Day: December 24, 2002

The Two Towers

Saw The Two Towers yesterday. I really enjoyed it. It’s very visual, and has been filling my thoughts ever since.

My criticisms, such as they are, are pretty much the same as they were for the first movie: the characters tend to get lost in the setting, just because the setting — the world and all the stuff — is so interesting and fully realized. It is, in effect, the most important character. And the movie necessarily is cut down a lot from the books. I don’t think Jackson & Co did a bad job choosing what to cut, and to their credit, despite the movie running a solid 3 hours, I never felt bored. I just wanted more. Gwen, who is averse to screen violence, found the combat to be hard to take. It’s definitely not a children’s movie. It wasn’t like watching Sam Peckinpah or John Woo flicks, which make acts of violence into objects of adoration, depicted in obsessive slo-mo detail. But there were a lot of flying heads and a lot of gibs.

Casting was brilliant. Brad Dourif as Wormtongue was perfect. Andy Serkis as Gollum was pretty amazing.

Aside: There’s been some talk that the book and movie are racist, depicting all good guys as caucasian, and the orcs as dark-skinned. While I can’t help but roll my eyes at this sort of thing, the comment is factually false (or very weak), at least as far as the movies are concerned. Orcs get a lot more screen time in LoTR-2, so it’s easier to refute now. The orcs show more variation of color than the other races, some being black (not negro-black but tar-black), some being very pallid. Many have features that caricature caucasian faces. And since all three movies were filmed at once, there’s no way that Peter Jackson could have depicted orcs this way in reaction to the charge of racism. Plus there’s that bit about Saruman the White being a bad guy.

Smart Mob = Lazy Web

Sometimes, the zeitgeist seems to cause an idea to crystallize in multiple places simultaneously. Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner both diagnosed autism (and named it the same thing) at the same time. Leibnitz and Newton both came up with calculus at about the same time. Likewise Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin with the theory of evolution. Elisha Gray invented the telephone at about the same time as Bell. And so on.

Two ideas that have been getting a lot of play in the blogosphere of late are “smart mobs” and “the lazy web.” These are both manifestations of the same underlying phenomenon: groups that are non-hierarchical and self-organizing.

With the Lazy Web, as illustrated by the case of the LibraryLookup, one guy comes up with a bright idea. He does some preliminary work, publishes that on his blog, and other people spontaneously decide to chip in and polish it up. The results can be interesting. There are obvious similarities to the open-source movement.

Smart Mobs have been defined mostly in the context of meatspace, that is, people in the street sending text messages on their cellphones to physically organize mobs. Smart mobs have been observed in the gaggles of girls that coalesce around Prince William, the protests in the Philippines against President Estrada, etc.

The main difference here is the venue — cyberspace vs meatspace. Also the results: the Lazy Web seems to be productive. Smart Mobs may fulfill useful purposes, but I don’t think we’ve seen a smart-mob barn raising. Not yet, anyhow.