Sunday, May 25, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I just watched the new Indiana Jones movie, and I have to say, going in I was pretty excited. I recently rewatched Last Crusade, which is not just my favorite Indiana Jones movie, it is one of my favorite movies. Like Star Trek VI, it transcended the level of the other films and was a classic. Alas, Crystal Skull was not such. The whole thing with the groundhogs (?) immediately through me off. Sure, Indiana Jones survived some crazy scrapes, but this one took it too far. Shia TheBeef is a pretty good actor, but you could tell he was constrained by the stereotype he had to play. Denholm Elliot passed away, and Sean Connery declined to participate, so neither Marcus Brody nor Dr. Henry Jones Sr. were in the movie, though there was a brief but touching tribute to them. A particularly poetic line was "You reach a point where life stops giving and starts taking away". Still, most of the dialogue was inane and formulaic, as was most of the film. It felt more like National Treasure than Indiana Jones. Cate Blanchett was much stiffer and one-dimensional than the fabulous and beautiful Alison Doody, who wove a complex and alluring portrait of a scientist who happened to be a Nazi. Finally, the ending was completely insane, crazy magic powers are not what I expect from Indiana Jones. Still, it was an enjoyable two hours.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rob Neyer at ESPN wrote a great piece about the errency of human memory and the statistical processes we can use to correct them, all cleverly disguised as a sports story. You see, there is a story, urban legend almost, about late catcher Thurman Munson. When Munson heard he was 2 assists between Hall of Fame Carlton Fisk ( most known for his time on the Red Sox, though I remember his White Sox tenure), he decided to do something about it. He purposefully dropped several third strikes, and threw to first, utilizing the little known dropped third strike rule, and gaining an assist for himself. He did this three times, earning himself three assists, passing Fisk. Of course, this is all bunk.

The author researched several versions of the story, tracing it all the way to Marty Appel, the reporter who brought the assist statistic to Munson's attention. Appel describes the detail of the event in flashbulb detail, which as research shows, is no more reliable than any other memory, which is not at all. Neyer went through exhaustive efforts to search through the statistical record to track down this story. He permutes all of the variables, to count for possible misrememberings, but in the end, concludes that this story is entirely faulty. Skepticism in sports, amazing!