Wednesday, April 24, 2002

I'M JAZZED OVER SPIDER-MAN: Which is saying a lot, coming from a former dyed-in-the-wool dedicated DC Comics fan like me. Those web-swinging scenes from the movie trailer even look like they were drawn by John Romita Sr., the quintessential Spidey artist as far as I was ever concerned.

There's a transitional moment in Sam Raimi's earlier comic-booky Darkman which I've often thought of as the quintessential "OH, COME ON" sequence in the history of film. It's the moment when Frances McDormand has just learned that her scientist-boyfriend Liam Neeson has apparently been killed in a fiery explosion -- she has a moment of grief -- but then, as she regains her composure, the background fades and the setting becomes the funeral service -- her ordinary clothes fade and become her mourning dress -- and all the while, McDormand herself stands unchanged, her face and body remaining motionless as time and space morph around her.

And you just had to know that, in his mind -- if not, in fact, in his storyboards -- Sam Raimi was creating the cinematic equivalent of drawing McDormand's character as though it were occupying the foreground of two split comic book panels, representing the progression from one scene to another. Her left side in grief -- her right side in mourning -- and a white knockout panel border splitting her in two.

"OH, COME ON!" I shouted at the screen when I saw that transition for the first time. And ever since, I knew that Raimi was destined to make something both spectacular, and spectacularly fun.

After we're through," Joe Quesada said, "you're going to be Spider-sick! We're going to have people puking Spider-Man." The New York Observer interviews Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Quesada here. (Link good for one week only.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING! From Newsday (via Slate):
Although it sounds too good to be true, increasing evidence from the Gulf of Mexico suggests that some old oil fields are being refilled by petroleum surging up from deep below, scientists report. That may mean that current estimates of oil and gas abundance are far too low.

[N]ot known ... is whether the injection of new oil from deeper strata is of any economic significance, whether there will be enough to be exploitable. The discovery was unexpected, and it is still "somewhat controversial” within the oil industry.

What the scientists suspect is that very old petroleum -- formed tens of millions of years ago -- has continued migrating up into reservoirs that oil companies have been exploiting for years. But no one had expected that depleted oil fields might refill themselves.

Now, if it is found that gas and oil are coming up in significant amounts, and if the same is occurring in oil fields around the globe, then a lot more fuel than anyone expected could become available eventually. It hints that the world may not, in fact, be running out of petroleum.

Which also means -- let this point not fall on deaf legislators' ears! -- that the untapped Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) deposits could ultimately provide vastly more than "merely" the equivalent of six months worth of oil imports in the reserves' exploitable lifetime.

So far, I've been more-or-less agnostic on the issue. When ANWR drilling critics could say -- with the weight of considerable expertise and common sense on their side -- that the relatively modest size of the reserves would reduce worldwide oil prices by only one or two percent at best, and have similarly little impact on our ability to become import-independent, it was tempting to give the benefit of the doubt to the pristine wilderness and seek a less controversial solution to our energy needs.

But if this oilfield refilling phenomenon turns out to be commonplace -- if it's not merely conceivable, but fairly likely, that we've underestimated that significance of the ANWR reserves by several orders of magnitude -- so sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Caribou, but this changes everything.

UPDATE: Intellectually honest discussion continues in the comments section below.

STORIES WE ABRUPTLY STOPPED READING IN MID-SENTENCE: From Moscow -- Fourteen people have been killed in central Russia after a steamroller ...

WHAT REALLY MATTERS: "Tiger Lily" doesn't "get" depravity -- but it's not a prerequisite to solving the problem:
I'll admit that I have the ability to remove my emotions with a fair degree of ease when it comes to war or, rather, the necessity for war. Mankind has never been much good at behaving themselves strictly for the sake of having good manners. I don't know why that is -- I don't even care at this point. I'm old enough now to know that that's just the way it is.

...I don't understand that depravity or lack of compassion any better today than I did the day I was born. ... What I understand today, is that I don't have to "get it" to stand and fight against it. I know now, that men, and the leadership of men, must be held accountable for fostering dehumanizing cultures. It isn't enough to punish those who've committed contemptible acts of violence. Men of good conscience must also remain adamant that their leaders encourage the awareness of the inherent dignity in all of us. Humanity is remarkably resilient. The kinder souls among us have the power to determine the course of history if we have the will to be vigilant and, ironically, the courage to fight those who inspire the mistreatment or annihilation of others.

Monday, April 22, 2002

TODAY WE BURIED GEDALYA: Pearl Pearlson-Skolnik remembers her nephew, St.-Sgt. Gedalya Malik, 21, of Jerusalem who was was killed in Jenin when an explosive charge was thrown at an IDF patrol on April 9:
Gedalya was fighting in Ramallah, went into Arafat's office after finding the keys, and when his soldiers wanted to destroy the computers, he said "Wait, let me work."  He went in by himself, locked the door, and started checking the computers.  When he saw what damning material was in there, he took a screwdriver and removed all the hard disks, which he then handed over to Army Intelligence.  He also found a million and a half shekels, as well as U.S. dollars -- all counterfeit.
Gedalya was born and raised in Kiryat Arba, and he always prevented others from mistreating Arabs, even as a child.  When asked to describe himself he said "I am a humane fighter" (loheim humani).  Gedalya was that and much more: he was a poet, a composer, a musician -- he played piano beautifully, even though he began to play very late in his young life.  And, of course, he was a master at the computers.  At 17 he even set up his own computer business, which he closed down when he went into the army.  Every unit wanted him in the army.  He could have had any job he wanted.  Instead, he hid the fact from the army that he suffered from severe asthma, and he somehow got into a fighting unit.  His soldiers said that they knew that whatever Gedalya did was the best it could be done.  Gedalya was blessed with original thinking. He only gave, but never took.  He always was calm and collected, and radiated inner strength.  Always a smile, always optimistic, always curious, doing his job 110%.  Perfection.  Blue-eyed perfection.
Israel is at a crossroads.  If we do not put an end to terror then terror will put an end to us.  There has never been a more just war.  What we need now is the support of every right-thinking person on this earth, so that the job can be completed.  Gedalya died defending this country so that there would be a home for all Jews.  Would that his death not be in vain. May we be worthy of this sacrifice.

THE RIPPLE EFFECT of one single victim of one suicide bomber: Kelly Hartog, an Israeli journalist whose life was forever changed on September 9, 2001, wonders:
Of the almost 400 people who have been killed in terrorist attacks here since September 2000, how many people beyond their immediate relatives have been directly affected by their deaths? Hundreds? Thousands? How much has the State of Israel been altered by buildings never built, dreams never realized, people never married and babies never born because of these individuals deaths?