Monday, March 31, 2008

Original "Killing Fields" Trailer

Sherman Oaks, California

With Sam Waterston as Sidney Schanberg, Dr. Haing S. Ngor as Dith Pran, John Malkovitch as photographer Alan Rockoff and Spalding Gray as a U.S. Foreign Service officer.

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Dith Pran, 1942-2008

Sherman Oaks, California

Dith Pran, the Cambodian journalist whose life under the Khmer Rouge was depicted in the film The Killing Fields, died this morning of pancreatic cancer. Pran, a staff photographer for The New York Times since 1980, was 65.

Obituaries: NYT. Washington Post. AP.

Pran's final interview.

Reviews of The Killing Fields: Roger Ebert. NYT. Variety.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Doctor Who: Spielberg's Proving Ground

Sherman Oaks, California

Two of the principal elements in the new Tintin film will be alums of Doctor Who.

The first film in the planned trilogy, which is a joint project of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, will be written by Steven Moffat. His Doctor Who script "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" won a 2006 Hugo Award and his script "Blink" is currently voted by fans as their favorite episode of the revived series.

Today, the Guardian reported that 17-year-old British actor Thomas Sangster (pictured) was cast as Tintin. While most Americans may remember him as the kid in the film Love Actually, Doctor Who fans recognize him as troubled schoolboy Tim Latimer from the episodes "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood."

Although it has never been the Doctor's aim to rule the universe, that appears to be what his show is doing.


Doctor Who Series 4 Trailer

Sherman Oaks, California

The BBC recently released a web-friendly version of the Doctor Who series 4 trailer which previously played in cinemas throughout the U.K. The new series -- we Yanks would say "season" -- broadcasts later this spring. Red-haired Catherine Tate will be the principal companion, but, as the trailer reveals, both Freema Agyeman and fan favorite Billie Piper return.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Note To Self: Avoid Chinese Embassy In Islamabad

Sherman Oaks, California

Joel Carillet discovered that the line for visas at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, forms at 4 a.m. and, if you're lucky, you will only have to wake up early and wait a few days in a row. Joel, who needed to be in China the next day, took evasive action . . . .

Pictured: The audience attending the International Women's Day festivities at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad on March 8, 2008. Hey, it's the only photo of the building I could find.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Update: Emirates Flies To Sao Paulo

Sherman Oaks, California

Edward Hasbrouck, the Practical Nomad himself, responded to my post about the paucity of direct flights between South America and Asia.

Edward found a new one: As of late last year, Emirates flies a non-stop from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. That's the sole non-stop between South America and Asia.

(BTW, a "non-stop" is exactly that; the plane lands and you disembark at your destination. A "direct" flight is one in which you don't have to change planes, although the aircraft may land two or three times before you reach your destination.)

Edward also notes the hassle that some third-country nationals endure merely to change planes in the United States. International airlines have therefore been avoiding the United States, sometimes advertising the fact.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The World Through Editors' Eyes

Sherman Oaks, California

A French website has created maps of the world that depict the degree to which countries were covered by various media outlets in 2007.

By clicking -- the map's at the bottom of the page -- you can compare the world as seen by the editor of The New York Times or Slate or the blogosphere as a whole.

South America and sub-Saharan Africa don't receive much coverage in the mainstream press, but Mexico punches above its weight online.

All You Need To Know

Sherman Oaks, California

Mainstream news organizations are reducing their coverage of the U.S. presidential campaign; meanwhile,

the Associated Press is adding 21 new staffers in three bureaux to cover entertainment and celebrity news.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Suspend Filming, We Need To Stage A Coup

Sherman Oaks, California

In the March 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, writer Peter Biskind reveals that some of the weaponry used in Thailand's 1977 military coup had to be borrowed back from the set of The Deer Hunter (pictured):

"[Producer Barry] Spiking's Thai liaison was General Kriangsak Chomanan, the supreme commander of the Thai military. The producer simply called him 'K.' Spikings recalls, 'We needed lots of weapons, helicopters, armored personnel carriers —- and he provided them all.' But one day Kriangsak told the producer, 'What’s going to happen this weekend: we’re going to play some martial music, and we’re going to have a military coup. That means we need all the weapons back, the helicopters back, and all the armored personnel carriers back.'

"'K! We’re making a movie here! You can’t do that! We’ve got an agreement —- we’ve shaken hands!'

"'Barry, Barry —- please, please. You’re making a movie —- I have a military coup. But it won’t take long. There’ll be a few people who’ll get shot on Sunday, and then you can have the stuff back.'"


Thursday, March 20, 2008

The South American Bottleneck

Sherman Oaks, California

From an air travel perspective, South America is similar to Long Island. It's roomy, but it's a dead end.

International air routes in South America follow one of three patterns.

First, there are a fair number of direct intra-South American flights. You can fly to Lima, Peru, or Caracas, Venezuela, from many of the other capitals of the region.

Second, there are direct flights to the United States, often to Miami.

Third, there are direct flights to Europe, usually to the former colonial power. Flights to Madrid, for example, are common throughout Spanish-speaking South America. You could even fly little Surinam Airways direct to Amsterdam on its one 747.

But getting to Asia is a whole 'nother matter.

Amazingly, there are no direct flights from anywhere in South America to anywhere in Asia, a fact I first learned two years ago from Edward Hasbrouck, the Practical Nomad.

Nothing appears to have changed. Aerolineas Argentina and LAN Chile (pictured) both fly a route to Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia -- but that's not Asia, that's a long flight which ends with 12 more hours to go before Asia.

Malaysian Airways is the only Asian carrier that lands its tires on the tarmac of South America. It's a heck of a flight: Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Cape Town, South Africa, to Johannesburg, South Africa, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Home.

Expanding the definition of South America to include regions which are not, by any definition, within South America does not help much, yielding exactly one direct flight to Asia. Aeromexico flight 58 flies direct from Tijuana, Mexico, to Tokyo, Japan.

Travel to Asia becomes less convenient when you're more than 50 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spitzer's Girl: Woefully Underpaid

Sherman Oaks, California

When all of the hours, expenses and downpayments are netted out, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer allegedly paid Ashley Alexandra Dupre a fee of $1,000 per hour of jiggery pokery.

Poor girl was dreadfully underpaid.

Take the counter-example of Heather Mills (no longer McCartney) (pictured). She met Sir Paul in spring of 1999 (let's guesstimate March 1st) and, after four years of marriage, divorced him on April 29, 2006. This week, the London High Court awarded Mills a judgment of $48.8 million.

Assuming a combination of healthy living and Cialis allowed The Cute One to send Mills across the universe three times a week, the couple did it in the road (or bed or plane) 1,119 times.

Which means that Heather Mills was paid $43,610 for each encounter with Maxwell's silver hammer.

The highest-end prostitutes don't waste their time with an escort service. They earn their money in divorce court.

KL "Tops" List Of Least Expensive World Cities

Sherman Oaks, California

The Swiss investment bank UBS published its annual study of the cost of living in selected world cities.

While the news focus was on the most expensive cities (London, Oslo, Dublin and Copenhagen), long-term travelers are more interested in the bottom of the rankings. With New York City assigned a cost index of 100 (including rent), here are the bottom 16 of the surveyed cities:

Mumbai 49.6
Bogota 49.4
Mexico City 49.1
Vilnius 48.3
Kiev 48.0
Bangkok 47.2
Nairobi 46.3
Jakarta 45.9
Johannesburg 45.5
Beijing 43.4
Manila 43.3
Shanghai 43.2
Delhi 41.4
Lima 39.3
Buenos Aires 34.4
Kuala Lumpur 31.0

Pictured: Petronas Towers, the symbol of last-place Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, one of the cheapest (and nicest) world capitals.


Books Most Stolen From Independent Bookstores

Sherman Oaks, California

According to bookstore owner Paul Constant, writing in The (Seattle) Stranger, the most stolen books are by:

1. Charles Bukowski

2. Jim Thompson

3. Philip K. Dick

4. William S. Burroughs

5. Any Graphic Novel

Explanation: "The coin of the realm is now, and has always been, the fiction that young white men read, and self-satisfied young white men, the kind who love to stick it to the man, are the majority of book shoplifters."

Flash of the Knife: Schneier on Security.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"Sadly, The Yubari Film Festival Has Been Called Off"

Sherman Oaks, California

According to this Monocle report, the cancellation of the local film festival is the least of the problems facing the ghost town of Yubari, in the north of Japan.

Pictured: The town's abandoned amusement park.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

How U.S. News Sources Cover The World

Sherman Oaks, California

I disagree with the video's final point. Sure, Americans tell pollsters they are interested in coverage of international news, but Americans' actions contradict their statements. If Americans were curious about the rest of the world, editors and producers would provide the coverage, and the maps at the beginning of the video wouldn't look like that.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Traveling Costs Less Than Living

Sherman Oaks, California

Lea Woodward of Location Independent Living posts an excellent breakdown of the costs of a nomadic lifestyle. She and her husband have found that a better-than-average lifestlye in many of the world's most interesting cities costs substantially less than middle-class life in the United Kingdom.

Some specifics:

-- They paid $1,600 a month to stay in the one of the highest-end apartments in one of the best neighborhoods in Panama City, Panama.

-- $2,500 a month is enough to live a variation of the good life in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

-- Reserving a rental ahead of time through the internet is a sure way of being overcharged. You'll save money by showing up in the city of your choice and rooting around for an apartment.

(Pictured: A street in Quito, Equador, hotly tipped to be the new Buenos Aires.)

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Radio Interview: Speaking To My People in Alberta

Sherman Oaks, California

I am scheduled to be interviewed about Eliot Spitzer at 7 p.m. Pacific Time tomorrow (Wednesday) by Rob Breakenridge, host of "The World Tonight" on CHQR AM 770 in Calgary, Canada. Of course, things could change. This is live radio, amigos.

Spitzer's Robust View of His Jurisdiction

Sherman Oaks, California

Reason magazine has published my article about soon-to-be-former Governor Eliot Spitzer's belief that he could control sexual behavior outside the United States.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In Retrospect, Maybe The Tag Line Was a Warning

Sherman Oaks, California

A Spitzer for Governor television commercial which, in light of recent events, plays differently than it did in 2006.

Spitzer: The Hotel Connection

Sherman Oaks, California

Hank Stuever of the Washington Post meditates on how much men love hotels, "a paradise of discretion, a suspension of one set of rules for another."

Pictured: The newly infamous Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Behind The Scenes: Shooting A Documentary In North Korea

Sherman Oaks, California

American Cinematographer magazine has published my article about the production of Crossing The Line, a documentary about Joseph Dresnok, a U.S. serviceman who defected to North Korea in 1962 and has lived there since.

Pictured: Dresnok poses in front of a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung. Note that Dresnok, like all North Koreans, wears a red Kim Il-sung pin on his lapel.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Siskel & Ebert Rated NC-17

Sherman Oaks, California

The mismatched buddies are at each others' throats, but, in the heartwarming climax, they join forces to fight The Common Enemy.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Is Obama The Master?

Sherman Oaks, California

The internet rumblings about whether Barack Obama is a Manchurian candidate programmed in an Indonesian madrassa to usurp the U.S. government in the name of Islam are off the mark. The real question is whether Obama is The Master, the evil timelord from the BBC science fiction program Doctor Who.

In the series three episode "The Sound of Drums," medical student Martha Jones explains the appeal of newly installed British prime minister Harold Saxon (pictured) who is, spoiler alert, The Master in disguise.

The Doctor: The Master was always sort of hypnotic, but this is on a massive scale.

Martha Jones: I was going to vote for him.

The Doctor: Really.

Martha Jones: Well, it was before I even met you. And I liked him.

The Doctor: Why do you say that? What was his policy? What's he stand for?

Martha Jones: I don't know. He always sounded good, like you could trust him. Just nice. He spoke about -- I can't really remember, but it was good. Just the sound of his voice.



Monday, March 03, 2008

Lufthansa Flight Report

Berlin, Germany


The word that immediately came to mind upon boarding Lufthansa flight 453 from Los Angeles to Munich was “clean.”

The overhead bins were not chipped. The cloth upholstery on the seats was not frayed. There were no stains on the carpet.

Admittedly, the aircraft was relatively new, an Airbus A340-600 (tail number D-AIHN) which had been delivered to Lufthansa by the manufacturer in September 2006. But a year and a half of trans-Atlantic flying is enough time for cracks to show, if cracks there are to be.

I checked in for the flight at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal. Three other people were in line. Perhaps Southern Californians aren’t tempted by northern Europe in February.

The check-in agents spoke with German accents. Awesome! It’s a gimmick, but it works. Later that day, the final boarding call for an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin was made by a man with a Mexican accent, which isn’t quite the Ireland experience passengers may have been hoping for.

Lesson learned: Bulkhead row seats “reserved” online are not actually reserved. Since the flight was not full, the agent put me into an interior aisle seat.

On the jetway, we had a choice of German- and English-language newspapers. I choose a Wall Street Journal Europe to read the editorials and a Frankfurter Allgemeine to discover how much German I’d forgotten since high school.

A pillow and a blanket were waiting on the seats, which also had extendable headrests with flaps on both sides. There was no individual seatback entertainment; instead, various screens dropped from the ceiling, with news programming, movies and a map of the flight path. The seat pitch was a tolerable 31 inches.

After liftoff, the flight attendants were solicitous. One spent several minutes preparing a baby bassinet with a pillow and blanket, tucking the kid in so the tot would sleep quietly.

Free booze! I don’t drink much, but I can celebrate an escape from the United States’ attitude toward alcohol, which is Puritanism wrapped in nickel-and-dime charges.

The flight attendants handed out hot towels. They weren’t cloth, but they weren’t paper, either; they were something in between.

Dinner was served over Boise. Mine was chicken with rice and corn, with a corn salad, a roll, a slice of cheddar cheese and a brownie. The knife, fork and spoon were actual metal.

Seven hours later, it was breakfast time: eggs with potato pancakes and spinach, fruit salad, and a roll with strawberry jam. Before arrival, a video was broadcast which discussed the facilities and procedures in Terminal 2 of the Munich Airport.

A half hour before landing, the bathroom in the back of economy was still immaculate. On a U.S. carrier, it would have been trashed. I found the same level of cleanliness on the short flights to Berlin and on the long flight back to the United States a week later.

Economy class Lufthansa: Clean. Comfortable. And really clean.

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