Nitpick/Review of Alien 3 that I Wish I Had Written

In Alien 3, did anyone smoke cigarettes? Was the movie such a stupid betrayal of the earlier parts of the series that none of us even noticed that the universe stopped chain-smoking in the 5 years since the last adventure? Whatever.

Speaking of problems with Alien 3:

I don’t know if there was supposed to be any sexual chemistry between Ripley and the guy she had sex with. There wasn’t any chemistry, of course. I really got the impression that by sleeping with him, she was just trying to distract him from asking her about the alien. Of course, he was the only person who even kind of believed her, so she should have been, like, “Yes! Investigate this! Please!” Also, I’m pretty sure he let her know that he is trying to get her hooked on morphine, I mean his personal cocktail. Or maybe he was trying to kill her like his other patients, with the wrong dosage of painkillers. I think that that guy died at some point in the movie, but I have no idea when, so his death couldn’t have been interesting or meaningful. It seemed that the directors wanted to imply that somehow he is the father of Ripley’s alien baby, but I can’t think why.

Incidentally, I’m pretty sure that there’s a line early on where the doctor guy suggests that Ripley shave her pubes so she won’t get lice. Also–why would there be a lice problem on a satellite in space populated by humans who shave their heads? Who is Ripley going to catch lice from?

But the real reason for the injections (of the doctor’s cocktail), I think, was lazy filmmaking. Can’t figure out a way to use the script or plot to make the audience feel nervous or on edge? Try some extreme closeups of an injection or some other medical procedure. Add an annoying sound, such as an alarm system, or better yet, some radar sensor that gets more annoying the closer the monster is. The audience won’t even realize that their only irritation springs from the discordant frequency, and their confusion as to why this movie has the title “Alien.”

Really, I think the movie would have made more sense if it had taken place on a wooden monastery in space, with Ripley realizing that she wants to protect and nurture the life growing within her. I hope they at least saved money by reusing the sets from some other movie. ‘Cause I didn’t feel like the parchment maps held up to a chain link fence with a flashlight gave me a real accurate picture of what the overall prison facility is supposed to be built like.

Why is there a dog? Ok, maybe it’s a guard dog. Why is there only one? If you have dogs, wouldn’t it make sense to have at least a few? If it’s a pet, well, why would there only be one pet?
For that matter, why are there prison guards? If the prisoners don’t have technology to escape their satellite, why endanger the life of a civilian with a family, effectively making him serve out 6-month long prison terms (and paying him handsomely for it, no doubt)? Couldn’t a supply ship just drop off shipments without ever putting the crew in danger from the prisoners?

Since the Company is the villain (other than, you know, the Alien), always betraying their own employees and contractors to death to gain a profit, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to behave like capitalists? Let’s see, how much liability did they have to pay to Ripley’s abandoned/orphaned daughter, not to mention the families of every other person that the Company sent to their deaths? Why would people keep signing up to work for this Company, once word gets out how they consider their contractors (human ones, even though they could just send robots, which are harder to destroy and make fewer mistakes) to be expendable? If the Company realizes that there are possibly lucrative aliens on some planet, wouldn’t they do better to ADVERTISE this amazing money-making opportunity, so that investors will want to give money and get in on the risk? They could only send people who wanted to try to fight/study aliens, instead of lying to them, and then, surprise! Aliens! Hell, why send humans as sacrificial lambs to host the aliens? Why not use dogs?

The company seems to have found a material suitable for storage of facehuggers, since they were keeping live ones in jars. Soo…..why not make containers out of that substance, and keep the captive specimens IN THE BOX? Or create protective helmets out of that substance, and have humans wear the helmets when dealing with facehuggers? Or the humans could wear hard, protective collars to keep the facehuggers from strangling them. Seriously, people, it’s not that hard. They had 60 years to develop these helmets. They should have gardens of those eggs by now, regularly implanted into dogs to create useful beasts of burden, or at least useful sources of corrosive acid. And don’t even get me started on just having a strong base, such as drain cleaner, on hand to neutralize the acid. Or you can weaken acid by adding a lot of water. Hmmm, if the alien is very acidic, then….wouldn’t base be a perfect weapon against it? Try eating some soap, I bet that facehugger won’t want to stick its dick anywhere near your throat. Also, since we know that facehugger blood does NOT corrode its own skin, then the moulted skin of an alien would be extremely useful, either as armor or as a barrier substance. Another reason to farm the aliens. You could just let the facehugger implant a dog, then kill the host dog, harvesting the valuable facehugger skin.

There’s a gag where a prisoner makes another guy change the way he is carrying a pair of scissors, saying, “you could kill someone carrying them the way you were!” So this is obviously a setup for someone or something being impaled on the scissors, but did this happen? No. Remember how the one guy hates his nickname, 85? The other guys cruelly call him that because they read on his personnel file that his IQ is 85. If that’s the direction their taunting takes, wouldn’t their be a whole lot more of, “Yeah, well, you murdered and wore the skins of that cheerleading squad, Cheery! So lay off!”

The monks/prisoners said that Bishop was torn to pieces, completely unusable. It seems like a robot’s thinking capacity is in its head. At the end of Aliens, Bishop is 2 arms and a head. In Alien 3, he is 1 arm and a head. Well, if it can’t perform 2-handed tasks anymore, just throw it away! We’d rather just use candles and steam pipes. After all, fixing that robot would require…fishing it out of the trash and plugging it in, then ignoring its suicidal pleas. This is a prison, not a factory! Also, I like how he was all saving Newt’s life in Aliens, but then he decides that if he can’t be top of the line anymore, he doesn’t even want to live. Fuck protecting Ripley and the other humans.

I assume that the introduction of Dr. Noonyan Soong, at the end, was just to justify the money paid to the actor? Or maybe they filmed that scene before the rewrites were done, and they didn’t want to waste the footage. Because it certainly didn’t advance the plot. It was never even clear whether that was a real guy or just another android. As far as letting Ripley see a friendly face, there are some problems with this logic. As soon as he explains that he’s not EXACTLY the same robot that saved her life, why should she feel friendly toward him? Does he think she won’t just be creeped out (didn’t I just bury you, dude?)? Wouldn’t it be LESS creepy if they really did sent another Bishop model android, since she’s never seen Bishop as a human? Also, who is still alive who observed Ripley being friends with Bishop? Wasn’t she all, “Why didn’t you TELL me there would be a robot on board?” All Dr. Soong’s cameo did, was remind us that the scriptwriters decided to kill off the cast of Aliens, making the entire plot of Aliens pointless. Especially since, what did kill them? Nothing? Oh, drowning. In space. Well, they were weak, not the survivor type.

Newt was in 2nd grade when she went into cryostasis. When the prisoners find her corpse (and there is NOTHING SUSPICIOUS OR DEUS EX MACHINA about someone DROWNING while they are in suspended animation in deep space), they use the ship’s log to identify each crew member, plus a girl “approximately 12 years old.” So they couldn’t figure out that the kid was the one female child survivor, listed by name, in the ship’s log for the rescue mission, which is the only reason for the ship even being in space? When I think of the physical differences between 8 and 12, I think of height and puberty. Thanks for making us think about puberty and then showing us multiple closeups of what is allegedly a 12-year-old girl’s nipple (or is she still 8?). And it doesn’t even advance the plot.

But you know what does advance the plot? The suspicious acid-blood scarring on Ripley’s ship. Huh? Doesn’t that only come out if the facehugger is injured? Who was fighting it? Where is the wounded facehugger? Also, wouldn’t simply showing someone the acid scarring be a pretty credible argument when Ripley claims that the monsters have acid blood? Why would acidic blood be far-fetched in a creature from another planet? I’m surprised that they would even have blood at all. Maybe it’s more like engine coolant.

Further criticism:
Old fashioned glasses from the 60’s? Really? Do the monks have access to Etsy where they can buy vintage eyewear? Man, if I were living on that supply-deprived rock, trying to make the best life in prison I could, I just might forage in the dump once in a while for useful stuff, like, say, a working android. Just for starters. ‘Cause there might be more useful tools than old scissors.

Apparently the difference between a maximum security prison satellite, and a new human colony on a planet, is that the prison satellite receives a shipload of supplies every 6 months. Oh, and the prisoners all decide that they want to be celibate.

Seems like in all 3 movies, that the plot would have only crawled along, if all the humans hadn’t forgotten that space is kind of dangerous, and that once in a while, when exploring new territory while wearing a jumpsuit (instead of, say, protective clothing), a person might encounter some sort of dangerous predator.

Man, if only in the future they could develop some sort of scanner that would detect the presence of a facehugger, say, right over there hiding behind that duct. Because then Ripley wouldn’t just bring the aliens to wherever their ship can land. I assume, since an embryo is so hard to detect inside a human, that a facehugger has similar body temp to a human, with an organic makeup. Also, what, have these people never thought of closing the door when you are trying to catch and kill a vermin? (This is also a problem of the entire series, as well as the characters’ bafflement when the aliens turn out to be HIDING IN THE DROP CEILING)

On an unrelated note:
Charmin Ultra Soft Toilet paper has the eco-friendly slogan, “Using less never felt so good!” with a picture of some bears hugging the toilet paper. Reasons that this is a bad marketing campaign:
1. Using less=recycle=don’t litter=don’t use toilet paper to leave on the ground when you shit in the woods, that’s some bear’s living room. But maybe the bears DO want us to litter!
2. Our product is so unpleasant to use, that the less you use, the better you’ll feel!
3. This product, which has “never felt so good!”, is designed to be rubbed on the genitals. So yeah, it’s the best toilet paper on the market for masturbating.

And on that note,

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List of times, other than 9/11, when America lost its innocence

From a footnote in David Cross’s book “I Drink for a Reason”

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“Free Market” is not code for “Everything Good”

I linked to this article on facebook a while back, and I maintain that it’s a great article that hits a lot of highlights.  There’s one big problem with it that I wanted to elaborate on though (even though I posted the link almost a month ago[sorry Veen!])

The brief, but offending, phrase is “technology becomes quickly outdated in a free market.” There’s a lot bundled up in the term “free market” whenever anyone uses it. People on the right side of the economic spectrum use it as code for economic policy they agree with and people on the left use it as code for corporatism or exploitation. What I think it means is a situation in which one you can carry on your affairs and trade without interference from any aggressor, government or otherwise. This means private property rights are respected, fraud is punished, etc, etc.

What I think everyone can agree on is that a man alone on an island making everything he needs for himself certainly constitutes a free market. In this situation, it is certainly not the case that “technology becomes quickly outdated.” One reason I like free markets is that I recognize that technology grows more quickly in that situation than in any other, but you don’t get rapid technological growth without a large population (among other things), and there’s nothing contained in the term “free market” that assumes a large population.

Maybe it’s hair-splitting, but that slip-up really got to me.

(note: I wrote this while watching star trek, so apologies for any major flaws resulting from my inattention)

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The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Last night, I went with Mary, Eric, S/A, Vroman and Xtina to see the movie The Cave of Forgotten Dreams. When Eric mentioned it at work, I was sorta leery about watching a documentary on cave paintings, but after watching the trailer, I had a feeling I would really like it.

This movie absolutely exceeded my expectations. It was breathtaking, informative and moving. The story goes, in 1994 a couple hikers/explorers found a cave entrance high on a mountain in France. They had to move some stones aside to even get in. Once inside, they discovered a treasure trove of ancient cave paintings. They knew the significance of what they’d found, and the cave was immediately set upon by a group of researchers with proper reverence for a cave used by humans over 30,000 years ago, sealed off by a landslide 25,000 years ago. The filmmaker calls it a “perfect time capsule.” Over the course of the movie, they interview anthropologists, paleontologists, archaeologists and art historians working directly with the cave, as well as other related researchers and interested individuals. We learn about the climate and fauna of the era, as well as how the people most likely lived.

The thing that touched me the most about the movie was how accessible it made ancient people seem. We can never communicate with them, and we can’t witness their lives first-hand, but this is the closest we can come to finding a box of their polaroids (an analogy already dated by technological growth). At one point during the movie, a more apt analogy occurred to me: this is like finding someone’s stupid myspace page and glorifying it. I didn’t dwell on that though, for a couple reasons. One, this is all so old. It predates agriculture by a longer period than agriculture predates this blog post. Wall art that old is nonexistent anywhere else in the world (that we’ve found) and this art is comparable in age to the oldest art of any kind that has been found, such as bone carvings.

The other reason I didn’t dwell on that analogy is something I learned from the movie. The cave is littered with bones of cave bears, and horses and antelopes, but no human remains. This is one reason why the current theory is that the cave was not used as a dwelling, but was ceremonial. That theory cast the whole place in a new light for me. It’s a pre-historic cathedral, complete with what may be depictions of religious stories, that we see merely as beautiful and nuanced sketches of rhinos, cave lions, antelopes and horses. Also, the 3-d really enhanced the movie as you get an excellent sense of how the cave painters used the contour of the surfaces on which they painted to enhance the images.

The film spends a lot of time with lingering shots on the cave paintings, and even though the cave is quite large (1300 ft from start to finish), there aren’t paintings throughout the cave — they are clustered in a few areas. There is a properly calm, almost religious score as the lights dance and the camera plays off the paintings, which would have been made by torchlight 30,000 years ago. Carbon dating indicates that some of the paintings were made thousands of years apart, though they occur right next to each other on the wall.

One of the oldest drawings is more than 8 feet off the ground, so it is assumed that it was drawn with a long stick. Another area near the entrance has a collection of hand prints from one person, who had a crooked pinky finger and was estimated to be six feet tall. The evidence presented in the movie paints a vivid portrait of people who lived long before history began and yet seem as real and as present as anyone you might meet on the street. Pretty much the whole movie is this evocative and thought-provoking.

Perhaps the best part are the many scenes that linger on the art so that you can contemplate the significance of the people who lived so very long ago. The movie has lots of interesting information that I didn’t include here, and because it’s somewhat meditative and properly reverent, you sorta get out of the movie what you put in. If you think you might like it, you should see it. If you aren’t so sure, watch the trailer and you will probably change your mind. This movie speaks to anyone concerned with the nature of art and the commonality of man that stretches across eons.

It was excellent. 10 out of 10, can’t wait to watch again. And everyone I went with really enjoyed it as well, with the exception of Vroman, who has written his thoughts here.

UPDATE: I intentionally avoided reading Vroman’s review before I wrote my own so that I would be writing what I thought of the movie, instead of what I thought of Vroman’s thoughts on the movie. Now that I’ve read it, I think I should respond at least somewhat:

Filler is relative. I enjoyed the local color and unprovable theories about how folks lived. I have a Hayekian desire to defer to the people who’ve spent their lives immersed in the local information, while at the same time I don’t mind contemplating my own take on human nature and how it may have impacted life back then. I imagine this cave, and some people who lived near it. It was treated with great respect and awe, since it depicted things you see around you with drawings placed by people who lived so long ago as to be beyond imagining. Perhaps there was a tradition of ceremonies performed inside and in order to earn the privilege to paint in the cathedral, you had to prove your mettle by drawing on logs and stones outside the holy place.

Also, that movie routinely blew my mind. That guy in the costume that played the flute that Vroman mentioned? He points out that the scale of the flute is pentatonic. This is amazing to me. He plays the star-spangled banner on the flute to show that the music we listen to now could absolutely have been produced by these people. Totally amazing.

And as for building walkways in other parts of the cave to get a better view of the art, I totally understand the desire to leave as much intact in the cave as possible while still doing steady research there. The more time passes, the better our technology gets. In a few decades, we may have computers that can do a better job of piecing together what went on in that cave than any “rambling elderly Frenchman” so long as we leave the evidence intact. There’s a tradeoff between gathering information today and leaving clues in place for tomorrow. I was very happy with what the amount they were able to get into this documentary, especially given how limited their access was.

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Unfortunate bundle of errors.

After playing starcraft 2 on my new computer several months ago, I noticed that when I would exit to the desktop or alt-tab out, the mouse cursor in windows 7 would often change into this ugly block of lines instead of an arrow. I looked on the google, and apparently this was a known issue, one fix for which was “turn on pointer trails.” So I did, with the shortest possible tail, to approximate the computer of an adult male.

New mouse error! I recently recieved a free copy of portal 1 on steam (thanks, seifertim!). I was dismayed that on the menu screen, the mouse cursor did not appear at all. Because of mouse-over reactions from some menu items, I could sometimes locate the cursor, though it remained invisible.

Another trip through the google and lo! another known error, caused by . . . having pointer trails on. Frown.

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ST:TNG s2e8 “A Matter of Honor”

Mary and I have been going through all the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes from the beginning. I yell at the screen at least once per episode. Now that I have a blog, I can air my grievances about each and every episode.

The Gist:

The writers scraped the bottom of the tv trope barrel and came up with an exchange student episode! Riker goes to work on a Klingon ship while an alien of some other race you’ve never heard of is temporarily stationed on the Enterprise. Cultural misunderstandings! Gosh!


Yell at the Screen Moment:

– Before Riker leaves the Enterprise, he has some time alone with Worf to learn about Klingon culture. Worf informs Riker that while he is serving as first officer, it is his duty to murder the captain if the capt should seem to weaken in the slightest. This relationship with one’s subordinates apparently holds at every level of command on a Klingon ship, and results in Riker getting in a fight with the second officer mere moments after assuming his post. But this is not what I have a problem with. Riker tells Worf that this sounds not so great for the Klingons, or something like that, to which Worf replies that this has worked for centuries and is “the Klingon Way.” *record scratch*

Can you imagine yourself ever telling an alien that something is “the human way”? If not, the reason is probably because we don’t identify ourselves based on our entire species, but rather in how we compare to other human races. One of many, many glaring flaws with TNG writing is that the idea of nations and tribalism within alien races is almost completely forgotten. Races are treated as monolithic and single-minded (for the most part). This reminds me of the same problem applied to climates rather than cultures, the Single-Biome Planet. Forget about diversity of climate: On Hoth it snows always and everywhere. And forget about diversity of culture: Every Klingon fits into a stereotype that can be described in a paragraph or two.

This makes especially little sense with a race like the Klingons who are obsessed with combat. You’d think they’d be among the most factionalized and cavilling species in the galaxy. For a race of warriors obsessed with fighting, on the whole they get along with one another pretty well.


The verdict:

I have to say this episode was above average. The plot was contrived, but it was delivered reasonably well and you come away with a sense that Riker is now more in touch with Klingons than he was before, in a way that other crewmembers won’t be able to necessarily identify with. I hold out hope that the writers will take advantage of this planted seed at some point in the series’ future.

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Today I vanquished a wasp that was menacing the ACE space. I used one of the books from the bookshelf. Last year, when I killed a different wasp in the same room (one the same window even) I used Eric’s crutch to maximize the distance between me and the foe. I was much closer this time. I’m getting better, that means I can get closer to the enemy, just like in Leon (the professional).

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This post is primarily a marker for me to provide a divider between new content original to this site, and old content imported from my LJ and cross-posted from

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I tried reaching out to someone who disagrees with me politically.

I wrote about the situation at the Cranky Yellow in a blog post at work:


Then I noticed a supporter of Cranky Yellow on facebook saying mean things about the Show-Me Institute, so I sent a facebook message. The following ensued. Read more »

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Cranky Yellow Quaffs Bitter Bureaucracy

[This post was originally written for my employer’s blog, Show-Me Daily.]

Ever seen the movie Brazil? When the main character wants his A/C fixed, the opaque and monolithic government forces him to jump through one bureaucratic hoop after another, and he’s not sure that his simple problem will ever get fixed. Then a vigilante HVAC repairman named Harry Tuttle swoops in and fixes the problem in a few seconds.

I thought of this movie when I read a blog post that tells the very personal story of an inspiring small business owner. Without government grants, tax credits, or artificial incentives of any kind, David “Cranky Dave” Wolk saved his money and built up, ex nihilo, his own business — a gathering place and venue for artists and their creations. Like the vigilante HVAC man, Cranky Dave filled a niche for artists and the community and apparently did at least well enough to keep the doors open. Now things are getting difficult for him as Saint Louis city chases after his unpaid earnings tax bill (when he says he had no earnings) and simultaneously cites him for not having a separate trash bin for his business (he says he was using the one for his residence, which is in the same building and that he upcycles much of the trash produced by his business, incorporating it into art and craft projects).

As if this one-two punch of local government interventions on his business weren’t enough, the Riverfront Times reports that he is also being pursued for back taxes at the state level. Cranky Dave wants to make things right with the law, but he didn’t even know that the things he’s being cited for were problems. Will Cranky Dave be devoured by government paperwork like Harry Tuttle literally was at the end of Brazil? Is there room for honest, hardworking small businessmen in the city of Saint Louis?

Of course, Cranky Dave’s blog tells his side of the story, and perhaps the people he’s dealing with at city hall would tell another. The RFT found in their inquiries nothing remarkably different from the picture that Cranky Dave painted. Be sure to check out their blog post for more details.

What makes a business work? What grows an economy? These are not easy questions, although lawmakers and thoughtful people have struggled for easy answers almost as far back as historical records go. One thing that most can agree on is that healthy businesses grow the economy and serve the community. Most can also agree that it takes dedication and drive on the part of an entrepreneur to make their business reach and stay in the black.

Cranky Dave’s struggle is only one example, but it’s representative of an important principle. Bold, entrepreneurial individuals and hardworking community folks are what put products in the hands of customers and serve the people around them. The more that lawmakers do to get in the way, even with simple-sounding things like “you need a separate, commercial trash bin,” the more strain it places on fragile new businesses. To encourage local community and business growth, this is one time that a hands-off government attitude would clearly benefit not only Cranky Dave or the folks who are helping to keep Cranky Yellow alive, but anyone else with a dream and the will to make it happen. We’re pretty far from the world depicted in the film Brazil, but it still wouldn’t hurt to make things easier on the very people who are trying to make a difference.

Categories: Economic Freedom, Local Government, Regulation, Taxes | 7 Comments