Monthly archives: April 2005

A Tale of Two Treasures- Sahara vs. National Treasure

If you just looked at the elements, the characters and plot devices of these two films side by side you’d be hard pushed to tell them apart. Yet, despite all the thematic similarities, they are completely different. Neither one is Citizen Kane (I think, I haven’t actually watched Citizen Kane yet), but one is a top example of its type, and the other is awful. One is so likeable you revel in its silliness, the other is just stupid.

To break down a few of the common elements and compare them side by side-

The beginning. In each case the film opens with a flashback incorporating an important point in America’s history. Sahara’s is a competent mini tale in its own right, as a Confederate ironclad, laden with a mysterious cargo, braves cannon fire and a blockade to put to sea and never be seen again. National Treasure‘s opener seems to involve whatever ancient culture’s costumes were available that day and lots of smashing of holes in walls as the Knights Templar amass a fortune to take to the States. (Because, naturally, the world’s wealth doesn’t belong to the peoples whose countries generate it, it’s all America’s.) There the treasure is hoarded and hidden from The English until after the war of independence. In fact, it’s almost completely forgotten, until one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence meets the hero’s great great whatever, whispers the word “Rosebud” and let’s a snowglobe fall from his dead hand. No, hold on a minute, that was Citizen Kane again, wasn’t it?

The Hero- I guess there’s more to Dirk Pitt, given his existence in literary form since 1973. Matthew McConaughey brings the one and a bit dimensional character off the page and makes him a charming ex-military good ole boy with a thing for history. Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Pearce Gates in National Treasure- the latest in a long line of historians doomed to be haunted by the mystery of Rosebud and likely to die lonely and bitter if he can’t solve the mystery of the treasure- as an annoying savant with an accent that makes you want to cut off a bit of his tongue because it’s obviously too big for his mouth and making him slur.

The love interest- Penelope Cruz or some blandly pretty blonde with long legs? No contest, really.

The comedy sidekick- Al Giordano, like Pitt, has been around in the books for years. He’s played with just the right mix of competence, sarcasm and eye rolling oh-no-not-again! to keep from being annoying. I can’t even remember the name of National Treasure’s CS, but I did want him to die in some meaningless way so Cage could quiver his lip briefly before getting on with snogging the blonde lady.

There are other overlaps- renowned character actors in secondary roles, a long lost ship, “foreigners” (French or British) as bad guys etc. And in each case, Sahara is the superior product. It’s also, because of the books and the way it ends, set up for a series of films.

I’ll keep the summing up short- ignore National Treasure, see Sahara.

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"You're not from 'round here, are you?"

Apparently I spent some of today in “the most Chav town in Cumbria”. It’s bollocks of course, and people like the mayor of Cleator Moor should learn to ignore sites like Chavtown. I think some officials believe that because it’s on the internet with its own domain name then the site must be authoritatuive, rather than the work of bored surfers saying the most outrageous things they can think of behind the cloak of anonymity (as opposed to Spinneyhead, where I often say the most outrageous thing I can think of in the full knowledge that everyone knows who I am.)


The Guardian has pulled an article from its website that explained why the “Ricin Plot” paranoia surrounding the Bourgass trial was bullshit. All they will say is that it is a legal matter, involving a Public Interest Immunity Certificate issued by the Department of Defence. The Register explains why this is all bollocks and suggests a cover up.

via Honourable Fiend

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Money, Money, Money

Well, my first Adsense payment is in the process of being transferred. $100-and-something translates to roughly �66, which isn’t bad, but it took me a while to get there. So the next phase of the monetisation of Spinneyhead is simple- I must make enough money in May to reach the payout level by the end of the month. Given that I’ll enter the month with about $37 in the bank, that means I have to average just over $2 a day. I’m sure I can do it, and I have a few plans for how. Look out for more videos, including one with original footage rather than just stuff I found hiding on the ‘Net.

Then the plan for June is to get more than $100 in a month………

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An Op-Ed piece the Boston Globe connects with, and expands upon, the idea of the GUPPY.

I’m not a professional, so I guess I’m just a GUY (some would argue that I’m not even that, more of a GU). But whatever the label, this is what How to Save the World for Free is about- finding a better way to use resources that also serves as a more rewarding, financially, physically and morally, way to live.

via Worldchanging

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Hardcore Boy Porn

I’ve mentioned that I’m using the Indy radio programme to download and rate music. I think I’ve found my first Must Buys- A B C Teens. From their page at Vitaminic-

Hello!! We are 3 very sexy Yorkshire girls. Amanda (16) Becci (17) and Charlotte (16) and we know what boys like, so COME AND LISTEN!!

Got to love the cartoony home page as well. Download their songs from here.

Hardcore Boy Porn (MP3, 2.7mB)

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The Attorney General, he say No

This leaked document is all over the news today. It’s in horribly painful legalese, but the gist of it seems to be that invading Iraq was of dubious legality/ outright illegal without a second UN resolution (and stop blaming the French for all your troubles you wanker, they’re more in touch with world opinion than you are [I paraphrase]).

Honourable Fiend does a better job of summing it up

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Back to school

The Hockerton Housing Project is a residential sustainable development near Southwell in Nottinghamshire. Completed in 1998 it was built using organic and recycled materials and is made to be as near self sufficient and undamaging over the whole life cycle as possible. Now those of us who want to go down the same road can learn from Hockerton, as there is a master class and tour on July 14th. Off Grid has more information.

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Pitching Green

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched Pitching Green, a guide for producers and consumers of Green products. Consumers can download a guide to what all the eco labels mean and suppliers can subscribe to a newsletter explaining how and why to pitch green products.

via CityHippy

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The bids are strong for this one

Own your own full size X-Wing fighter.

There is currently one on display at Celebration 3 in Indianapolis, Indiana . There is also one in storage at the 20th Century Fox Studios in Sydney, Australia. In 1996, Neiman Marcus auctioned one of them off in their world famous Christmas Catalog. The final bid came in at $135,000.00.

via Screenhead

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Joss Whedon’s Firefly movie, Serenity, is due for release in the States in September. A trailer is up at the Apple trailers site. Along with Farscape, Firefly was a refreshing step away from the Trek view of TV sci-fi. Farscape was pure, over the top, space opera whilst Firefly was eccentric and a bit more Hard SF meets future western.

via Slashdot

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3 blades to the wind

In a way, the Navy are the obvious armed force to take to wind power. It is part of their heritage, after all. The US Navy has erected four windmills at its most controversial base.

Standing 275-foot tall, with blades spanning 177 feet, the Navy’s four new 3-blade wind turbines are among the most noticeable features at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Each of the four turbines will generate 950 kilowatts (kw) of electricity. Together, the four turbines will generate 3,800 kw, and in years of typical weather the wind turbines will produce almost 8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. They will reduce the consumption of 650,000 gallons of diesel fuel, reduce air pollution by 26 tons of sulfur dioxide and 15 tons of nitrous oxide, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 13 million pounds each year.

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1421: The year China discovered the world

What if Europeans weren’t the first outsiders to discover the Americas? Could some other great culture have come ashore in search of trade and materials?

Former Royal Navy submariner Gavin Menzies started pondering these questions whilst studying an old map. Turning his sailor’s eye to islands long considered fanciful or misplaced he began to see familiar shapes in their coastlines, matching them to islands in the western Atlantic supposedly undiscovered when the map was drafted. Further maps showed sections of coastline which had yet to be “discovered” by Columbus and his contemporaries. Digging into the legends of the great European explorers revealed whispered tales suggesting they had set out knowing exactly what they would find.

Where had these maps originated? Tracking their provenance, Menzies deduced that they were copies of documents drawn up by the chinese on great voyages that have since been forgotten, much first hand evidence destroyed.

In 1421 China was at the height of its power. Emperor Zhu Di, wishing to spread trade and extend influence, ordered a great fleet of junks to sail to all the corners of the Earth. There they would meet new peoples and trade Chinese silks and treasures for natural resources, diplomatic ties and strange creatures. The greatest empire known would, through bribery and awe, secure links with all the peoples of the world.

However, whilst the fleet was on its two year voyage, great changes took place in China. Disaster befell the royal palace and reduced Zhu Di to a shadow of his former self. The bureaucratic mandarins used this opportunity to wrest power from him and close the borders. When the remnants of the fleet straggled home their logs and maps were destroyed, leaving only secondary information and what had been garnered by other nationals who tagged along on the journey or were encountered on the way. And wrecks, treasures and genes spread across the globe to be found by a determined researcher.

Which is what Menzies proceeded to do, circling the globe and discovering ever more compelling evidence for Chinese landings in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand and the mapping of Antarctica and circumnavigation of Greenland. Presented as finding atop finding, with even more between the original book and this printing, it’s very convincing. It appears to be an accepted theory now, as I recently saw a documentary where modern travellers traced the path of Zheng He, the admiral leading the fleet.

If nothing else, this great journey offers great scope for “what if?” stories. What if the Chinese had maintained contact with South American cultures? Imagine what would have happened if the Conquistadors had come up against Mayans with gunpowder. What if the great mythical cities in the US’ heartland were real?

Further information is being added to a dedicated website- as more people read the book and find its thesis resonates with local myths and finds.

(Cultural Imperialism appendix: the US version of the book is subtitled “The year China discovered America” because everyone knows the rest of the world doesn’t matter.)

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46 Reasons Why

Building Green puts forward a selection of benefits to, erm, building green, for architects to pick and choose the ones relevant to a project and make selling it to the client more likely.

To those of us entrenched in the green building world the benefits seem obvious. Why would anyone choose to build in a way that isn’t comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient? In the process of designing and building green, however, we keep running into others who are not yet as convinced. For those situations, it’s useful to be able to spell out the benefits.

The building owner ultimately calls the shots, so getting that person or group on board early is essential. But not every owner will find the same arguments compelling: a hospital board may opt for green because certain green features promote healing, a commercial office property holding company may incorporate green features to speed the lease-out and thus lower carrying costs, a federal agency may desire green features to improve employee morale and increase job retention.

Even within a single project, different team members often have different reasons for promoting a green agenda. The architect may promote environmental measures because she feels it’s the right thing to do. The facilities manager who will take care of a building may recognize inherent durability and maintenance advantages. And the owner may look strictly at bottom-line financial benefits of green.

via Treehugger

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Feed Me!

I get most of my news from RSS (atom, XML, whatever) feeds, which is why it was so annoying when my computer crashed yesterday and wiped out details of my subscriptions. (Goes away and exports OPML file, just in case.)

And I know at least one person satisfies their Spinneyhead habit from the full text feed. So I’m pleased to see that I may soon be able to extend Adsense to my RSS feed. I promise not to over use it when it becomes available.

Another useful RSS trick I discovered yesterday-

Some blogs don’t publish a link to their feeds. However, it seems that Blogger creates one by default on new accounts, and puts the information you need into the templates available on its site. So now you can keep up with that blog you forget/ don’t want to visit every day. When viewing the page, go to View->Page Source and look for a line something like link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”RSS” href=”../spinneyhead_rss.xml”, which sould give you all the information you need to find and subscribe to the blog’s Atom feed.

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Tweety Bird

The tale of a T-37 training jet’s retirement.

The commander of the 8th – Navy Cmdr. Brian Osborn – is an old friend of retired Navy Capt. Rance Dunmire of Pueblo. Osborn also knows Dunmire is vice president of the Pueblo Historical Aircraft Society and is always on the lookout for classic military aircraft for the Pueblo museum.

So telephone calls took place, paperwork was filed, and last Friday, Dunmire was at Vance having a sparkling T-37 loaded on a trailer for shipment to Pueblo. The little Tweet had been in use training pilots as recently as last month.

Trainers don’t have the glamour of combat planes, but they’re still an interesting subject. The Tweet was modified into the A-37 light bomber, so you could have the siblings sat next to each other on the runway.

T-37/A-37 models and detailing sets (all via Hannants)-
1:48th Revell Cessna A-37A/B Dragonfly
1:48th detailing set (for Monogram model)/ Weighted wheels
1:72nd Academy A-37 Dragonfly
1:72nd Academy Cessna A-37B “Black Eagle” R.O.K.A.F Display team
1:72nd detailing set (for Hasegawa kit)
1:72nd decals, including Vance Air Force base T-37

T-37 pages on Google.

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