May 1st, 2008


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Hulk 2.0

Hulk 2008In my younger days, I was a huge fan of Marvel comic books.

I enjoyed the first two Spider-Man movies. I cringed through both Fantastic Four movies. I’m eager to see Iron Man when it comes out on DVD — probably around Thanksgiving time.

I didn’t know what to make of Ang Lee’s Hulk movie. Frankly, it left me baffled. I didn’t enjoy it, but I thought maybe I could see it five years later and say, “Are you kidding? It’s brilliant!”

Now, five years later, it looks like they’re trying again. Universal is promoting another Hulk movie, scheduled to open June 13th.

Unfortunately, the computer-graphics Hulk still looks like a character from a video game.

Who knows? Maybe in another five years…


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Long-Term Memory

Lots of young people say they get their news from The Daily Show.

It’s a parody of a news broadcast, shown on the cable TV channel Comedy Central. Unlike the broadcast networks or the cable news channels, The Daily Show doesn’t have actual reporters tracking down sources and digging up stories. But it has something that “real” news operations often seem to be lacking: a long-term memory.

The Washington Post profiles the man behind the memory, 37-year-old researcher Adam Chodikoff:

At its best, Chodikoff’s work goes beyond satire and into the realm of cold truth-telling. The show has particularly made doublespeak about the Iraq war a continuing theme in a running segment called “Mess O’Potamia.” After Vice President Cheney told ABC News last month that “you can’t be blown off course” by negative opinion polls about the war, Chodikoff found the perfect counterpoint: Cheney, in a clip from December 2005, justifying the White House’s Iraq policy by citing . . . an opinion poll.

“He has this amazing memory for sound bites about anything political or about policy,” says David Javerbaum, executive producer of “The Daily Show.” “What’s remarkable is how many ideas he initiates because he remembered that this guy said this or that a year ago.” While Stewart and the show’s deadpan “correspondents” usually get the laughs, Javerbaum says Chodikoff is the program’s “unsung hero.”

Chodikoff turns up plenty for TV’s talking heads to be embarrassed about, too. A two-part segment about Fox News Channel this month included a devastating mash-up of Fox pundits Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity making obviously contradictory statements. Chodikoff did the same number last week on “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, catching Russert pooh-poohing Hillary Clinton’s expected victory in the Pennsylvania primary on the “Today” show on Sunday, then pronouncing it “a pretty big deal” three days later on MSNBC.

He reads eight newspapers and scans transcripts from broadcast and cable news.

He often finds that the most intriguing factoids turn up in the 23rd paragraph of an article. A few weeks ago, he noticed a line deep in a wire story: that Bush was speaking to the same group of religious broadcasters at the same hotel on the run-up to the fifth anniversary of the war last month as he did on the run-up to the war’s start. Turns out, too, that Bush advanced the same rationale for the war both times — making the side-by-side footage of the two speeches a finely ironic piece for the show.

As for the blogosphere and its rich stew of opinion and invective, Chodikoff will have none of it. “I’ll defend the mainstream media,” he says. “I trust [information] that has been edited and fact-checked.” Without a factual foundation, he adds, the show’s jokes “have no meaning.”

What? My opinion isn’t worth as much as actual facts? Clearly, this is a man mired deep in the reality-based community.

The Daily Show isn’t really a news show, but it may provide the best news analysis on television, and that’s no joke. Shame on the other shows that pretend to provide news analysis. Thank you, Adam, for helping to fill the gap.