the enemy of my enemy is my friend

Eugene Volokh doesn’t like Hellboy.

HELLBOY: Just saw it yesterday, and didn’t much like it. I enjoy action movies, and I rather liked Spiderman and X-Men 2, so I’m not against movies based on comics. But this one was pretty disappointing — formulaic, without much wit or innovative detail to make it fun despite the formula.

Tim Burke liked Hellboy:

Hellboy gets it right because it tells a story honestly. As one of my students noted, when you see an opening quote about the Seven Elder Gods of Chaos, you know that you’re deep in the heart of Pulpville. The storytellers know that too, and they satisfyingly plunk their butts down right where they belong and stay there consistently throughout the film.

Philthee didn’t like Jersey Girl:

ITEM: 04/7/2004 MOVIE REVIEW! Jersey Girl Sucks.

I watched Lawrence of Arabia the other day on DVD. It pains me to admit that I enjoyed Hellboy more.

what is the deal with the stars on the chicago flag?

The flag of the city of Chicago is rich in history and symbolism. In fact, the municipal code specifies, in some detail, the design and meaning of each of the flag’s elements. However, the code also leaves much to interpretation, especially the shape and placement of the stars.

There shall be four bright red stars with sharp points, six in number, set side by side, close together, next to the staff in the middle third of the surface of the flag.

So we’ve got four stars with six sharp points, close together. Here are a few interpretations of this instruction from around the web.

a slightly pointy star of david somewhat pointer, but still looking pretty regular probably the same star as above just a plain old hexagram

The first is from a patch the Chicago Fire sell. Next we have the stars from the Chicago Public Library information on the flag page. Then the stars from Wikipedia’s Chicago Flag entry. Finally, the stars from an eBay auction of an “authentic” Chicago Police flag patch.

All of the above representations are very nearly perfect hexagrams . The star polygon {6/2} is made from six points, equally spaced upon a circle, connected via straight lines. It’s also known as the “Star of David”, and you may recognize it as the preeminent symbol of Judaism. Would the points of the hexagram be characterized as “sharp?” Not compared to the pentagram, which you may recognize as the “normal” five-pointed star.

The pentagram has a “pointy” angle of 36 degrees (more about this angle later), but the hexagram is somewhat dull, with only a 60 degree point. Fortunately, most actual Chicago flags feature a, um, pointier star.

very nicely pointy perfect, in my estimation

The first is from an actual photograph of an actual flag , flying in front of a downtown church. The other is from eBay auctions of real flags.

These stars are considerably sharper or “pointier” than the regular Star of David. To my eye, they look much more “Chicago” than the more regular 6-pointed stars. How much pointier should the stars be? Well, I’ve come up with a system by which we can derive the proper shape of the Chicago flag’s star, and I’ll suggest it as the future standard by which all Chicago flag stars should be constructed.

First, consider the pentagram. We can all agree that its points are “sharp” and its proportions are pleasing. Interestingly, its points are golden triangles, well known to be pleasing to the eye. Let us construct a six-pointed star according to the same pleasing principles.

First, construct a regular hexagram:
a hexagram inscribed in a circle

Using the hexagon produced inside, plan a golden triangle as the point.
an isoceles triangle with a 36 degree point

Multiply this triangle for each face of the hexagon and fill with red.
a proper chicago star

Here we have what I think are the proper proportions for the Chicago star. It is certainly distinct from the Star of David, but is also founded upon geometrical principles and resembles in proportion (golden proportion!) the five-pointed stars we know so well.

I’ve also helpfully calculated the ratio between the inner and outer radii. The outer radius (the circumradius) is 2.4 times the length of the inner radius (which, in Adobe parlance, is the circle which intersects the points of concavity, not the incircle of the hexagon). I won’t show my work here, but let me tell you, it was a pretty good review of sophomore year trig to get this number. Now that I’ve done all the work, you can use Adobe Illustrator to create these stars effortlessly. Here’s the relevant dialog box:
a dialog box from Adobe illustrator showing the right settings

Please feel free to call or write to your alderman about this issue. Let’s get this taken care of, Chicago!

and i feel mildly chunky

Dear friends, the following thing made me laugh out loud. It is possibly the best this anyone has done in the past month. Are you ready? Here it is: the qwantz.com daily dinosaur comic for March 24th, 2004

good news for the middle east

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time — this may be the best video game since the Wind Waker Zelda game. There are a few things about this game that I find really enjoyable. Firstly, the graphics (at least on the XBox version) are fantastic, and the huge areas and vistas are beautiful. The way the prince moves is so fluid and natural, I find myself stopping to marvel at it, even halfway into the game. Second, the gameplay is really well designed and fun. Nothing seems hard exactly, but there is just enough challenge to keep me interested, but not so much that I’m losing patience with the game, like in Splinter Cell, where things were either ludicrously easy or insanely difficult (for me, anyway). Also, the designers built the levels in such a way that new puzzles and types of actions are constantly becoming available to maintain interest, in contrast to games like, say, Deus Ex 2, where the only things that revealed themselves over the course of the game were lame new type of guns and enemies that were harder to kill.


what’s making me sad today?

From the weekly standard:

Is there in the end a fatal contradiction between Israel’s Jewish character and its democratic form of government? Only if you accept the idea–rooted in Rousseau, promulgated for more than a century by Marxists, and embraced by left-leaning intellectuals throughout the Western world–that the aim of democracy is to reflect in its institutional forms peoples’ highest hopes, overcome individual alienation, and make all its citizens whole in heart and soul. But there is a more reasonable understanding of liberal democracy, one more in keeping with its first principles and classical formulations and less bound up with utopian hopes and Communist nightmares.

In this understanding, majorities are given wide latitude to legislate, circumscribed principally by energetic protection of the individual rights that belong to all citizens. In this understanding, states do not have an obligation to affirm equally the grandest aspirations of all citizens, but they do have an obligation to ensure that all are equal before the law and that none falls below minimum or basic requirements for education, health, and material well-being. And in this understanding, there is no reason in principle why a Jewish state–one which is open to Jews throughout the world, and gives expression in its public culture to Jewish history, Jewish hopes, and Jewish ideals–cannot protect the political rights and civil liberties, including religious freedom, of all its citizens, provide them with equal opportunities, and require that they take their fair share of responsibility for maintaining the state. And there is every reason, grounded in both democratic and Jewish imperatives, why Israel ought to do precisely that.

Substitute “heterosexual” or “blonde” or “right-handed” for “Jewish” in the above paragraph, and you’ll understand why things like this make me so sad.

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