Monthly Archives: October 2004

Ghost in the Shell, Shark Tale, and a pumpkin

Pumpkin Today is International Animation Day. My membership in ASIFA-Hollywood provides few perks since I live a couple states away from the Los Angeles area. They still send me announcements for LA screenings and lectures, though, as if to taunt me.

A few weeks ago I saw Ghost in the Shell 2 and Shark Tale. I was expecting to be really impressed with Ghost in the Shell, but instead was somehow numbed by the visuals and confused by the story. I think it was a good film, but I’m not entirely sure. Certainly some of the scenes were excellent, but overall the story didn’t hold together for me. I had to work too hard to take it all in.

I hadn’t planned on seeing Shark Tale until DVD, if then. Everything about this film looked bad, and I fully expected it to bomb. It ended up doing very well at the box office a few weeks in a row, and I found myself laughing at all the right points. I put it in the same category as Shrek; a fun film but not a great or lasting one.

Have a happy halloween weekend.

Polls, Dean, and how Kerry will win

In the 2000 presidential election, Gore was behind in all the national polls before election day. I remember that night, listening to the radio in a fast food drive-in lane when NPR called Pennsylvania for Gore. I cheered to no one in particular, because it was the first confirmation that Gore could win.

If you believe the polls today, Bush has a few point lead, and the election will be decided in a handful of battleground states. I no longer believe the polls, except as an indicator for overall trends. Kerry will win by a solid margin. Here’s how:


Last Monday morning I was in the Austin airport waiting to catch a flight, watching the local news. They were covering University of Texas students who had stayed up all night outside the early voting location on campus to vote. They were all Kerry supporters.

Now, a week later, the local news is reporting some numbers from UT. There are three times the number of early voters on campus compared to 2000. For the most part these voters are not even included in polls because they all use cell phones as their primary number.


It takes a lot to abandon years of straight-party voting, but it’s happening this year. Sometimes it takes enormous respect for the candidate (such as Democrats who could easily vote for John McCain). This year it’s the opposite: Republicans are baffled by Bush’s misjudgments in war and his abandonment of fiscal conservatism.

Also see: Republican switcher ads

The undecided

Apparently there is a large percentage of voters who are just confused about how politics work in this country. Personality means more to them than terms like liberal and conservative. Instead, there are usually a few key issues that turn these voters to any one candidate. Two of those issues this year are the economy (lean to Kerry) and fear (lean to Bush).

The debates help people choose, and Kerry outperformed Bush in all three. Kerry wasn’t totally immune to criticism, though. The flip-flop nonsense tends to stick because there is a little bit of truth to it (ignoring for the moment that Bush has more than his fair share of major policy reversals). Mathew Gross pointed to a <a href=”,9171,1101041004-702123,00.html

“>Time Magazine article second-guessing the outcome in the Democratic primaries:

“Democratic voters should stick to their day jobs. With just five weeks until Election Day, there’s reason to believe they guessed wrong — that Dean would be doing better against Bush than Kerry is.”

Despite the scream, I still believe that Dean would have been a strong candidate. He distinguished himself from the other candidates by a real desire to effect change: even today, he is a powerful force for local and state-level candidates. He showed the Democrats how to win when they had lost their voice.

So there you have it. My prediction: Kerry by 3 percent nationally, with important wins in Florida, Colorado, and Pennsylvania giving him the electoral college. Record numbers of young voters.

Voice recording

I bought a Griffin iTalk earlier this week. Not entirely an impulse buy, but I did drive over to the local Apple Store instead of ordering online. I’ve been wanting the ability to record on my iPod since I received my first generation one. I find myself walking and driving a lot lately, so it’s a great way to record random thoughts while away from the computer. For personal use, not for broadcasting.

The quality is acceptable, but not what I’d like it to be. I tried to record a lecture in a large auditorium, with poor results. Might try again with a better position, or even an external microphone.

The software interface is the expected Apple high standards. Plug the thing in and it works, nothing to install. Yes, that’s right — Apple built recording software into all iPods (except the minis), knowing that only a very small fraction would have the hardware necessary to record. And that philosophy comes from the top. Here’s what Steve had to say in an interview with BusinessWeek:

“It’s because when you buy our products, and three months later you get stuck on something, you quickly figure out [how to get past it]. And you think, ‘Wow, someone over there at Apple actually thought of this!’ And then three months later you try to do something you hadn’t tried before, and it works, and you think ‘Hey, they thought of that, too.’ And then six months later it happens again. There’s almost no product in the world that you have that experience with, but you have it with a Mac. And you have it with an iPod.”

Jon Udell frequently talks about audio techniques. I liked this section from today’s blog post on personal productivity:

“How many times have you heard this? ‘Your call may be recorded in order to assure quality customer service.’ Lately I’m starting to repeat the line back to them and then start recording on my end too. If you can pinpoint what an agent said on a previous call, you can alter the balance of power.”

It’s been a while since I bought a new gadget for myself. We’ll have to see whether it ends up being useful or not.


The death of Christopher Reeve will hit a lot of people pretty hard. He worked with so much determination to regain movement and he stayed optimistic. It’s an inspirational story, and it’s a shock that the story is now over. As my wife said, “He wasn’t supposed to die.” He vowed to walk again, and we believed it.

In the second presidential debate last week, Kerry brought up Reeve as an example of who we can help and why stem cell research could be so important. Here’s the quote, from the official debate transcript:

“You know, I was at a forum with Michael J. Fox the other day in New Hampshire, who’s suffering from Parkinson’s, and he wants us to do stem cell, embryonic stem cell. And this fellow stood up, and he was quivering. His whole body was shaking from the nerve disease, the muscular disease that he had.

“And he said to me and to the whole hall, he said, ‘You know, don’t take away my hope, because my hope is what keeps me going.’

“Chris Reeve is a friend of mine. Chris Reeve exercises every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day when he believes he can walk again, and I want him to walk again.”

Nancy Reagan, Ron Reagan, Michael J. Fox, and Christopher Reeve have done a lot of good as activists, because they are respected and admired by the public. But there are thousands more who are not well-known, and those people are equally worth fighting for.

It’s appropriate that Christopher Reeve, the man forever known as Superman, would fight so hard to overcome the limitations of his crippled, human body. Superman is an icon, not just an old comic. The idea speaks to a generation of kids who dream to be something more, and it’s the reason that that memorable scene in Iron Giant can bring an adult to tears.