the story with galactic news group postings to further flesh out how everything and everyone fits together in this setting. The book is slow to get moving, but once underway, it offers a fun, smart, and satisfying adventure.

And I Feel Fine

Years ago, while watching MTV on a family vacation, one of my younger cousins asked me in a fearful voice: “Could that really happen, Jason?” We’d just seen the video for Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” and, as the resident nerd of my entire clan, they turned to me for reassurance.

I told them that the sun wasn’t massive enough to collapse into a black hole, but that it would eventually die, long after we (perhaps even “we” as a species) were gone from the earth. They were about 12 years old, and I about 14, so they mostly just stared at me puzzled and asked again, “So it could happen?”

I didn’t quite know what to say then, but now I could at least point them to Discover Magazine‘s piece on “Ten Ways the World Will End.” I’ve seen run-downs like this in science magazines and websites before, but this one has a handy table (and some reassuring words about meteorite impacts), so I’ve decided to share it here. Please enjoy responsibly.

Election Reflections

Well, despite my fears, nobody stole the election. And though I wrote that I didn’t buy into the “messianic” fervor of many Obama supporters and didn’t expect to see “fundamental change” in Washington no matter what the election results, I was still thinking about how policy was made, not about what an Obama presidency would mean for this country and its ability to move forward. I had forgotten that, in ways that remain important, casting this vote for a black guy can be a pretty big deal. Last night, watching the maps across three different news sites turning blue—not “blue for Democrats,” but “blue for Change”—I was filled with pride in my country and its people.

Today, I was fascinated to see what a roundup of pundits had to say about the election. As you might expect, some were celebratory that their guy won; some remained critical of Obama, but proud that America could take this step; and some were predictably cantankerous and crazy. A couple comments stood out to me, though.

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Rekindling Spellfire

If you’re like me, you’re a huge dork. And, as a huge dork, you’ve probably got a hoard of nerdy junk you’ll never touch again: shiny comics that seemed likely to be “collectors items” some day; movie posters and anime wall scrolls that clash with your significant other’s tastes; and, of course, a big box of failed trading card games you tried out in the wake of the release of Magic: The Gathering in the 1990s.

Well, I can’t really help you with the comics and posters, but I still play enough tabletop games with my friends that I felt like I had to be able to do something with some of those old cards. I mean, heck, I spent a lot of money on those things! It’s hard to imagine when you’d ever play an out-of-print game, though, that was specifically designed to be bought not just by you, but by all your friends. That’s why I decided to dig out my old bag of discontinued and discarded collectable card games and see which I could refashion into a single-deck game suitable to play at a nerdy board game party.

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