The Time magazine “100 most influential people” list is out.

As always, it looks to me like they just took leaders of major countries, a few politicians and ministers from those countries, and then filled up the rest with names of celebrities.

How is Jeremy Lin “influential”? Sure, he’s famous and he’s a good basketball player. But very few people will make substantive changes to their lives based on the actions of Jeremy Lin. At most, he can make a minor impact on the economy through fluctuations in ticket and merchandise sales. But that money would probably be spent anyway, and Jeremy Lin is simply a substitute for some other sports-related thing. People will say he’s inspirational because of what he’s achieved, but if that’s the case, who inspired him to achieve it in the first place? Or maybe he didn’t need inspiration.

I have no problem with Jeremy Lin; he seems like a nice guy. I just don’t see his influence.

It’s hilarious; I was clicking through the list and I went from Kristen Wiig to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Wiig is an actress and comedienne. Kennedy is, in all probability, the man who is going to decide whether  30 million people shall have health insurance or not. I just don’t see how Wiig can possibly be within 100 people of him in terms of influence.

You can take it from me; I’m an expert on having no influence.

I have a confession to make, my fellow liberals: I have never liked Keith Olbermann.

I agree with most of his political opinions, of course. But for some reason, he always seemed like a jerk to me. I feel bad saying that about a guy I never met, but he just does. I could never stand to watch his show Countdown on MSNBC or Current TV for very long; I mean, sure, he was very witty and clever in mocking various Republicans, which of course is something I am quite in favor of, but the guy just annoyed me. He has a way of speaking always slightly too loudly. (A trait he shares with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, although Olbermann does at least have a better speaking voice) Everything Olbermann said and did on his show seemed so overly theatrical, it was hard to take him seriously at all.

I also thought he was incredibly obnoxious on NBC’s Football Night in America. It seemed like he only had three or four jokes that he used every Sunday night during the highlights. I always dreaded when anybody fumbled the ball just because I knew Olbermann was going to say “so-and-so is stripped–fortunately only of the football.” It was funny the first ten times, man.

I suspect he actually is a jerk; at least, that would explain why he keeps getting fired from every network he goes to.

But at least he is partially responsible for Rachel Maddow getting her altogether superior liberal talk-show. That’s something to his credit.

The Daily Beast has a slideshow of Hollywood movies that bombed. I’ve only seen one of the movies on the list: Cleopatra. It’s a long movie, and as I recall the early-going with Rex Harrison as Julius Caesar was pretty good, but after he gets killed off, the movie goes downhill fast. What amazed me was the fact that Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, famously having an affair at the time of the filming, had very little chemistry in the film. Harrison and Taylor were a better couple than Burton and Taylor, weird as it sounds.

Of course, the more expensive a movie is, the more danger it is in of “bombing”; since bombing basically means “failing to break even”. So, this means it’s theoretically possible that a good movie that people like could still bomb because of financial mismanagement during production. Since Cleopatra is the most expensive movie ever, it would have had to do incredibly well to not bomb.

So, what’s the best movie to bomb? Wikipedia has a list of the biggest bombs, that’s a good starting point. I know some people love The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but I’ve never seen it. I haven’t seen most of these. Babe: Pig in the City wasn’t that bad… but it was pretty bad.

Any suggestions?

I keep hearing the words “Hunger Games” being bandied about. I see signs with the words “Hunger Games” plastered on them. People keep making references to “the Hunger Games”. I believe there is even a blog on the front page of WordPress that has something to do with the “Hunger Games” on it. I never really paid enough attention to figure out what they were about or why I should care.

And then I read Thingy talking about “The Hunger Games” on her blog, and so I decided it was time to find out about them. I whisked myself to Wikipedia forthwith, and commenced to read. So, The Hunger Games is a series of books for young adults, which, like all YA books nowadays, has been adapted into a movie, which comes out tomorrow.

I have to admit, just reading the synopsis made me a little bored. “Post-apocalyptic America…dystopian totalitarian government… sacrifices by lottery…” It all seemed tired to me. As Thingy noted, the “deadly lottery” aspect of the story sounds a lot like “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. (Full disclosure: I only know about that story because it’s the model for Vault 11 in Fallout: New Vegas… another post-apocalyptic tale.)

But then,as Zaphodb2002 commented on this post: “It is more about how the story is told, not necessarily what the story is about.” So, just because it’s got a lot of familiar trappings doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting book. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

I wonder why the post-apocalyptic idea is so popular. I guess because it gives the author a “clean slate” to build the kind of world s/he wants. And maybe because it lets you show familiar settings in a state of destruction, and that’s pretty dramatic. But it certainly seems like the post-apocalyptic genre is popular with audiences these days. I wonder why.

I’m not an expert on the genre, but I don’t think it was always thus. It seems to me that fiction that dealt with “the end of the world as we know it” used to be just plain apocalyptic–e.g. Dr. Strangelove, where the end of the movie is the nuclear annihilation. I wonder what the change signifies.

And another thing: is it true that one of two things almost always happens with the post-apocalypse: either there is no government, no law and order, and humanity is reduced to fighting gang-warfare style, or else there is a tyrannical, all-powerful government controlling the wasteland. Or is that just my impression?

As long as we’re on the subject, how is this related to another phenomenon both Thingy and Ferrerman have addressed lately: “preppers”? That is, people preparing for what they believe to be the imminent apocalypse. Are they fans of post-apocalyptic fiction? If so, since they all seem to be going the “gang warfare” camp, where’s the sign-up sheet for the “tyrannical government” camp? I bet the first 50 people in get cushy positions in the Thought Police or something.

Anyway… how depressing. Perhaps Tom Lehrer can make us feel better:

I was thinking of watching the movie Ryan’s Daughter, since it’s St. Patrick’s Day and the movie is set in Ireland. And I usually like David Lean films. But I was reading some reviews of it, and it seems like a lot of people feel it has beautiful cinematography and a gorgeous location, but the story itself is weak. I don’t know if I’ll see it or not, but it did set me thinking about something, especially with this post still on my mind.

To me, for a movie or video game to be art, it has to do more than just look good; it has to have a good story and good characters. I’ve always taken this for granted in my posts on the subject, but I’ve lately realized that some people may not feel the same way. I mean, some people will argue that games like Rage or BioShock are art based on their settings alone. And I can’t argue that both Rage‘s wasteland and BioShock‘s art deco undersea city are beautiful creations.

It’s just that, those game aren’t just about looking at the pretty setting. They also have stories and characters, and I found both lacking in these games. Especially Rage. BioShock definitely had some interesting ideas, but ultimately it just felt forced and too self-consciously weird to me. (That said, I’d still qualify BioShock as art for at least trying, just not great art. Rage is right out.) If you make a game whose art lies solely in its visuals, make a game about going around and looking at all the pretty stuff. Kind of like Pilotwings 64.

Talking of David Lean, consider his movie Lawrence of Arabia. Does it have awesome visuals? Yes, it certainly does. However, without Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson’s script, and the powerful performances by all the actors, it wouldn’t be a great movie. Cool to watch for the “match/sunrise” scene and the scene where Omar Sharif rides up out of the desert, but not a great movie. I’m not passing judgement until I see it, but some reviews make it sound like that’s exactly what happened with Ryan’s Daughter.

Now, of course, Lawrence would also be a lesser film if it had the same script and acting, but shot in black-and-white on one of those laughable “desert” sets that you sometimes see in old Westerns. But still, I think that people sometimes overstress the superficial qualities. Obviously, just having better visuals doesn’t make a film better. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is not superior to Casablanca, even though the former is in color and the latter in black-and-white.