Monthly Archives: November 2003

Qatsi Fever

Well I had other plans for tonight, but they didn’t pan out. So I came back home and popped Naqoyqatsi into the DVD player.

I watched Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi a few months ago, and my feelings were mixed. Koyaanisqatsi was just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen; powerful visuals and an engaging score by Philip Glass. Wow. Powaqqatsi left me cold though, it didn’t have the visceral impact of the first film. It was a good film, but it wasn’t as powerful as Koyaanisqatsi. I really preferred the time-lapse stuff in Koyaanisqatsi; by speeding up the mundane, hidden patterns emerged. Long, arduous scenes of people toiling in the mud irks me.

And now I’ve seen Naqoyqatsi, the final installment of the trilogy. Life out balance, life in transition, and finally life as war. Life as a series of TV spots, commercials, sporting events, news clips and computer animations. Again, I am left unmoved. Maybe I am inured to the images Godfrey Reggio uses. I thought this would really hit the mark, now that we live in a never ending War on Terror. The brief appearance of Osama Bin Laden chilled me, but the never ending footage in negative, spliced with crummy computer animation really bugged me. Enough already. I’ve seen all this before in a plethora of other movies, and it was of better quality. And somebody sure like Adobe After Effects.

I don’t think Naqoyqatsi is a bad film, it certainly drives home the point of technology usurping nature as our primary interface with reality. As a film though, Naqoyqatsi is middle of the road. While Koyaanisqatsi was years ahead of its time, other filmmakes have caught up, and exceeded the visuals produced in that original film. Naqoyqatsi is squarely middle of the road.

Busy Weekend On Tap

A plethora of activities here as the year winds down.

  • Thursday night I went to the November show at the UOG Planetarium. It was my first time to visit the planetarium on the UOG campus, and I enjoyed it immensely. I stayed up extra late Thursday night to catch the peak of this year’s Leonid shower on Guam. I saw several shooting stars, but perhaps I am tainted by the extraordinary showers of the last few years. I wasn’t too impressed by what I saw. Of course the cloud cover made it difficult to fully enjoy the spectacle.
  • On Friday night I worked late at the office and then stopped off at UOG again on my way home. This time I caught the opening night performance of David Auburn’s Proof, a play about mathematics, genius, madness, and the fine line between the two. I wish the play had more mathematics in it, but I enjoyed it immensely nonetheless.

The weekend is about half over, and I still have lots to do. More on that tomorrow…

Oh Happy Day!

What’s New and Cool in SQL Server “Yukon”:

Big thing #1:

T-SQL has several new data types, including native handling for XML data, which is covered in the following section. There are also three new data-related data types: Date, Time and UtcDateTime. These new types have better accuracy and range than their existing counterparts, DateTime and SmallDateTime. (You can say that again) They are also special implementations of .NET user-defined data types, and thus they have several special properties and methods that allow you to get portions of the date or time and even convert it to a string using a user-specified format.

Big thing #2:

T-SQL now has the ability to pivot and unpivot data. No more dynamic T-SQL or overly complex SELECT statements � now you can use this new ability to create crosstabulated data results. These two SELECT statements will give the same results, but obviously, the second is a lot easier to write, especially if we are dealing with more than three pivoted output columns.
SELECT ProductID, ProductName,
SUM(CASE TheYear WHEN 1996 THEN Extended ELSE 0 END) AS [1996],
SUM(CASE TheYear WHEN 1997 THEN Extended ELSE 0 END) AS [1997],
SUM(CASE TheYear WHEN 1998 THEN Extended ELSE 0 END) AS [1998]
FROM vwOrderDetails
GROUP BY ProductID, ProductName

SELECT * FROM vwOrderDetails
PIVOT (SUM(Extended) FOR TheYear IN ([1996], [1997], [1998])) AS PVT

I make a lot of crosstabs, this will come in very handy.

Media Consumption

Movies

  • The Matrix Revolutions – Okay, it was better than I thought last week, but it still didn’t meet my expectations. I was hoping for some sort of merging of machine and man, a new stage of evolution. Instead I got status quo and a humdrum action flick. Oh, and plenty of “Neo is Christ” references.
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller – Wish they made more like this. An adult movie with complexity and depth. Fine performances by Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. And that lonely, desolate score by Leonard Cohen haunts me.
  • The Usual Suspects – The first thing I remember Kevin Spacey in, and the last thing I remember Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne and Chazz Palminteri being in.
  • Traffic – I never bothered to watch this before. It was powerful, in a heavy-handed Hollywood way. It seemed to say, “This is an important film – like Gandhi or something. You must watch it.” Yeah yeah, whatever.
  • Get Shorty – You watch it and POOF! It’s gone without a trace. Fluffy McFluff-Fluff. But fun. I’m sure people in the movie business thought it was great. If you listen closely you can here them smirking and sniggering behind the camera in every scene.
  • LA Confidential – Film noir with a modern twist.
  • The Young Lions – Hmm. Seen this before and I can’t remember why I put it on my Netflix queue. Maybe to watch Montgomery Clift get the crap beat out him? Or possibly it is Marlon Brando’s weird German accent and bottled blonde hair?
  • A Midnight Clear – Another WWII movie. This one with a bunch of whiny Gen-X’ers taking over a chateau in the snow.
  • The Sand PebblesSteve McQueen turns in probably his best performance in this one. I really enjoyed this movie. A slice of history not often portrayed in films.
  • Abre Los Ojos – The Spanish version of Vanilla Sky. Same plot, different language – same Penelope Cruz, but a lot more naked. While Vanilla Sky had a better soundtrack, this one has Penelope Cruz naked. Need I say more?
  • Waking Life – Big Brains and lots of talk. So many ideas are bursting out of this amazing little animated movie. A real treat.
  • The Bridge On The River KwaiWilliam Holden and Alec Guinness, a classic war film.

That’s about all I’ve seen in the past two months. All those war movies have skewed Netflix into offering me every action and war movie in their library. At least Netflix doesn’t think I’m gay, but they do think I’m some blood lust enraged war monger. Guess it’s time to rent Three Men and a Baby.

Sitting Pretty In Fantasy Football

Week 10 of fantasy football saw one team emerge in sole possession of first place in the Guam Fantasy Football League. Yes, yours truly is sitting in cat bird seat, with four more weeks of regular season play and then the finals. One more week of inter-divisional play, then it’s back into the Central Division to secure our playoff spot. It won’t be a cake walk though, the Central Division is the toughest in the league, all four teams capable of breakout performances. Still, we stand a good chance of winning our division, or at least securing the wild card playoff berth. The pot for fantasy football is almost $700 this year. I could sure use that money. Especially right before Christmas.

It was a good week for the Zulus. We traded away Santana Moss, our 12th round pick for Steve McNair, the #1 fantasy quarterback in our league. Frankly I am amazed the trade was approved. Quite a coup for us. And since last week was the supplemental draft, we picked up a number of promising players like Rudi Johnson and Jim Kleinsasser. Rudi was a really choice catch and he proved it by becoming our leading scorer for the weekend, powering us past Da Bruddahs. I think the team looks pretty solid, especially now that all the bye weeks are over and we have a solid roster. No more switching in scrubs to garner a few points while the starters take the weekend off.

Lytico-Bodig Story On NPR

All Things Considered ran a story on lytico-bodig today. The gist of it was nothing new; another scientist thinks lytico-bodig was caused by eating fruit bats in the thirties and forties.

I’ve heard this before. The theory runs that lytico-bodig is caused the the toxins in the seeds of cycad palms, a common plant on Guam. The Marianas fruit bat, or fanihi eats the seeds of the cycad and the BMAA neurotoxins accumulate in the bat. When people eat the bat, they receive a dangerous dose of the toxins. In the 1940’s firearms became prevalent on Guam and bats were hunted in large numbers.

I don’t know – this theory has a pretty big hole. People still eat fanihi, yet lytico-bodig is a disappearing. Only the elderly suffer from lytico-bodig now. Add to that the fact that most incidences of lytico-bodig occur in a few southern villages and in people that lived in those villages during the 30’s and 40’s and it seems likely a more local environmental variable was inducing lytico-bodig in the population. Like maybe something in the water supply, or dietary practices of a few related families.

An interesting book about this is The Island of the Colorblind, by Dr. Oliver Sacks.

Saipan

I went to Saipan this weekend. No particular reason, I just wanted to get away from Guam for a couple days. I was last there four years ago, and I felt the need to check out Guam’s close neighbor. So I went up for a day to check it out and scout around.

Saipan’s about 120 miles north of Guam and a quick 28 minute flight on Continental. I flew up after work on Friday night and still had plenty of time to catch dinner and the night life in Garapan.

I checked into the Pacific Gardenia for the night and slept late. It’s a funky little hotel way off the main hotel row up in Garapan. I liked it. Lots of woodwork and high ceilings. And it was cheap.

Saipan’s got quite a few nice restaurants too. Ate lunch at Coffee Care, a coffeehouse/Thai restaurant. Again, it’s got a funky, offbeat appeal. It’s quite the popular place with the expat crowd too.

After lunch it was time for some sight-seeing. The northern end of Saipan is chock full of historical sights and scenic vistas so I headed that way. It was raining cats and dogs though, so I stopped off at La Fiesta San Roque, an outdoor mall next to the Hotel Nikko Saipan.

La Fiesta is a weird place. Ten years ago it looked beautiful and desolate, and it is still beautiful and desolate. Easily 75% of the storefronts are vacant at La Fiesta, and it is a crying shame. The complex is just beautiful; exquisite gardens, fountains and plazas with all these empty stores. It’s a colossal failure as a retail environment, but I understand that the Northern Marianas College is moving into one section of the mall. That is a better use of an excellent space.

Here’s some photos of La Fiesta:

A fountain

Another fountain

Another shot of fountain #2

La Fiesta III

Look! Tourists!

The rain stopped while I was there, so I continued north to visit the war memorials. First stop, Banzai Cliff overlooking the Pacific. Hundreds of Japanese jumped into the ocean rather than surrender to GI’s during the battle for Saipan. The site is now littered with memorials for the deceased and monuments to peace.

Better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness

Behind this memorial is the towering presence of Suicide Cliff, visible in the background. 800 feet above the surrounding savanna, Suicide Cliff was also the site of hundreds of Japanese soldiers and civilians plunging to their doom in the face of the oncoming Americans. Memorials stand atop the precipice, silent witness to the sorrow of that windswept place.

That was it for the sightseeing, I had to dash back down to the airport to catch my flight. I guess I need to stay longer next time. I definitely won’t wait another four years before I return.