Author: Joe Wilcox

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The Director’s Effect

Last night, I watched “The Butterfly Effect: The Director’s Cut” on DVD. Wow. I had seen the theatrical release, which I regarded as an A-class B movie. But, still, a B movie. The Director’s Cut adds seven minutes and a new ending that work quite well. The movie still operates outside believable reality, but I’m not sure it’s meant to be believable. The movie—well, the Director’s Cut, anyway—works well as pure fantasy.

I often wonder at the forces that shape movies during final production, as the influence of studio chiefs and test audiences come to bear. In this case, their impact was negative. The Director’s Cut adds more depth to the main characters, appropriately drawing out the mother-son relationship before the wicked alternate—and I assume original—ending. And I found the new ending to be much more satisfying and poetic. Were the previous two still births the same fate as Evan’s? 

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An Encouraging Development

A story in today’s New York Times pictures a U.S. soldier unloading bottled water in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. The U.S. $350 million aid commitment and rallying of local resources—in this case the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln—is an encouraging improvement over the earlier U.S. “stingy” commitment to aid.

I’m too young to remember the America of World War II; it’s all just history to me. But goodwill went a long way in Europe and Asia, even turning enemies like Germany and Japan into allies following the war. 

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The Times is Right

In October, I slammed the New York Times for leading off a story about the Bush-Kerry debate with a political ad for Kerry. That was bad form. Good form: Yesterday’s gripping analysis about U.S. aid in the wake of the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean. With respect to U.S. aid response, the story’s headline makes the point: “It’s About Aid, and an Image.” I agree, and I contend that the country’s response so far has been slow and, yes, stingy.

Even viewed from the most selfish perspective possible, public relations, the Bush Administration missed an important opportunity in the hours following the horrific disaster, which, I might add, based on the number of missing Americans, might have a death toll close to the Twin Towers disaster. 

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A Switcher Repents

Back in September, a friend lugged away the last of my Macs. I relinquished them following a July switch back to Windows. I determined to use Windows on a full-time basis, which suited my fickle mood and work situation. But the Macs are back, in a surprising return to previous enthusiasm. The decision is a personal one and does not reflect my work position with respect to covering Microsoft.

Microsoft’s approach to its MSN Spaces blogging service is what set me off. The service requires proprietary technologies to either view or post some content to MSN Spaces blogsites. I decided that going back to the Mac, which I had grown to miss over six months, best supported my philosophical position. The Internet is classic example of what kind of scale open, supported standards can create. Personally, Microsoft’s technological approach isn’t wholly consistent with my personal position. 

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Small-minded American News

I am in one of my ticked-off moods at the U.S. news media. This morning’s seaquake off the coast of Indonesia has wreaked untold devastation, not that you would know anything from U.S. news outlets. Kudos to BBC for taking charge in delivering painstaking, breathtaking coverage.

My fear is that sometime during the next 12 hours that someone will figure out there are probably a bunch of U.S. tourists missing or found dead. Then, suddenly the story will tick off some headlines, but I’m sure nothing like the 24-7 coverage that followed 9/11. Right now, the estimated death toll—in six countries!—is more than 10,000, or more than three times the horrific loss from the attack on the twin towers. But, of course, America the small-minded country pays no mind. 

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Heck, Is That a Phone or Camera?

I have burned through a few phones in recent months trying to find the right phone that was smart enough for my portable needs. Yesterday, I hit pay dirt.

A few months back I picked up the HP iPAQ h6315 Pocket PC PDA phone, which I liked for lots of reasons. But I found I just didn’t get enough use out of all its informational capabilities; maybe if I commuted daily or traveled every week. A good friend bought that device, so I cut some of my losses. 

A Summer Story

A cold November day is good time to reminisce about summer past—and to point out that behind every picture is a good story. So, what’s with my daughter and the bird?

On July 6 my wife and I picked up a Styrofoam giant glider plane at the local toy store, which my daughter and I took it out for an evening fly across the back yard. But my daughter’s throw put the plane across the fence and in the neighbor’s lot behind ours. So she and I had to walk round the block. Along the way, as we sheepishly shortcut past some condos, we caught a flash of feathers before a load SMACK of birdie hitting a window. 

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The SpongeBob Movie

I took my 10 year-old and her friend to see the “SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” the other night. My daughter didn’t think much of the cartoon feature, nor did I. Disappointing more, because we’re both big SpongeBob fans, and we saw the movie with a big crowd of kids quick to laugh. Sigh.

The problem: Timing. What’s the saying about comedy and timing being everything? SpongeBob episodes have good timing, and they have to. Episodes can’t be much more than 10 or 12 minutes long. Pace is fast moving and the laughs going rat-tat-tat. For 90 minutes there has to be a script capable of sustaining nine times the typical SpongeBob segment. Instead, the movie felt like one episode stretched and stretched and stretched.