As per usual, interesting links scrounged from the depths of ye olde internets:
Make the Censors Watch 'Paint Drying' - A wonderful Kickstarter for the best kind of censorship trolling. The basic idea is that the British censors have to watch whatever you send them, so this guy made a 10 hour video of paint drying and forced them to watch it. (via Chizumatic)
I think it's a mistake to assume, however, that all of these stories are doing the same thing, because they're not. They're doing different things. And... you see more and more criticisms of Making a Murderer because they say it's biased-it leaves out this, that, and the other thing. To me, it's a very powerful story, ultimately, not about whether these guys are guilty or innocent-but it's a very powerful story about a miscarriage of justice.
There's so many themes in it that are relevant to investigation. But what is powerful in Making a Murderer is not the issue of whether [Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey] are guilty or innocent. It's the horror of the courts and how that story was handled the first time around and subsequently. I can never ever forget Dassey’s attorney and the investigator. The attorney with the catfish mouth and the investigator crying—unforgettable.
If you liked Making a Murderer, do yourself a favor and check out The Thin Blue Line (it's on Netflix streaming).
Many apologies for the lack of posting of late, and this one is coming a day late because I basically just forgot to post it. Something about a big sportsball game last night. Anyway, as I prep my Best of 2015 movies list, I have some links to keep you busy:
Spotlight certainly doesn't have the visual panache of The Revenant or The Hateful Eight, but that doesn’t automatically make it a lesser film. Lavish cinematic style is not an automatic and objective good. It needs to suit the material. And it would not suit the material in Spotlight. ...
Spotlight's direction is "unsexy" because it depicts a world that is unsexy; it is "workmanlike" because it depicts a world of work. If the Boston Globe reporters’ jobs were fun and exciting, everyone would do them and the newspaper business would be thriving. The whole point of the film is to show why these journalists' efforts were important in spite of the fact that what they did was, by and large, boring, tedious, and monotonous. Gussying up this film with elaborate camera shots and eye-catching angles would be a betrayal of everything Spotlight represents. In the same way that the Spotlight team keep themselves out of the story, McCarthy keeps himself out of the movie.
But that doesn't mean he's not there, or that film direction is purely the sum total of a movie’s flashy camera moves. Careful consideration of Spotlight reveals McCarthy's subtle but brilliant direction, not just in terms of cinematography but production design, art direction, and editing as well. Little of it is showy and most of it is easy to miss, particularly if you get caught up in the riveting drama of the Globe’s investigation into the Catholic Church and its unseemly practices.
Singer then proceeds to back it up with several examples. Very insightful, though it does appear that Spotlight has lost its frontrunner status.
I'm STILL Not Sayin' Aliens. But This Star Is Really Weird. - You remember that star that had really weird dips in radiance? It turns out that it's even weirder than originally thought, especially when taking into account historical observations. No real explanation has made much sense (even, dare I say, the alien hypothesis, however much we'd want it to be).
Strangely missing from Oscar consideration, Dirty Grandpa would be a serious contender if it had not, bafflingly, missed the Dec. 31 cutoff date. As you've most certainly heard, there's an online petition demanding the White House take action on this travesty. Another curious decision is Lionsgate releasing Dirty Grandpa, a movie that offers no laughs, as a comedy. Instead, it’s an indictment on our society as a whole - a no-bones-about-it, heartbreaking, devastating takedown on this cesspool of society that Dirty Grandpa thinks we have. And it might just be The Most Important Movie Ever Made.
It turns out that Dirty Grandpa inspired some pretty good writing, including this next link:
A couple of weeks ago I had the strangest dream. I dreamed that this movie, "Dirty Grandpa," was the talk of the nation. Not because the Robert De Niro/Zac Efron/Aubrey Plaza raunch comedy was particularly good, but because, apparently-I didn't see any of the movie in my dream, just had conversations with people about it-it didn't do that thing that studio-produced-raunch comedies do, which is take things so far and no further. No. In my dream, "Dirty Grandpa" was spinning heads because it broached John Waters/Harmony Korine levels of outrageousness. The sex scenes between De Niro and Plaza had a "Last Tango In Paris" level of explicitness, for instance.
Now you just have to take my word for it that I had this dream, but honestly, I did. The question is WHY did I have this dream. As the author of a book on De Niro, I'm frequently (okay, not that frequently, but more often than would be the case for a guy who hadn't written a book on De Niro) asked what I make of his various career moves. So maybe the dream speaks to my critical desire to see De Niro go back to surprising his audiences with audacious performances. Or maybe I’m just a perv who wants to see Aubrey Plaza naked. I don’t know.
I think we all know the answer to that question.
After Dark in CSS - Some genius reimplemented those oldschool After Dark screensavers in CSS. Flying Toasters man. Flying Toasters.
Two link dumps in a row? I'm the worst. I shall endeavor to produce something of quality and originality within the next few weeks, but for now, here are some links worth checking out:
Exercise Vague Caution - Someone puts up a "This Building is Monitored by Closed-Circuit Cameras" sign in Jamie Zawinski's apartment building, and unimpressed by this security theater, he adds little slogans underneath, such as the titular "Exercise Vague Caution" or "Drone Strikes Authorized 7PM - 5AM". Beautiful.
What Does 'Cinematic TV' Really Mean? - Interesting video essay by Matt Zoller Seitz and Chris Wade that explores the divide between TV and Cinema. When most people think of "Cinematic" television, they generally just think about production value. A big part of that is that production value for TV is historically pretty terrible. When the X-Files came on in the 1990s, I think everyone recognized a difference. TV at the time had a very "flat" sort of feel to it. The X-Files had actual cinematography and depth that you didn't see much in TV at the time. Now, that sort of thing is much more common. This video attempts to go further than I have here, and it makes some good arguments, though I think perhaps they may be overstating their case. The best television these days rivals the best cinema, but it's not like there aren't craptons of terrible examples of both. Film may still be better than TV on the whole, but TV is growing rapidly.
With six whole weeks of horror movies, the link repository has been growing and growing with lots of interesting tidbits from the depths of the internets:
Flipping Out - This is the most inspired and hilarious writing I've read in a long time. It's about the single craziest inning of playoff baseball that's likely to ever happen, but even if you're not a sports person, you should read this, because it's brilliant. There's a great precision to the writing, and the format is almost conversational, but it's like one of those Tarantino movies where people are speaking naturalistically, but their speech is stylized in a way that no one actually speaks. Or something. Just read it, ok? It's great.
Both the most- and least-surprising aspect of that moment was that baseball has a rule for it. And, as you noted, the rule - rule 6.03a, as we learned - is literally an EXACT description of what happened. It was the most surprising aspect because, indeed, no one had ever seen it before. It was the least surprising aspect because of course baseball has a rule for this, it has a rule for everything. And of course it was incredibly specific, because all of baseball's rules are incredibly specific. Baseball rules are the opposite of football rules. Football rules are like...
"If a guy kind of grabs a pass but doesn't really like totally like have it, and then he kind of maybe shimmies around but doesn't make a like 'football move,' or maybe he doesn't like seem to really like command the ball in a way that I can't describe but it's like pornography and I know it when I see it, or something, then let's go ahead and say it isn't a catch?"
Yes - football rules often end in question marks. Because not even the rule writers believe in them.
Baseball rules are like: "There was an A's-Yankees game in May of 1933 and this insane thing happened and we made a rule to cover that exact situation." I'm actually surprised it didn't say:
RULE 6.03a: If Russell Martin tries to throw a ball back to a relief pitcher in a tense 7th inning of a deciding playoff game and Shin-Soo Choo is doing that weird thing where he holds his bat out directly in front of him like a divining rod and Martin's throw bonks off his bat and rolls away, Odor is allowed to score from third."
I hesitated to even include this pull-quote because the entire article is amazing and you should really read it, but I couldn't help myself. Also, NBC needs to make a 30-for-30 style documentary that is just these two guys performing exactly what they wrote here, edited into the actual inning as played.
Genre Savviness Is Not Enough - I probably should have found a way to work this into the Six Weeks of Halloween, but whatever, this is also a great list of lessons learned from horror movies. Sample awesome:
24. If you hear a nursery song and you are not in an actual nursery, vacate the area immediately.
25. If your travels must take you through a rural area in which agriculture is done, try to make sure you stick with the towns that grow ground crops. No one has ever been chased through a field of peanuts by an eldritch abomination or cult. Avoid cornfields and apple orchards at all costs.
A Wild Weekend in Florida - I used to think that Twitter was a terrible place for long form writing, and for the most part I'm right, but then there's this story about strippers, pimps, guns, and murder, as told by the smarter of the strippers. It's an astounding piece of work and needs to be turned into a film at some point.
6WH: Fellow Travelers
It appears I'm not the only nutbar engaging in an enthusiastic horror movie marathon and general seasonal festivities. These people are awesome, check them out:
Six Weeks of Halloween - I can't not include the man, the myth, the legend who created the 6 weeks of halloween all by his lonesome many moons ago. It appears that his is more busy with family and professional responsibilities this year than in recent years, but he is watching all of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and he's doing a great job so far. I particularly like the little notations on "favorite sin" and "Jason's mood" etc... on each entry. Great times, as usual.
Film Thoughts - As usual, Zach puts everyone to shame by reviewing two movies and two television episodes every day. And these aren't chinsy capsule reviews like I do, these are full fledged, detailed overviews of each and every movie, even the bad ones. There's no way I could maintain a schedule this crazy and will probably only watch about half as many movies as he does during this timeframe (somewhere on the order of 30-40, while he will probably hit 80-90). He's got a great perspective, check him out (and he's active all year round too!)
Final Girl - Every year, she does this SHOCKtober thing, and while this year seems less interactive, she actually has been posting up a storm (despite anemic posting otherwise during the year). As always, her reviews are hilarious and even a little insightful.
Hey Look Behind You - The usual 31 days of horror marathon here, but always good stuff, with a focus on shorts too!
She Walks Softly - A Halloween countdown that takes a broader view and includes more than just movies, a welcome change of pace.
Halloween Special - Nifty look at some movies and other spooky happenings and random creepiness, including a pretty detailed calendar of events. Much more organized than I am, that's for sure!
Countdown to Halloween - And if the above doesn't satiate your appetite for Halloween goodness, check out this list of other websites doing their own thing for Halloween...
And that's all for now. Stay tuned for some general comedic horror zaniness on Sunday...
But take things to even more logical conclusions. First, there is inevitably going to be some annoying hipster dicks who insist that they can tell the difference between replicator food and real food (and I seem to remember this actually happening on screen).
In addition, because it’s functioning off of recipes down to the molecular level, does that mean that every dish comes out looking identical to every other time it was ordered? Imagine if every single time you ate a hamburger, every ripple in the lettuce and angle of every sesame seed was exactly the same every single time.
That's pretty tame, but the article goes to some... distressing yet surprisingly logical places.
Franklin set out to turn his hater into a fan, but he wanted to do it without "paying any servile respect to him." Franklin’s reputation as a book collector and library founder gave him a standing as a man of discerning literary tastes, so Franklin sent a letter to the hater asking if he could borrow a specific selection from his library, one that was a "very scarce and curious book." The rival, flattered, sent it right away. Franklin sent it back a week later with a thank-you note. Mission accomplished. The next time the legislature met, the man approached Franklin and spoke to him in person for the first time. Franklin said the man "ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death."
The challenge is that both parties must have a certain amount of dignity in order for this to work. That being said, I've found that this sort of thing works better than, say, getting someone fired or mobbing their social media accounts with threats.
How (and Why) SpaceX Will Colonize Mars - Why is it that reading these Wait But Why articles fills me with more sense of wonder than most recent science fiction? This is an epic article, too long to even attempt pulling a quote from, but worth reading nonetheless. And the Tesla post is also worth reading. Basically, you should be reading Wait But Why. Between these two posts, I feel like the future might not be Mad Max-like.
And that's all for now! Get ready, though, the Six Weeks of Halloween are coming on strong. I've been planning out my themed weeks, and it's going to be a fun one. Obscure horror auteurs, sinister puppets, and more. Stay tuned.
In a time when there was no internet and only relatively low access to live television, he understood that a chance to enjoy a career in football was still possible, despite having seen his talent diminish over his teens. His camaraderie with Brazilian footballers like Romario, Renato Gaucho and Edmundo played a pivotal role in his success as part-conman, part-footballer, as Kaiser earned himself three-month trials as a makeweight in deals upon the insistence of his peers.
Once at the club, Kaiser would execute the next phase of his master plan. He would ask the club to give him time to regain fitness, thereby buying himself some time before he actually had to make the field. And when he did join the training sessions, he would drop to the ground at the first opportunity, clutching his hamstring.
20 friggen years. Well played. Er, "played".
Believe in Featherbowling - Brought to you by ESPN 8: The Ocho, comes this actually interesting story about an obscure curling/shuffleboard-like sport.
Teller is grateful and impressed - This video of Teller (the silent member of the Penn & Teller duo) actually speaking will traumatize you because Jesus, did you know he could talk?
As per usual, interesting things from the depths of the internets:
The Suicide Squad trailer was great, why does Warner Bros. sound so angry about it? - The prevailing narrative is that Marvel has their shit together when it comes to their cinematic universe, but that Warner Bros (and DC) can't quite crack the code. I've always thought this was sloppy thinking, but then, this is also a pretty fantastic illustration of how the two companies approach their work. Marvel's response to a leaked trailer is fun and endearing. Warner Bros's response? Petty and annoyed. Incidentally, Suicide Squad looks like it could work pretty well, though I suspect it's success will hinge entirely on Margot Robbie's performance (which appears to be electric!)
Hollywood is quick to cry censorship. The industry's not wrong to be afraid. - An excellent summary of the weird cycle of criticism and censorship, and the constantly rehashed arguments that never seem to result in anything productive. This touches on issues of free speech and how differently people seem to treat the term "censorship". I tend to favor the freedom side of that equation. In the words of Ray Bradbury (commenting on the response to Fahrenheit 451): "There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches." It doesn't matter if it's a government match, the books will burn either way.
Film as Bomb - Interesting discussion of Cronenberg's The Brood...
With The Brood, what was the bug that Cronenberg jammed up the collective, middlebrow ass? The fact that it was outrageously melodramatic in its boldly literal metaphors: suppressed rage creates murderous children. Plus its refusal to make a scapegoat out of any one character, class, gender or type (no matter what the director's 'ideological' critics, including Robin Wood, have long claimed). Cronenberg's despair and his mockery spare nobody; and this leaves some spectators crying foul over "misanthropy" and looking in vain for "someone to care about".
Cronenberg is certainly a fascinating filmmaker, one I love, but never seem to be on the same page with. On the other hand, that might be why I love his films.
One day, looking for something new to do, Bucky had a thought.
"I asked her, 'Would you like a pickle?' "
There were Jewish delis every few blocks in their neck of the Bronx. Bagels, bialys, cream cheese, lox, whitefish - and barrels of pickles, a penny apiece.
It became a summer of secret pickles.
(This was before Bucky became the Winter Soldier.)
Friday the 13th Part IV - Running Man - And you guys thought I was obsessive about Friday the 13th movies? Check out this guy, who attempts to decipher an obscure character mentioned in the credits for The Final Chapter...
Who is Running Man? Lots of people run in the movie, but they're all credited. Could it be an instance where Jason is credited multiple times like he is in part 3? There we had Jason, Prowler, and Jason Stunt Double. Maybe Jason actor Ted White refused to do the scene where he runs after Trish and Thad Geer sprinted to the rescue.
Somehow I doubt it though. The only section of the movie with a lot of extras is the beginning, when everyone is cleaning up the mess from part 3. One of those extras runs. He runs so much in fact, that I'm convinced he must be Running Man.
Friday the 13th, the series of movies that never stops giving.
That's all for now. Apologies for the lack of Wednesday entries of late. This might continue for the near future, but who knows? Maybe I'll get inspired or something...
Over the past thirty years, the level of income throughout the developing world is rising, the number of people in poverty is shrinking, health outcomes are improving, birth rates are falling. And it'll be even better in ten years. Pessimism always sounds more sophisticated than optimism-it's the Eden-collapse myth over and over again-and then you look at G.D.P. per capita worldwide, and it's up and to the right. If this is collapse, let's have more of it!
Emphasis mine, because that's a sentiment I see all the time in different spaces and it always bugs me. To take a more innocuous example, why are unhappy endings in vogue? Why do they seem so much more sophisticated than a happy ending? A lot of people will give a movie or book a pass simply for the fact that it has a downer ending (go to any film festival and you'll find an unending parade of misery porn), and I've never understood that. Happy or sad endings aren't inherently good or bad, and yes, both need to be earned, but for some reason, critics in particular are much more forgiving for the sad endings than they are for happy endings. I've always thought it's a matter of execution, and when your goal is to make the audience feel bad, that's usually a more difficult sell, so you better do it really, really well. Few do, and yet critics fawn all over them anyway. Perhaps a topic for another time.
The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence - An excellent (long) read, especially since we seem to be mired in a summer of AI villains and what have you. There are some very scary things about AI, but it's not quite what we're seeing at the movies. The thing that troubles me is the speed with which AI will go from a research project to genuine superintelligence:
It takes decades for the first AI system to reach low-level general intelligence, but it finally happens. A computer is able to understand the world around it as well as a human four-year-old. Suddenly, within an hour of hitting that milestone, the system pumps out the grand theory of physics that unifies general relativity and quantum mechanics, something no human has been able to definitively do. 90 minutes after that, the AI has become an ASI, 170,000 times more intelligent than a human.
At that speed, we'll have little to no control over what happens... unless we're super careful ahead of time, and even then, anyone who has worked with computers knows what kinds of inadvertent outcomes can happen, and that's a little terrifying when we start talking about a superintelligence. On the other hand, AI could be our salvation and a path to immortality. Something is bound to happen within our lifetimes, and it will be interesting for sure (in the Chinese curse sense, for sure).
For the same reason that Eskimos purportedly have 50 different words for snow, dogs have a vast repertoire of gestures for appeasement and propitiation. The Norwegian dog trainer Turid Rugaas has identified some 30 "calming signals" - movements offered to deflect trouble (which may also relieve stress in both giver and receiver). Supremely subtle, sometimes so quick we don't notice them, these appeasing signals include a flick of the tongue; turning the head or gaze away; suddenly sniffing the ground or sitting; yawning; shaking off; or approaching on a curve.
We're pretty bad at interpreting doggie language...
Why can't we read anymore? - I didn't really finish the article because it was too long. Just kidding, of course, and I'm not sure I even really buy into this notion that digital media makes us want to read less. Even the author admits that when he forced himself to sit down and read, it was surprisingly easy to do so. As with a lot of things, it's getting started that's the difficult part.
What if Pixar Made Furious 7 - These juxtapositions shouldn't work anymore, but then, here we are, and the footage matches surprisingly well. Go figure.
The Affair of Lemon-Lyman Dot Com - The folks from the excellent Extra Hot Great podcast have always had this weird relationship to the work of Aaron Sorkin and I never realized why until someone mentioned that Lemon-Lymon.com (from an episode of the West Wing) was Sorkin's response to a quasi-feud with the Television Without Pity website (the EHG crew basically created and ran that website in its heyday). This article gives the full rundown though, and it's a pretty interesting little chunk of obscure television history...
They liked Ripley, Hicks, Frost, Apone, Bishop the android, and even Hudson, whose defeatism irritated them so much that I think they would've hated him if he weren't so funny. "Somebody shoot that guy," one said. Frost insisting that "it doesn't matter" when the "poontang" is Arcturian confused a couple of kids. "It means he's bisexual," one explained.
The cigar-chewing Sgt. Apone's oddly musical phrase "assholes and elbows" got the biggest laugh of the evening; two hours and twenty minutes later, the kids were quoting it as they brushed their teeth. Frost's quip, "What are we supposed to use, man, harsh language?" made my son laugh for nearly a full minute.
Nice. Some of these kids are certainly more astute than I was at that age... Also of note, the updated response to apparent outrage that I guess everyone needs to write anytime they write an article that people read these days.
Freakiest Friday - Appreciating Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning - Contrarians gonna contrarian, and since this past Friday was the third Friday the 13th this year, I'm betting horror sites are running out of schtick to post about, so we end up with stuff like this. For what it's worth, I've always liked the idea behind this installment, and there's a bunch of things to like about it, but it does fall down on execution pretty hard (but then, so do most of the movies in the series, so there's that).
Extra delicious, yummy links for your enjoyment. Sorry, some of these have to do with food, so yeah, it's on my mind. Crunchy!
The Katering Show - Hysterically funny show about a foodie attempting to cook food for her food intolerant friend. I'm... not making this sound as funny as it is. My favorite is episode 4, where they use a Thermomix to make risotto (aka hot wet rice).
So "what is a Thermomix?" I hear anyone under the age of 33 ask. It's a blender, a microwave, an ice bucket, and a set of kitchen scales. It's a gangb@ng* of kitchen appliances that's created a futuristic robot saucepan.
When everyone's so close, it changes the dining experience. Out on the floor, you're a dickhead if you overhear a conversation and chime in. Not at the bar. You connect, trade stories, then trade bites. I've never shared as much food with strangers as I have at the bar. You meet great people that way-you're part of this band of outsiders within the restaurant. And for me, that's the best possible dining experience of all.
Perfect for socially awkward introverts like myself!
The Rookie - This whole Instagram account seems to be Avengers action figures doing goofy stuff. It's fun!
That's all for now...
* What the hell Movable Type? The word "gangb@ng" (where the @ is an a) seems to throw a 403 error when I try to use it here. Just that one word. Or if I make it two words. "Gang B@ng". Stupid blogging software. First commenting doesn't work, now this bullshit.
Don't let any potential lightweightish-looking qualities of the texts delude you into thinking that this will be a blow-off-type class. These "popular" texts will end up being harder than more conventionally "literary" works to unpack and read critically. You’ll end up doing more work in here than in other sections of 102, probably.
Probably? I want to take this course, probably. Some good thoughts on the art of the syllabus here as well. RIP DFW.
Watch Agent 47 Kill Children You Don’t Recognize In A HITMAN Viral Video - I can't believe that they're making another Hitman movie. If you'll recall, the first Hitman came out back in 2007, and it was on my "Movies I Want to See Even Though I Know They'll Suck" list. It did not disappoint. This new one looks slightly more upscale, but will most likely be on a similar list this year. Also, the viral video is pretty funny, but as Devin notes: "Agent 47, the guy from the Hitman: Agent 47 reboot...kills a bunch of YouTube and Vine stars, but since I don't recognize any of them it just looks like he's slaughtering children." Heh?
Link Dump: Hugo Nomination Edition
Just some links that may prove to be of some use for folks in the Hugo nomination game.
2015 Hugo Sheet of Doom - This is a public Google doc with potential nominees broken out in each category. Some of the nominees are clearly, er, longshots, but at least it's a source where things are categorized by, um, category (so you don't need to figure out a way to hack a Kindle book/story to do a word count or something). It's public, so you can add stuff if you'd like, but play nice (I did my part and added Coherence and The One I Love to the Long Form Dramatic Presentation Category - and you should totally watch and nominate if you like them, because I'm doubting they will get there without a little help).
Chaos Horizon - An extremely thorough attempt to predict Hugo and Nebula (novel) nominees. It is basically a value neutral attempt, so there's very little in the way of proselytizing, just lots of collation and correlation, and plenty of analysis. Dude is even starting to predict the 2016 Hugos...
Announcing Sad Puppies 3 - Brad Torgerson takes the baton from Larry Correia and is leading the charge this year. It is mildly less combative, but will no doubt raise a lot of hackles when it manages to get something nominated. It does still seem less about "These books are awesome and deserve recognition" and more about "Other people are ideological and we need to fight them" or some such thing. I can't ever seem to get on board with this because it's just too whiny. He's also written a few follow up posts, but has not posted a list yet (and frankly, I would not really recommend wading through the comments). It's worth noting, though, that the folks who bought a supporting membership last year are still eligible to nominate this year, so there's a fair chance that we'll see more Sad Puppy nominees...
That's all for now. I'm sure I'll be posting more about the Hugos as time goes on.
How to be smarter about cultural outrage - I get that some people thrive on outrage, but I never find it productive myself. Not that I don't get outraged, of course. Still, I tend to be decent at separating art from the artist. Not always, but I at least try...
But for our collective mental health and to forestall future cognitive dissonance, I'd like to make a suggestion. Let 2015 be the year we remember that you don't have to be a good person to make good art; that the making of good art does not sanctify you as a person; and in fact, that the existence of a lot of excellent art depends for its inspiration on the unhappiness and imperfection of its creators. Let's stop acting like we're shocked, shocked when an artist we love is revealed to be a flawed human and acknowledge that in pursuit of something we love. And then let’s figure out what we want to do with that information, beyond simply reacting with outrage.
This time, featuring actual relevant and timely information. Partially. It's otherwise just links to interesting stuff from ye olde internets. No one's perfect.
Sony Cancels ‘The Interview’ Release, Has No Plans For VOD/DVD; U.S. Links North Korea to Sony Hacking - This makes me feel like a grumpy old man. Say what you will about America's problems, one of the things we've always been decent at (not perfect, to be sure) was free speech. For all our partisan rhetoric and cheap debating tactics, we used to be pretty awesome at free speech. No matter what problems we faced, we could at least talk that shit out. The past few years seems to have heralded an odd resistance to free speech, often from those who rely heavily on its protections. The lessons here are simple. Are you offended by something stupid someone said? Threaten to kill someone, and they'll stop talking. Sony apparently considered a VOD release (and there are interesting implications to that approach), but currently has no plans. I was ambivalent about this movie before, but I would have totally seen this in the theater (or VOD). This is a shame. I'm really hoping this precedent isn't set it stone.
Hobbit Office - In lighter news, this is brilliant. No, wait, it's offensive. Someone threaten SNL.
...when it comes to preserving movies for the long haul, the digital revolution may turn out to be something of a catastrophe. "At this time, the longevity of digital files of moving images is anybody's guess," says Paolo Cherchi Usai, senior curator at George Eastman House, one of the nation's most significant motion-picture archives. "We do know that it is much, much shorter than the longevity of photochemical film." If hard drives aren't occasionally turned on, he notes, they start to become unusable.
...In one of the most famous examples of the perils of digital preservation, when the makers of Toy Story attempted to put their film out on DVD a few years after its release, they discovered that much of the original digital files of the film - as much as a fifth - had been corrupted. They wound up having to use a film print for the DVD. "That was the first major episode to draw public attention to the fact that digital files are a challenge when it comes to conservation," says Usai. (Somewhat hilariously and almost tragically, a similar fate came close to befalling Toy Story 2, which nearly got nuked when someone accidentally hit a "delete" button.)
The fate of Toy Story highlights a sad irony of the digital revolution: It's the newer movies that are in trouble. For a long time, it was assumed that the real loser in our rapidly approaching all-digital future would be older films shot on celluloid, as they would have to be digitized at great cost in a world where movie theaters had forsaken film prints.
And that's before you get to more intentional transitory experiences, like video games (remember Lord British?). It feels like there has to be a better way to do this. Maybe if someone threatens... nah.
That's all for now. Stay tuned for some some reviews for SF short stories.
Tweets of Glory: Pretty Pictures Edition
As a testament to the enduring power of blogs, I present unto you a series of funny tweets. This time around, each tweet will feature an image of some kind, because why not?
The one constant, it seems to me, in looking at how we look at the past, how we have looked at the past before, is that we never see the inhabitants of the past as they saw themselves.
We have a very detailed idea of what the Victorians were like. They're not really very far away, but they were different. Their view of themselves is nothing like our view of them. They probably didn't think they were puritanical and kinky. They probably didn't think that conditions of child labor were that problematic. I'm sure they didn't think that colonialism was a problem - it was a feature, not a bug. Their whole business was based on it. We see them very differently, and I think that the future won't see us as anything like we see ourselves to be.
Heh. I'm looking forward to checking out Gibson's new novel, The Peripheral. Potential Hugo nominee? Time will tell!
Compare the Nazis to the German Jews and to the Japanese. The Nazis were very similar to the German Jews: they looked the same, spoke the same language, came from a similar culture. The Nazis were totally different from the Japanese: different race, different language, vast cultural gap. But although one could imagine certain situations in which the Nazis treated the Japanese as an outgroup, in practice they got along pretty well. Heck, the Nazis were actually moderately friendly with the Chinese, even when they were technically at war. Meanwhile, the conflict between the Nazis and the German Jews - some of whom didn’t even realize they were anything other than German until they checked their grandparents’ birth certificate - is the stuff of history and nightmares. Any theory of outgroupishness that naively assumes the Nazis’ natural outgroup is Japanese or Chinese people will be totally inadequate.
Windows 93 - What would Windows 95 have looked like if it were released two years earlier? Probably not this, but it's a goofy exercise and fun to check out anyway.
CARL: What constitutes due diligence when determining whether a story is public domain?
BUD: A good question, but one that doesn't have a simple answer. You can't just Google a name, not find anything on the first screen, and assume that the estate is dead. Nor can you find one source offering the work for free and claiming it's PD and not look further. That ain't no way diligence, due or otherwise. For me, due diligence is looking for as long as it takes to find an answer one way or another. If that means asking a few people, fine. If it means checking the Copyright Office website for specific renewal notices, searching for the possibility that the magazine that originally published a story may not have registered copyright then looking further to see if the author did at a later time, then that's equally fine. I will point out here, though, that to my direct knowledge the information at the CO website is not always accurate; in one specific case, an e-publisher checked the status of a novel there, found no notice of renewal, and issued the book. When the author - still alive and writing, I'll point out - found out about it, he was able to show the publisher his paperwork proving that the rights HAD been renewed. To the publisher's credit, they immediately issued a check in the amount the writer asked for. So, due diligence? It's whatever it takes. Now I know that's not terribly responsive, and it's certainly NOT a legal definition by any means, but it's what I do.
As per usual, interesting links from the depths of the internets:
The Uber for Gentleman Companions by By Julieanne Smolinski - As with everything Julieanne writes, you should read this. It's about a service that provides male companions that are totally not whores. Sample awesome:
You can also give him whatever name you want, and enumerate any crazy things you might want him to do via a special requests section.
Don't get too excited, though, as suggested special requests include "feeds you grapes while fanning you," and not, say, "defecates on a glass coffee table while you lie underneath furiously masturbating."
Umm, slightly NSFW, I guess. But brilliant and hilarious.
Ask Andrew W.K.: Pizza Is Healthy - "Pizza is more than just food; it's a genuine physical and spiritual pleasure. Anyone who says that money cannot buy happiness has clearly never spent their money on pizza."
How facts backfire - This is mildly disturbing, but also gives credence to the notion that politics are to be avoided:
Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.
(emphasis mine) If you ever wonder why people decry the inclusion of politics into previously serene areas of culture (recent examples include the SF community and nerdy communities in general), this is why. Politics engender misunderstanding in even the most benign situations, and at worst, creates a toxic environment.
Is there any home purchase more confusing and fraught with anxiety than buying a mattress? Study after study points to sleep being vitally important to our health and happiness, and it stands to reason that a mattress is a foundational component of a good night’s rest. And yet to choose the right one, shoppers must navigate a Kafkaesque maze.
In 1856, a fisherman from a tiny hamlet on the New England coast made a terrible pact with serpentine beasts from beneath the sea, that he might create the most delicious sweet seen upon the Earth since the days of the great Elder Race. Thus was forged the satanic pact between peanut butter and chocolate that resulted in the mutant offspring you see before you!
Chocolate Cherry Cordial
You must not think me mad when I tell you what I found below the thin shell of chocolate used to disguise this bonbon’s true face. Yes! Hidden beneath its rich exterior is a hideously moist cherry cordial! What deranged architect could have engineered this non-Euclidean aberration? I dare not speculate.
Detecting the Writer - An intriguing post by Doctor Science about the tropes and patterns of mystery novels. The title of the post is derived from this Dorothy Sayers quote:
The mystery-monger's principal difficulty is that of varying his surprises. "You know my methods, Watson," says the detective, and it is only too painfully true. The beauty of Watson was, of course, that after thirty years he still did not know Holmes's methods; but the average readers is sharper-witted. After reading half a dozen stories by one author, he is sufficiently advanced in Dupin's psychological method to see with the author's eyes. He knows that, when Mr. Austin Freeman drowns somebody in a pond full of water-snails, there will be something odd and localised about those snails; he knows that, when one of Mr. Wills Croft's characters has a cast-iron alibi, that alibi will turn out to have holes in it; he knows that if Father Knox casts suspicion on a Papist, the Papist will turn out to be innocent; instead of detecting the murderer, he is engaged in detecting the writer.
(Emphasis mine). It probably has a broader application, but anyone who watches any of the gazillion police procedurals out there (Law & Order, CSI, Bones, etc...) will be intimately familiar with what Sayers is talking about. Also of note in this post is the excellent "One Body Test", and something close to my own lament that so many mysteries are so focused on murder. As Doctor Science mentions, "death isn't the only thing worth investigating."
The Great Unread - Joseph Luzzi explores that age old question: Why do some classics continue to fascinate while others gather dust? To do so, he looks at two Italian classics Alessandro Manzoni's novel The Betrothed, popular in Italy, but not anywhere else, and Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio, which is universally beloved and continually referenced all over the world.
Manzoni's novel promotes a Christian faith whose adherents are rewarded for submitting to God's providential wisdom. Collodi's story, beyond exploring the plight of Italians in their newborn nation, describes how children learn to make their way in an adult society, with all its strictures and codes of behavior. Manzoni's legacy in Italy is so strong that his book will always be read there. But outside of Italy, those same readers curious about Collodi's star-crossed puppet are likely never to give Manzoni's thoroughly Christian universe a second thought.
This contrast, between a celebrated and largely unread classic and an enduringly popular classic, shows that a key to a work's ongoing celebrity is that dangerous term: universality.
It's been a while since my chain-smoking monkey research squad's research efforts on ye olde internets was posted, so enjoy some interesting links:
Gareth Evans' Top 5 Action Scenes - In case you don't know, Gareth Evans is the guy who directed The Raid: Redemption (and its sequel), two of the better action movies of the past few years, so this is actually a really fantastic video. A little heavy on the Jackie Chan, but hey, it's not like Jackie Chan didn't do some fantastic action stuff...
"I can’t even." - An appreciation of H.P. Lovecraft's ability to be able to not describe the indescribable. Or something like that.
We go forward. - A comic that acknowledges the profundity of side scrolling video games.
Game of Thrones - VHS Intro - Man, if Game of Thrones was made in the 78s, it would have sucked hardcore. But this is still pretty awesome!
You know the drill, yet more links uncovered by my chain-smoking monkey research squad. Enjoy:
Entertainment Weekly, the genesis - Jeff Jarvis writes about the need for EW back in 1984: "Today, there is simply too much to choose from"... It could very well have been written last week, except that there'd be a whole lot of other things to choose from.
Team Toby: The cold open sees Toby neurotically reacting to the President's speech. In a classic West Wing walk-n-talk, Toby harps on Bartlett for screwing up "the D section." He says the words "D section" literally nine thousand times (literally!), because Aaron Sorkin read that chapter about repetition in his screenwriting textbook a loooooot. The Bartlett/Toby banter is far more lighthearted than it will be in subsequent episodes, but it's nice to see that particular character runner to get started this early.
It's great fun, and it kinda makes me want to watch The West Wing again...
Grandmaster of the Swaying Snake style, Nixon had defeated many foes. He was known for his innovation on the tournament ground, for subtle feints and devastating flurries from unexpected directions. Though the Golden Child had defeated him in the last decade, Nixon remained resilient, eventually wresting control of his school from his rivals and rising to become President.
Nothing stood in his way to challenge for the position of Sifu-Sai-Sifu, Master of Masters.
Lord Buddha, though, is unequaled in sagacity. He had decreed that the title of Sifu-Sai-Sifu could only be held by one who had tasted the Fruit of Compassion, which grew in the Vineyards of the White Plains, beyond the Gate of Water. These grapes were said to hold the wisdom of Lord Buddha himself, and would bestow upon any who tasted them the wit and skill needed to rule as Sifu-Sai-Sifu.
I don't even, um, what is this?
That's all for now. Hugo blogging resumes on Sunday with a look at the Short Story slate.
It's that time again, and yes, I guess it's been that time a lot lately, but links are fun, so enjoy them why don't you:
Law and Order: GOT - Pitch perfect. I saw this before last week's episode and felt a pang of sorrow when I saw Oberyn.
Fitness Crazed - It turns out that the latest scientific approaches to exercise are generally inferior to the simplicity of old timey weightlifting routines.
The program sounded like an unscientific joke. It called for exactly three workouts per week, built around five old-fashioned lifts: the squat, dead lift, power clean, bench press and standing press. But the black-and-white photographs were so poorly shot, and the people in them were so clearly not fitness models, that it seemed legit.
... Now for the astonishing part: It worked. I was able to lift a tiny bit more every single time, like magic - or, rather, like Milo of Croton, the ancient Greek wrestler who is said to have lifted a newborn calf and then lifted it every day thereafter, as it grew, until Milo carried a full-grown bull.
Personally, I have a couple sets of dumbells in the basement and an elliptical (my workouts also usually include old standbys like pushups and situps), and I seem to be doing alright for myself.
The ghost in the machine - As Kottke predicted, this hit me right in the feels. It's a touching story, but the biggest shock is that it turns out that sometimes Youtube comments actually contain something worthwhile.
...if you're unhappy that someone, somewhere is having an apoplectic freak-out over entertainment news? You might as well get mad at the weather. You might have a point, but there's no fighting human nature.
Perhaps the problem is that we're taking Twitter too seriously. I'm very optimistic about technology, but not every sentence uttered in haste into a social network is cause for panic. Just because someone cracks wise about the new Batman v Superman title doesn't really mean all that much, but everyone seems in a rush to put out think pieces wondering why some people don't like the title and what does it all mean? Characterizing that as backlash is probably jumping the gun a bit. The same could be said for just about any other topic, including more serious ones.
Your average piece-of-shit Windows desktop is so complex that no one person on Earth really knows what all of it is doing, or how.
Now imagine billions of little unknowable boxes within boxes constantly trying to talk and coordinate tasks at around the same time, sharing bits of data and passing commands around from the smallest little program to something huge, like a browser -that's the internet. All of that has to happen nearly simultaneously and smoothly, or you throw a hissy fit because the shopping cart forgot about your movie tickets.
We often point out that the phone you mostly play casual games on and keep dropping in the toilet at bars is more powerful than all the computing we used to go to space for decades.
NASA had a huge staff of geniuses to understand and care for their software. Your phone has you.
Plus a system of automatic updates you keep putting off because you’re in the middle of Candy Crush Saga every time it asks.
Because of all this, security is terrible.
Hardware has improved pretty reliably over the past few decades. Software? Not so much.
We're through the looking glass here people, more links from the depths of the internets. Fear them.
Twitter Tsunamis - In response to two floods of tweets last week, one heralding a well written essay, the other in response to this weekend's tragedy, Alan Jacobs laments:
This kind of thing always makes me want to flee Twitter, even when I am deeply sympathetic to the positions people are taking. It's a test of my charity, and a test I usually fail. To me these tsunamis feel like desperate signaling, people trying to make sure that everyone knows where they stand on the issue du jour. I can almost see the beads of sweat forming on their foreheads as they try to craft retweetable tweets, the kind to which others will append that most wholehearted of endorsements: "THIS." I find myself thinking, People, you never tweeted about [topic x] before and after 48 hours or so you’ll never tweet about it again, so please stop signaling to all of us how near and dear to your heart [topic X] is.
So, you know: charity FAIL. I know that most - well, anyway, many - of the people tweeting about what everyone else was tweeting about were sincere and expressing genuine interest. It's just hard for me to handle such exaggerated and repeated unanimity.
This is a failing of twitter, a platform that was never meant to host these sorts of conversations. Twitter is supposed to be inane and snarky. There are some wizards who are able to pack a lot of meaning into 140 characters, but they are rare. The Ta-Nehisi Coates essay at least prompted tweets with links to the article (along with some obscenely hyperbolic praise) which is long and detailed and worthy of discussion - but discussions accomplished through bursts of 140 characters are not going to get it done. Twitter is great for short back and forths, but have you ever tried to follow a back-and-forth conversation that goes on for more than 5 tweets? Even with Twitter's improving ability to group this stuff together, it's annoying as hell, and I'm talking about nerdy debates about movies or beer. Imagine debates about racism or abortion happening on twitter. Can you really accomplish anything in 140 characters? Get a blog, people!
Calling Kids Out - Now here's someone doing it right. It's a guy who got drunk and decided to mock lame child fashion designers. Here's a man who knows that 140 characters just won't do. (In case you were wondering why the crazy tone and rhythm sounds familiar, this is the same maniac that's behind the Don't Drink Beer blog)
How YouTube and Internet Journalism Destroyed Tom Cruise, Our Last Real Movie Star - An excellent long look into the career of Tom Cruise and that fateful moment when he "jumped" up on the couch on Oprah. Perhaps related to the distortion effect caused by condensing complex debates into 140 characters on Twitter, this is a situation where no one ever watches the full 40+ minute interview with Tom Cruise, just the one time he stood up on the couch. And most likely, you only get a screenshot, which distorts things even more.
Like Humphrey Bogart saying, "Play it again, Sam," Tom Cruise jumping on a couch is one of our mass hallucinations. But there's a difference. Bogart's mythological Casablanca catchphrase got embedded in the culture before we could replay the video and fact-check. Thanks to the Internet, we have video at our fingertips. Yet rather than correct the record, the video perpetuated the delusion.
It is perhaps going a bit far to say that the couch jumping "never happened", because Cruise did end up standing on top of a couch, but there's definitely a lot of distortion and exaggeration going on here, and this article covers the whole thing, and Cruise's career in general, very well.
Just some links culled from the depths of the internets:
The art of anticipation - In this day and age of binge-watching television, it's worth considering what the scheduling of a show isn't just a commercial decision, but a creative one. Even something like House of Cards, which is ostensibly "designed" to be binge watched all at once, has episodes and cliffhangers and even something akin to a commercial break. Why? Because that stuff matters:
Delay, withhold, restrict, release: This is storytelling 101, Scheherazade stuff, and it’s deeper than marketing and distribution. We bring all of our creative talents to bear on matters of plot and character; the anticipation that precedes and interpenetrates a story deserves no less. More than ever, the shape of a season can be designed and managed. More than ever, anticipation can be art-directed.
It's exciting that TV has come alive to these possibilities. Such ingenuity is not necessarily what you expect from a format insulated by layers of MBAs with a fiduciary duty to say "no" to weird ideas—but here we are! For once, it's the complex, expensive, high-stakes medium that's leading the way. There's an opportunity for other formats to follow.
As long as there have been video games, there have been cheaters. For competitive games like Counter-Strike, battling cheaters is an eternal, Sisyphean task. In February, Reddit raised concerns about lines of code in Valve-Anti Cheat (VAC), used for Counter-Strike and dozens of other games on Steam, that looked into users' DNS cache. In a statement, Gabe Newell admitted that Valve doesn't like talking about VAC because "it creates more opportunities for cheaters to attack the system." But since online surveillance has been a damning issue lately, he made an exception.
This winds up being a fascinating article, not least of which because of the folks who are constantly getting caught, yet continue to jump through complicated hoops to get their cheat on...
One of the characters is named Angela Montenegro, and she is an artist who is magic and owns a magic computer that can do anything. Like, Cam will say, "Angela, can you show what it would look like if a ferret ate the victim's genitals and then burrowed through his genitals-hole into his chest cavity and then exploded out his face?" And then Angela is all "beep beep boop" and then she makes a computer animation that looks early 2000s of that thing happening. She is magic.
A regular old link dump, interesting stuff from the depths of the internets:
Advice to Young Critics - Matt Zoller Seitz (who writes at Roger Ebert's site) lays down some pretty common sense advice for young critics, though I'd argue that it's pretty good advice for fans as well:
2. Learn about TV and film history beyond your date of birth. Go back as far as you possibly can. Seek out the past because it informs the present.
... 6. Read about history and psychology, because so much art draws from those two areas. If you don't have some passing familiarity with history (recent and ancient) and psychology, your inferences about an artist's point-of-view will draw almost entirely upon second- or third-hand attitudes: i.e., you'll be critiquing film and TV based mainly on what film and TV you've seen. This will make your work shallow and prevent you from connecting the art to life.
Actually, this is probably just good advice, period. (Of course, some of the other suggestions are very specific to critics and writers, but still.)
Once upon a time, for instance, all that you needed to start a bank was a bench. You put your bench up in a square in medieval Italy and sat down behind it to do business. The Italian for bench is banca, and hence our modern word bank.
Sometimes, of course, bankers would run out of money, and when they did - in an age before the invention of TARP, bailouts and Ben Bernanke - their bench would be ceremonially smashed in front of them. It was then a "broken bench" or "banca rotta" or "bankrupt."
Granted, most scientists think that if you really want to let your mind roam, you need to engage in a nondemanding task, like going for a three-hour walk.
Most jobs don't allow that, of course. That's why I've begun to think that the "social" Internet has become a rough substitute. If your boss is trying to force you to focus on PowerPoint and Word documents, you might gravitate to mentally discursive, floaty experiences — the idle surfing of Facebook updates, Wikipedia entries, YouTube videos, casual games like Bejeweled. Maybe these things aren't so much time sucks as desperate attempts by our brains to decouple from the go-go-go machine and head off on its own.
Wishful thinking, perhaps, but interesting nonetheless.
The Case For Going to the Movies Alone - She had me at alone. In all seriousness, it was a liberating revelation when I started going to the movies alone. Of course, I still go with other people (often, even), but it's nice to know that if I want to watch something weird or at a weird time, I can do so with no problems.
More links from the depths of the internets:
The bones of old decisions by Clive Thompson - Or: why we're still using a qwerty keyboard, despite the fact that the original reasons for laying our keyboards out this way have not been relevant for, like, 50 years. This is not a unique twist of fate either, it's a common issue. Technological lock-in is a bitch.
Trolls are People Too - This is a neat story about someone who engaged with a troll rather than write them off or castigate them (the two typical responses). I don't know the details of the particular situation other than what's in the linked post, but I'd wager that this dude isn't what I'd consider a troll. Perhaps I have an overly specific version of a troll (friggin' jokee, amiright 4kers who read this blog? (apologies for the near incomprehensible inside joke, but there's like two people who are either laughing or getting ready to punch their monitor right now...)) It's probably something I should dedicate a full post to, but most of the people we call trolls these days don't seem like the trolls of yore. I'd just call them assholes myself, because "Don't feed the trolls" doesn't really apply to anonymous drive-by lackwits posting on some random blog. Terminology evolves over time, but if you're going to make troll mean something different, you need to also make sure you change up the way you deal with trolls. Like I said, fodder for a longer post that I'll probably never get to. You're welcome.
Yes, again, links from the uncharted depths of the internets:
What Is the Time Signature of the Ominous Electronic Score of The Terminator? - I love the score for The Terminator. It's one of my favorite movies, and the score is a big part of that (the pop music hasn't quite aged as well, but Burnin' in the Third Degree brings back some memories). Composer Brad Fiedel intentionally used all electronic instruments for the score, thus emphasizing the artificial nature of the threat. I have no real formal knowledge of music, but I know I like weird, and this score really hits that. Apparently one of the things that drives that weirdness is the time signature:
As the score kicked in, I immediately recognized it was in a strange time signature. I'm a (very) amateur musician, and my ears are attuned to bizarre beats. This was as jarring as it gets. A disorienting rhythm - in particular the driving, industrial-sounding beat that gets louder and more prominent as the opening theme progresses. It wasn't in 5/4 or 7/8, both of which I can generally suss out with not much difficulty. I tried to count the beat in my head, and by tapping on my thigh: "DAH-doonk, dah-doonk, dah-doonk, gonk gonk." But for the life of me I couldn't make anything fit. My world had been ripped apart, much like Sarah Connor's when she discovered she was being hunted by an implacable killing machine from the future.
I won't tell you the time signature, but I will note that there actually is an answer in the article (I was a little worried at some point that it wouldn't be solved).
The amazing invisible spacer GIF hack - Flashbacks. Not to the horrors of 1x1 gifs, but rather the horrors of converting 1x1 gif layouts to CSS. Incidentally, Kaedrin is still partially on 1x1 gifs. I've slowly CSSified things, but the bulk of this design was done in 2001 and used tables and spacer gifs. I actually did find a way to convert the layout to CSS, but I never went through the trouble of updating it in my templates. Someday? Probably not anytime soon. Everything here is custom built, so updating the templates is a pain. But perhaps someday I'll hook into the newer templates that are out there (and that would allow me to switch up designs on a whim - I can kinda do that with the beer blog, it's just that MT has so few designs available)...
Warner Bros. Logo Design Evolotion - It's a thorough recap, and it's funny how often the design changed, sometimes dramatically. And it's funny how even movies from 2012 would use "throwback" logos.
From the probiotics aisle to the vaguely ridiculous Organic Integrity outreach effort (more on that later), Whole Foods has all the ingredients necessary to give Richard Dawkins nightmares. And if you want a sense of how weird, and how fraught, the relationship between science, politics, and commerce is in our modern world, then there's really no better place to go. Because anti-science isn't just a religious, conservative phenomenon—and the way in which it crosses cultural lines can tell us a lot about why places like the Creation Museum inspire so much rage, while places like Whole Foods don't.
Science fiction films, it often seems, are the idiot cousin of the genre. Not that there aren't some excellent SF films out there, but even if you ignore the vast majority, which are actually action or horror films in an SFnal setting, what you'll be left with will be mostly small, simple stories in thinly drawn worlds, often with a thuddingly obvious political subtext. Again, that's not to say that these films can't be good--Moon, to take one example whose story and world are practically miniscule, is one of the finest SF films of the last decade. But it's rare, verging on unheard-of, for SF films to achieve the depth and complexity of SFnal ideas and worldbuilding that written SF is capable of, and I think that part of the reason for this is fear. Most SF filmmakers (or their financial backers) are afraid to imagine a world too different from out own, a future too alien--the most celebrated SF film of the last year, after all, was one that used space exploration as a metaphor for alienation, and ended with humanity effectively barred from space for decades to come. Spike Jonze's Her isn't the film to buck that trend, but it carries within it the seeds of that film. Jonze takes the relatively unusual step (in the film medium, at least) of pairing SF with romantic drama, but that potentially refreshing choice turns out to be Her's undoing--not only because the romance it crafts is problematic and unconvincing, but because it obscures the much more interesting SF film that Her could have been, if it were slightly less afraid of the future.
Again, I don't quite agree with everything, but it's very well put, and the rest of the review is a pretty compelling argument. I still liked the movie a lot, but like I mentioned earlier this week, I think the movie doesn't fully explore the implications of its SFnal ideas and its world never really approaches the depth or complexity of novels covering similar ground.
Firefly Fan Tries to Retroactively Save Dead Character With NASA Data - This is one of those articles where no one really comes away looking particularly good. This guy went to extreme lengths to help... a fictional character. On the other hand, I (and I suspect most Firefly/Serenity fans) can sympathize with him, because Joss Whedon is the sort of writer who will kill a character in the most blatantly manipulative but still heart wrenching manner, so heart wrenching that it doesn't really achieve its aim. But then, we've covered that ground before, eh?
Inside The Army's Spectacular Hidden Treasure Room - Yada, yada, yada, it turns out that the giant government warehouse that the "top men" store the Ark of the Covenant in at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark is actually a real place, and it's awesome.
There you have it. Stay tuned for some Oscar commentary on Sunday, and while I'm thinking that my twitter will consist more retweets than original tweets, I'll probably be online for the whole ceremony, so feel free to follow me there.
Posted by Mark on February 26, 2014 at 11:25 PM .:
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
I appear to be one of the lucky few to have power in the Philly area right now, but the past few days have been a doozy. If you're local, stay safe (and keep warm). If you have power, here are some links for your enjoyment:
What the audience wants is to see Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo again. The problem is, that's impossible. Those characters are gone. They are a creation of celluloid well over thirty years ago. Without conducting the requisite thought experiments, though, the audience - and J.J. Abrams - will continue to "want" to see their heroes again, right up until the moment that they do. At which point, I think, a rather horrible collision between wants and needs will take place, right up there on the big screen.
What the audience needs, above all, is to not have their abiding affection for the original trilogy tampered with.
Amen to that. Lets hope that Abrams knows what he's doing.
How to Correct People - An interesting perspective (from a reality TV show, no less) and something I wish more folks would engage in:
The customer (called a "Skin" on this show, although it's a "Human Canvas" on Ink Master) had spent four years in the Marine Corps and wanted a tattoo that related to his helicopter. In the brief conference about the direction of the tattoo, the tattoo artist said, "So you were part a helicopter crew."
Now, it turns out that it is not actually called a helicopter "crew." And some people get really persnickety if you use the wrong word by accident. But this guy answered by nodding. And he said, "A helicopter squadron, yeah."
I'm just really impressed by this move, where he managed to squeeze in a correction while agreeing twice. And it worked!
Seriously, if we all acted more like that, we wouldn't have to endure the stuff this next link describes:
Don't let movie social media get toxic - Another symptom of the seeming tendency in modern life to vilify those who aren't like you. Twitter's ease of entry and brevity of content only exacerbates the issue.
There are still lots of worthwhile voices about film on social media. If you;re following the right people, you'll see dynamic, thoughtful conversations from people looking to spread the love of cinema and foster a community of tech-savvy cinephiles. But from my subjective vantage point, there also seems to be more and more hostility on Twitter as well, and an increasing rush to judge those who don't have the "right" opinion about a movie, whatever that may be at any given moment. Didn't like 12 Years A Slave? Thought The Wolf Of Wall Street was just so-so? Loved The Lone Ranger and its crazy human-heart-eating villain? Sorry, no, you're wrong.
This is spot on, and it's something I've been noticing a lot lately. I don't think that social media is the cause, though. Outrage happens at the speed of Twitter, and that's pretty much instantaneous. We either need to think before we tweet, or we need to recognize that we're not thinking before we tweet and treat the content accordingly. I understand the impulse to complain and be snarky, especially on Twitter, but what I don't understand is the notion that such sentiments be taken quite so seriously. This isn't about movies, and it isn't about Feminism (the article that really set this off was about how Feminists are under constant attack by other, self-righteous Feminists). It's about discourse and speech, and for whatever reason, we seem to be hounding each other to shut up (even as we publish more than ever - clearly this hounding isn't working). It's fine to be offended or outraged, but that doesn't entitle you to anything. We should all strive to be more like that guy who corrected the tatoo artist in the previous link. There's a lot to chew on here, and it's something that's been bugging me for a while. Like I said, it's not limited to the spheres discussed here. I'm sure this will pop up again on the blog at some point.
Do Vampires Get Married More Often Than Werewolves? - Based on 2,231 books that spend a substantial amount of time talking about werewolves and/or vampires. It turns out that Werewolve's marry more often, but Vampires get more action (especially explicit action).
This morning, the members of the New York Film Critics Circle, including me, voted to expel Armond White, the former critic of the now-defunct New York Press (and currently the editor and movie critic of CityArts), from the group. To me, it was a sad moment — pathetic, really, though Armond brought it on himself. A week ago, at the Circle’s annual awards dinner, White made a rude and bellicose spectacle of himself, as he did the year before, by heckling one of the winners — in this case, Steve McQueen, the director of 12 Years a Slave, a movie that White, in his review, had dismissed as "torture porn."
Now, I wasn't there, so I have no idea what really happened (White denies saying the things he's accused of), but this seems like a rather excessive punishment. This is a guy who's chaired the committee multiple times, and while I doubt anyone agrees with White that often, he's at least a thought provoking, interesting critic. The thing that strikes me as odd is... why kick him out? He wasn't suspended for a time or banned from this awards dinner, they went with the nuclear option. Owen Gleiberman gives his reasoning in the linked article, but it seems to amount to hearsay. This is strange because Gleiberman spends most of the article praising White's virtues, which are not hearsay. It feels like there's more going on here.
Posted by Mark on January 15, 2014 at 10:34 PM .:
Sunday, January 05, 2014
Yet more detritus from the depths of the internets, curated and posted for your enjoyment:
Ranking the James Bond/Batman Mash-Ups - An admirably comprehensive list of all 23 James Bond movies... if they were actually Batman movies in disguise. Or something like that. It's a pretty clever way to comment on both Bond and Batman, and again, I have to admire the follow through.
The meaning of "Doom" - A nice reflection on the importance of the video game Doom. Also of note, the book Masters of Doom, which chronicles the creation of Id and their many revolutionary games, with special focus on the two Johns (Carmack and Romero). Worth checking out if you have an interest in games or even just programming.
Milk, the Drink of Conquerors - Weirdly fascinating article. "Recent scientific discoveries suggest that the spread of farming across prehistoric Europe may have gone hand in hand with the increase in lactose tolerance." Huh.
Inside the Book: Rube Goldberg - I have to admit, while I'm obviously very familiar with the infamous "Rube Goldberg Devices", I've never known much about the man or his art (where he depicted those famous devices, but also lots of other interesting stuff). This video is admittedly limited in scope, but it makes me want to delve deeper into Goldberg's work...
Medieval kids’ doodles on birch bark - It seems that some things never change. Even in the 13th century, young students would doodle when they got bored. Make sure to check the links to otherdoodles... Not to mention all the other junk that came along with these writings.
...we have two professions known for conservative dark-colored wardrobes, maintaining immense libraries of impenetrable tomes bound in red leather, communicating in technical jargon drawn from languages a thousand years dead, being utterly beholden to the mysterious immortal beings they serve, and getting very little sleep. Seems like a natural fit to me.
...Let’s consider common trappings of hermetic and summoning magic. Magic forces things to act in ways they don’t normally. So does law—we don’t need to go so far as Hobbes to recognize that in the absence of laws people would not behave in the same way as they do with laws.
It works better than I'd think, and there might even be some historical basis...
Some evenings, when we force her to go to bed, she will pretend to go to sleep and then get back up and continue to do homework for another hour. The following mornings are awful, my daughter teary-eyed and exhausted but still trudging to school.
I wonder: What is the exact nature of the work that is turning her into a sleep-deprived teen zombie so many mornings?
I decide to do my daughter's homework for one typical week.
The increase comes as Facebook is competing with Twitter to be seen, and used, as a vital news source, and appears to be the result of changes to how news links perform in the News Feed. In short, Facebook appears to have broadly shifted its algorithms and to create formidable new traffic streams that simply weren't there just weeks earlier
In August, Facebook announced changes to its News Feed algorithm, noting that, "Now organic stories that people did not scroll down far enough to see can reappear near the top of News Feed if the stories are still getting lots of likes and comments."
And that's all for now...
Posted by Mark on December 01, 2013 at 12:08 PM .:
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Moar links from the depths of the internets, curated just for you!
Aningaaq - This is an interesting little short-film spinoff of Gravity, depicting one of the scenes from the movie from a completely different perspective. Directed by the son of Alfonso Cuaron (who was the co-writer of Gravity), there's buzz that this might get nominated for a short film Oscar, and since Gravity is doing pretty well on that front, both may be nominated, which is interesting.
4 Rules to Make Star Wars Great Again - In fairness, the original trilogy never stopped being great, but these are interesting points that I think we can all hope JJ Abrams takes to heart in making new Star Wars movies.
The more you spend on a wine, the more you like it. It really doesn’t matter what the wine is at all. But when you’re primed to taste a wine which you know a bit about, including the fact that you spent a significant amount of money on, then you’ll find things in that bottle which you love. You can call this Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome if you want, but I like to think that there’s something real going on. After all, what you see on the label, including what you see on the price tag, is important information which can tell you a lot about what you’re drinking. And the key to any kind of connoisseurship is informed appreciation of something beautiful.
We human beings like to think we're always acting rationally, but a lot of times, we're just rationalizing a more instinctual reaction... and there's nothing wrong with that.
Posted by Mark on November 20, 2013 at 10:43 PM .:
Sunday, November 10, 2013
It's been a goofy week for the blog. One of the great things about paying for your own webhost is that you have control over everything. One of the bad things is that... you have control over everything. So when stuff goes wrong, you have to spend some time fixing it. Fortunately, that's relatively rare these days, but I had some trouble this week with an "upgrade" to mysql and perl which left various pieces of blog functionality (like commenting) inoperable (it also caused me to miss a post, sorry!) This should be all taken care of now, so look for the return of regularly scheduled programming. Anywho, time is short and I'm seeing Thor tonight, so here's a few links from the depths of the internets. Enjoy:
Mumblegore - An excellent little profile on the current crop of up-and-coming horror movie directors, actors, and writers, including the likes of Adam Wingard, AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Ti West, and Roxanne Benjamin (amongst many others). Interesting stuff, and I hope to see more from these folks!
The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge - We all know what I think of "declining serendipity" arguments, but one of the dangers of "on demand" culture is the notion of only exploring "the best" and focusing on pragmatism rather than letting curiosity run its course. Of course, as the linked article suggests, this isn't really a new thing, but it has been an idea that's interested me of late.
Grand Theft Auto V is a Return to the Comedy of Violence - Heh: "As video game players have gotten older, as antiheroes have become routine across the culture, as sex and violence have permeated prestige television, the controversies that once surrounded the Grand Theft Auto games have begun to seem like sepia-toned oddities from another age." I was pretty down on GTA IV and actually, I haven't been playing much in the way of video games at all of late, but this article made me want to pick up a copy of GTA V and fire up the ol PS3 for some mayhem.
That's all for now!
Posted by Mark on November 10, 2013 at 08:50 PM .:
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
6WH: Link Dump: Other Halloween Movie Marathons
Apparently I'm not the only nutbar watching crazy horror movies and generally partaking in Halloween festivities. I know, right? These people are awesome, check them out:
Six Weeks of Halloween - The man, the myth, the legend - kernunrex invented the six weeks of Halloween because those 31 dayers are just slacking for any real horror fan. As per usual, lots of interesting stuff over there, and he posts almost every day (definitely putting my horror movie intake volume to shame).
Final Girl SHOCKtober 2013 - As per usual, the awesome Stacie Ponder is doing her thing. This year's list is based on reader submissions of "movies that scared you the most", as such, lots of idiosyncratic choices, especially in the early going (323 movies were submitted, and we're only a hundred movies in at this point - all with a single vote so far).
Film Thoughts Halloween 2013 - So this Bonehead (that's what he calls himself, for reals, though I think his name is Zack) is doing a pretty great job covering horror movies this season, and he also puts out a quasi-podcast on Youtube called Bangers n' Mash that is totally worth checking out (personally, I just use listentoyoutube.com to convert those videos to mp3s and listen to them like any other podcast)
NeedCoffee 32 Days of Halloween - Widge tries, and surpasses the pedestrian 31 day marathon, but only by one day. That's kinda like bidding $1 in Price is Right, right? Anyway, always interesting stuff going on over there.
Hey Look Behind You 31 Days of Halloween - So I've given short shrift to the "normal" 31 day marathons, but in reality, those people are still awesome. Like Nikki! Who somehow always manages to find new and interesting short films as well as covering general horror stuff. Plus, she does this year round, so maybe it should be the 365 days of Halloween or something.
There are tons of other blogs doing their own Halloween marathon, but I like these ones, so you should to. Special mention to Horror Movie a Day, which, after 6 years and 2500 reviews, has finally slowed down to a 1-2 post a week pace. So while he doesn't seem to be marathoning for the holiday this year, his site is still an invaluable resource of horror movie reviews. That's all for now. Still have no idea what I'm watching next weekend. Tune in on Sunday to find out!
Posted by Mark on October 09, 2013 at 09:39 PM .:
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Time is short tonight, so just a few links (loosely affiliated with the Six Weeks of Halloween):
SOME say the world will end in fire. Some say ice. Some say coordinated kamikaze attacks on the power grid by squirrels.
At least, some have been saying that to me, when they find out I've spent the summer keeping track of power outages caused by squirrels.
Humorous, well-researched article featuring my new favorite acronym: P.O.C.B.S. or Power Outages Caused By Squirrels. Mooallem really walks a tricky line between goofy and witty and serious in this article, and it's definitely worth reading the whole thing. (via Clive Thompson)
The Third Core's Revenge by Alex Wellerstein - Interesting article about a little known bomb:
By the end of August 1945, there had been a total of three plutonium cores created in the entire world. Everyone knows about the first two. The first was put into the Gadget and detonated at Trinity in July 1945. The second was put into the Fat Man and detonated over Nagasaki in August 1945. The third, however, has been largely overlooked.
While not used in war, it earned the nickname "demon core"...
Starcher Trek! - Some genius took dialog from Archer and edited it into the Star Trek Animated Series. It's a surprisingly good match. It's also completely frivolous, but it reminds me that maybe rewatching Archer would be fun.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on September 08, 2013 at 08:01 PM .:
Wednesday, August 07, 2013
Plumbing the depths of the internets, just for you.
Stanley Kubrick, cinephile - A pretty nerdy list of films Stanley Kubrick has said he enjoyed, from various sources. There's lots of typical and expected stuff, but on the other hand, the list also includes White Men Can't Jump (not in this article, but I remember watching a documentary about Kubrick which mentioned that he was fascinated by Sanka commercials because they were like little 45 second movies that still managed to tell a story.)
One Page Screenplays - A guy named Bobby Finger has taken to writing one page screenplays according to minimal rules ("two famous people/a location/a genre"). Sometimes I get the feeling that the two famous people are just supposed to be, like, the actors playing a role. Other times I get the impression that the screenplay actually features the famous people as themselves. Regardless, these are great.
The Reddit sleuths who brought down a meme empire - This is an interesting story, though let's not give Reddit too much credit. After all, they kinda created the problem in the first place and quite frankly, the shenanigans described in the article seemed to go on for quite a while before those Reddit sleuths actually figured out what was going on...
The Pixar Theory - This is old and you've probably already seen it, but it's an impressive bit of retconning:
I've obsessed over this concept, working to complete what I call "The Pixar Theory," a working narrative that ties all of the Pixar movies into one cohesive timeline with a main theme. This theory covers every Pixar production since Toy Story.
It's far fetched but fun.
That's all for now. See you on the other side.
Posted by Mark on August 07, 2013 at 09:52 PM .:
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The building blocks of the internet, links! Now in convenient Shot and Chaser format:
Shot: How Google Rediscovered the 19th Century - Interesting article about how Google Books increases the visibility of public domain stuff. Of course, since we're talking about public domain, we're talking about 19th century stuff, because come on, copyright needs to last 150 years now.
...the role of the digital archive in the rediscovery of the 19th century.
Any reader who has done a project that is historical in nature, regardless of discipline, will recognize the truth of that observation. Thanks to Google, 21st-century scholars are becoming far more accustomed to reading 19th-century books, simply because, being out of copyright, they are online.
It's an interesting point. As content owners continue to restrict consumers' rights, consumers are bypassing them and looking at the public domain because digital services like Google Books make them available. It's an interesting look at the push and pull of technology.
Shot: The Sweet Spot: Tech Jargon? Ping Us. - Wherein New York Times journalists admit that they use jargon to make it seem like they know what they're talking about, when they really don't. (Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but maybe not.)
Chaser: Nothing to See Here: Demoting the Uncertainty Principle - Wherein New York Times journalists (correctly) diagnose the misuse of technical jargon, specifically Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (most people who use that term are really looking to use the phrase "Observation Bias", but that's not sexy enough I guess. Plus, it's not named after a scientist.)
Posted by Mark on July 24, 2013 at 09:12 PM .:
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
As usual, my elite squad of chain smoking monkey researchers have uncovered various tidbits that may be of interest:
Powered Jacket MK3 - I seriously can't tell if this is meant to be serious or if it's some sort of parody (I'm actually pretty sure it's a real product, but this video is so bonkers insane that I don't know what to make of it). Either way, the video is amazing. Another gem from my i'mnotscaredenoughofthejapanese tag on delicious.
It is often mentioned that John Carpenter had the luxury of time when he made THE THING ... and that this expansive schedule in large part contributed to the films' overall quality. Although this was true in some respects it stands in contrast to a frenzied Six Week period from late October to early December, 1981 in which THE THING shape shifted into something harder and more powerful, and in the process took a decisive turn toward the dark side. During this time John restructured the film, wrote what was essentially a new Second Act to conform to the editing he had done ( including new death scenes for two characters ), adopted MacCready as his spiritual doppelganger, and scrambled to get all of it shot on location in Stewart, B.C.
This post touches on every change, every decision made during a 6 week break in the schedule, and it's utterly fascinating. Hat tip to Film Crit Hulk.
The evolution of soft drink cans - Pepsi sucks. (The link doesn't really support my claim, instead focusing on interesting notes surrounding the way can designs have changed over the years for lots of brands. I just hate Pepsi.)
Jason Everman has the unique distinction of being the guy who was kicked out of Nirvana and Soundgarden, two rock bands that would sell roughly 100 million records combined. At 26, he wasn’t just Pete Best, the guy the Beatles left behind. He was Pete Best twice.
Then again, he wasn’t remotely. What Everman did afterward put him far outside the category of rock’n’roll footnote. He became an elite member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, one of those bearded guys riding around on horseback in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.
That's all for now.
Posted by Mark on July 10, 2013 at 08:53 PM .:
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Time is short, so just a few links from the depths of the internets. Go forth and be merry:
Are Critics Too Lenient On Early Summer Movies? - Matt Singer takes on Devin Faraci's theory that "critics gets less forgiving as the summer goes on." This is based on Man of Steel's relatively craptacular 59% on Rotten Tomatoes versus Star Trek Into Darkness' pretty amazing 87%. Even though I found Star Trek to be better than Man of Steel, I do think it's a lot closer than Rotten Tomatoes bears out, and there is a sorta intuitive sense that maybe critics are getting worn down by blockbusters by this point (Man of Steel is especially rough in that respect, that last our is just pure action and special effects, which I imagine grating on critics.)
How JAWS 3D Was Almost JAWS 3, PEOPLE 0 - I'm sure it felt like the right decision at the time, but just imagine how awesome it would be right now if they actually made JAWS 3, PEOPLE 0. Missed opportunities.
The Tragic Imprisonment Of John McTiernan, Hollywood Icon - This doesn't really explain what happend to John McTiernan after his amazing late 80s, early 90s run of great action movies, but it does highlight why he hasn't done much over the past decade or so and why he's serving a year in prison (supposedly due to some weird actor vendetta).
METI: Should We Be Shouting At The Cosmos? - David Brin wonders why we're shouting at the universe with METI (Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence), a sorta splinter group of SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence). It makes sense to try and figure out if there are other intelligent species in the universe (Via SETI), but we may not want to be as overt as METI.
Recently, several groups, ranging from radio astronomers in Argentina and Russia all the way to the web advertising site Craigslist, have declared that they intend to commence broadcasting high-intensity Messages to ETI... or METI... an endeavor also known at "Active Seti." Their intention is to change the observable brightness of Earth civilization by many orders of magnitude, in order to attract attention to our planet from anyone who might be out there.
Let there be no mistake. METI is a very different thing than passively sifting for signals from the outer space. Carl Sagan, one of the greatest SETI supporters and a deep believer in the notion of altruistic alien civilizations, called such a move deeply unwise and immature.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on June 26, 2013 at 10:28 PM .:
Sunday, June 09, 2013
Time is once again short, so just a few interesting links to tide us over until Wednesday, when time will no doubt still be short, but enough preamble, here's some stuff:
It came in a highball with four perfect cubes of ice and a wedge of lemon. It cost sixteen dollars and tasted just like college.
There is no cocktail as maligned as the Long Island Iced Tea. Equal parts vodka, gin, white rum, white tequila, and triple sec, plus sour mix and a splash of coke—its reputation is basically on par with rufinol.
Starship Century Symposium: Neal Stephenson - File 770 has been running recaps of each presentation from the Starship Century Symposium, and of course I had to link to Stephenson's entry, which is basically about building a skyscraper that goes so high that it aids in space launches.
Stephenson began wondering how tall we could build a structure using mundane materials - things available now, because if you have to develop special new materials then people push you off into the future, saying go play in the sandbox and come back in 15 years.
For gamers, the Atari Dump is the stuff of lore, long associated with the failure of "E.T.", Atari's attempt at a home-game tie-in to Steven Spielberg's 1982 movie. The company paid handsomely for rights to the title and rushed an ungainly game to market, making such a face-plant in sales that it almost ruined the company. "E.T."'s epic fail became a cautionary tale and a symbol of the video-game industry crash of the early 1980s.
Now, Fuel seeks to exploit the legend by filming a documentary about the excavation of the dump, perhaps hoping to find thousands of "E.T." game cartridges and Atari 2600 consoles -- or at least hoping that viewers will hope to find that.
And they might indeed find them -- along with a lot of other stuff. Historical records suggest that the dump may be full of all manner of industrial detritus.
Previously, on Arrested Development - Someone has wayyyy too much time on their hands. As Arrested Development gets revived by Netflix, someone has created an insanely detailed mapping of recurring jokes. I've started watching the new season myself, and I guess I'm enjoying it well enough, but then, I was never that big of an AD fan to start with...
R'ha (Short Film) - Pretty amazing little sci-fi short film considering that it was written, directed, and animated by a single man (with an assist on music and voice acting).
Zooey, unable to see through her bangs, runs full-speed into a column at the Parthenon and is pulled from the Race by medical with concussion symptoms.
Mads and Lars Mikkelsen
Calm demeanor and cultural open-mindedness, pluses; tendency to get sucked into crime scenes and murder investigations throughout Western Europe, minuses, and Mads is distracted by keeping a running tally of annoying "let's win this leg...OF THE RACE haw haw" jokes. Lars's muttered wisecrack about ladyfingers in the customs line leads to a two-hour search delay, and their elimination.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on June 02, 2013 at 03:11 PM .:
Sunday, May 26, 2013
I hope you're all having a good holiday weekend. Me, I'm filled up with smoked/barbecued goodness right now, so mental capacities have been rerouted to digestion services. As such, here are some links I found interesting of late...
A Sincere Letter of Thanks to Roger Ebert - That previous video reminded me of this classic article from Kevin Beverage, Noted Games Journalist (who is a story in and of himself, but that's not a tale for this post) in which he comments on Roger Ebert's insistence that games can't be art:
I would like to offer my sincerest thanks to you for recently stating in your column that videogames can never be art. Noting the content drought on many game enthusiast websites, you selflessly decided to peel the crusted top off of the cesspool that is the games-as-art debate, to present us gamers with the opportunity to wallow in our own intellectual feces for a solid week-and-a-half. And with bony fists raised in impotent rage and eyes fixed unflinchingly on our navels, we took up the call.
At the DMV, which can bring out the ornery in people and Philadelphians in particular, the San Francisco clerk inquired: "Why are you so angry?"
To which Monteiro answered, "I'm not angry, I'm from Philly."
And with that, a slogan, a T-shirt and, dare I add, a cosmic world view and fundamental genius understanding of human behavior were born.
How Did This New Limited "24" Series Come To Be? - Does anyone remember the most excellent, but now defunct Extra Hot Great podcast? Well the reason it went away was because they were founding a new website, called previously.tv (this is the same crew that created Television Without Pity way back when), which is great, though I guess I don't watch enough TV as they are covering lots of stuff I didn't know existed. Also, no podcast yet (hopefully soon!). Anywho, this article about the new season of 24 being based on The Da Vinci Code is hilarious.
Posted by Mark on May 26, 2013 at 09:24 PM .:
Sunday, April 14, 2013
I sure do seem to be leaning on these link dump posts of late, sorry about that, but things have been busy, so time for writing is sparse. By which I mean that I'm actually spending too much time faffing about in the internets, hence actually having a bunch of links to dump. Speaking of which:
This past fall, while teaching poetry to undergraduates, I witnessed something of a literary tragedy. Each week, I asked a few students to read a contemporary literary journal of their choosing and present one poem that particularly struck them. An unmistakable pattern began to emerge. In the final week of the quarter, I voiced my discovery: "Have you guys noticed that you gravitate toward poems that are like 'Deep Thoughts,' by Jack Handey?"
Crickets. Blank stares.
To a person, all the students were born in or after 1990; not one of them knew to whom I was referring. Therein lies the tragedy.
Quite tragic. Apparently a lot of poets these days attempt to go for that Handeyesque style, without even really knowing Handey. Interesting.
Posted by Mark on April 14, 2013 at 08:20 PM .:
Sunday, April 07, 2013
I've had some ideas for longer posts lately, but the problem with that is that they're longer posts and thus take a while to write. I haven't really started any of them either, so there's that too. In the meantime, here's some links to stuff. Enjoy:
Roger Ebert's Letter to a Young Film Critic - Whether you're a big fan of Roger Ebert or not, you have to admit that he had a huge impact on the appreciation of film in this country. He passed away this past week, so lots of things like this have been popping up. In this case, he went out of his way to give some encouragement to a 14 year old kid who was handing out movie review newsletters at his school (in 1987). Just more evidence of a decent, hard-working, generous guy.
Siskel & Ebert Outtakes - Perhaps a bit less polished, but this video of outtakes captures that lightning in the bottle chemistry of Siskel and Ebert. For reference, you can also head over to siskelandebert.org to check out archives of old shows. Big timesink, but the shows are a lot of fun!
Posted by Mark on April 07, 2013 at 06:10 PM .:
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Another lazy Wednesday full of links over here at Kaedrin HQ:
Coyote Not-So-Ugly - The Blogess has a thing for taxidermy. In this case she's talking about a bobcat she named Whiskers O’Shaunnesy:
me: I haven't figured out his back-story, but I suspect he speaks with an English accent and says "biscuits" instead of "cookies".
me: But he's a passionate lover once the hat come off. Which it does. Mainly because I don't love it and I'm still looking for a better hat. This is his third hat. Whiskers O'Shaunnesy does not have a face for hats.
Victor: I'm going to bed.
me: Someone called earlier but I couldn't pick up the phone because I was working on Mr. O'Shaunnesy and so I just hit "speaker" with my elbow and yelled "I CAN'T PICK UP THE PHONE BECAUSE I'M SUPERGLUING A MUSTACHE ON MY BOBCAT."
Battle of the Somm - Also probably better suited to the beer blog, but of general interest anyway, this one is an NY Times article that explains the jargon of the sommelier, for example:
WHALE - PLAYER - BALLER - DEEP OCEAN
A serious drinker who will regularly DROP more than $1,000 on a single bottle. When on a furious spending spree, a WHALE is said to be DROPPING THE HAMMER. BIG WALES - or EXTRA BIG BALLERS (E.B.B.) - can spend more than $100,000 on wine during a meal.
Again, would be utterly fascinating to beer nerds, as words have slightly different meanings in the beer world. For instance, Wales in the beer world are short for "White Whales", those beers that you have to quest hard for, stuff like Midnight Sun M or really old (i.e. 1990s or older) Cantillons. Also of note, the author of the NY Times piece explains more on his blog...
And that's all for now.
Posted by Mark on March 27, 2013 at 08:40 PM .:
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Despite the malaise surrounding the closing of Reader, I've managed to find a few interesting things whilst perusing alternatives (incidentally, Feedly is fantastic... but why is the Firefox version different from Chrome? I mean, I get why iOS is different, but FF and Chrome should be closer than they actually are. That's the one frustration of Feedly - you need to install an extension in order for it to work. I know I'm the only Opera user on the planet, but I don't get why there can't be a pure web version of this thing...) Anywho, here some interesting stuff:
I Explain March Madness - Rob Delany describes March Madness, as he sees it. I loath the sport of Basketball with every fiber of my being, but if March Madness worked this way, I'd totally be into it. A sampling of the exhaustive breakdown for each day's competition:
MARCH 18: For this game, the standard basketball is replaced with a vaseline basketball. It's not really a ball, I guess; it's more of a basketball-sized glop of Vaseline.
MARCH 22: "Theme Game:" Lord of the Rings vs. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
MARCH 25: For this special game, Larry Bird will sit in a lifeguard chair by one end of the court and Magic Johnson will sit in a lifeguard chair at the opposite end. They'll take extensive notes throughout the game and then explain to each player and his mother in exhaustive, personalized detail why they will never be as good as them.
Grr. Argh. Martin. - Glorious nerding out here, trying to predict when George RR Martin will complete his Song of Ice and Fire books (precipitated by the notion that HBO's adaptation, Game of Thrones, will catch up and overtake Martin's book series before he can complete it). The one question I have is how or if the television series impacts Martin's process at all. Not in terms of what will happen in the story, per say, but knowing that more is riding on this than just his book may motivate him to work a little harder. No idea how to model that, and I'm not entirely sure what that would mean in terms of quality... but Scepticmiscellanea's predictions (for the entire series, assumed to be 3 more books) range from the optimistic 2019 to the more sanguine 2032. Incidentally, Martin is 64 years old right now. That might be another precipitating factor. Else we may find ourselves in another Wheel of Time situation (Mark says, as if he's read any of the books in either series).
Spider Bite - I see what they did there. (Note: this is not one of those gross pictures of a spider bite people post all the time, I swears. Really. Totally, completely serious here. Not trying to throw you off the scent. I can't think of a way to do this that doesn't make it seem like you're going to see a gross picture of some unlucky schlub with an infected spider bite, but it really isn't. It's a cute little cartoon. For reals.)
And that's all for now. Stay tuned for some SLIFR Movie Quiz action on Sunday!
Posted by Mark on March 20, 2013 at 08:18 PM .:
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Yet more things I've found interesting on the internet recently:
The Lock Pickers by Tom Vanderbilt - Fascinating article about locks and lock picking:
Hobbs produced a few small tools from his pocket-"a description of which, for obvious reasons, we fear to give" a correspondent for the Times wrote—and turned his attention to the vault's lock. His heavy brows knitted, Hobbs' hands flitted about the lock with a faint metallic scratching. Twenty-five minutes later, it opened with a sharp click. Amid the excited murmur, the witnesses asked Hobbs to repeat the task. Having relocked the vault, he once again set upon it with deft economy. The vault opened "in the short space of seven minutes," as the witnesses would testify, "without the slightest injury to the lock or the door."
me: I can’t understand you when you’re mumbling like the Hamburglar.
Victor: The Hamburglar didn't mumble. He said "Robble-Robble."
me: Yeah. And that’s incoherent mumbling.
Victor: No. It's him saying what he's doing. He's robbing you. Of hamburgers.
me: Oh my God.
Victor: You just now got that, didn't you?
me: I thought he was just saying nonsense words. Why would he use "robble" as a verb? Why wouldn't he say "burgle, burgle"? That way it makes sense and also the word "burger" is almost in it. That's just basic marketing.
Victor: Maybe because he's not a burglar. A burglar robs you when you’re not home. A robber is more like a mugger. More violent.
me: Huh. The Hamburglar was made of burgers, wasn't he? Doesn't that make him a cannibal?
Victor: No. You've confused the Hamburglar with Mayor McCheese, haven't you? Classic error. The Hamburglar was the only human in the group.
me: And Ronald McDonald.
Victor: No. Clowns aren't human.
Hahah. And after you read that, check out this retrospective on McDonalds playlands...
EA Gaffe - So EA recently launched the most recent version of SimCity with a DRM requirement that you be online at all times... and because of high volume at launch, were not able to support all the people (i.e. legal, paying customers) wanting to play their game. As per usual, consumers are out in full force, poorly rating the game on amazon and generally complaining about not being able to play the game they bought. This screenshot captures a pathetic attempt to counter all the negative comments. Sometimes I wonder why I don't play video games as much as I used to. Then I see stories like this and I realize that companies like IE don't really want me as a customer, and I go read a book instead (note: not a justification for piracy or anything, I just want to, you know, make sure that I can play the games that I buy - apparently that's not possible with SimCity, a series I love, so I won't buy or play the game. Sad state of affairs.)
How Frampton, who holds an endowed chair at the University of North Carolina and has been an adviser to the Department of Energy, ended up in Devoto appears at first to be a classic tale: a brilliant man of science gets into trouble as soon as he tries to navigate the real world. Since his arrest, he has certainly cultivated this notion, burnishing his wacky-scientist profile with lines like "That's my naivete" and "My mind works in a strange way."
And crap, I just found out Google Reader is shutting down in a few months. Gotta figure out how to transition off of all Google services from now on. What a clusterfuck.
Posted by Mark on March 13, 2013 at 09:30 PM .:
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Time is short, so just a few links to tide you over until Sunday:
Visual timeline of the One Ring - A thoughtfully composed diagram of the One Ring from LotR, illustrating how the ring passed from owner to owner as well as the location of the ring, over the course of almost 5000 years. Well played.
Yelping with Cormac - An old one, but any tumblr dedicated to parodying Cormac McCarthy by portraying his reviews on Yelp is worth a look. Sample awesome:
The hacendado whistled through his teeth and shook his head. You Americans, he said. Always the judge. This hotel is very good. That country is very bad. But when it is time for you to be reviewed you are begging please no. Please I can pay money. I will review you now. The hacendado snapped his fingers and a vaquero entered carrying a branding iron in the shape of a star, the whitehot tip sputtering and sparking like some wroughtiron incubus.
Cudgel of Xanthor - Many moons ago, back in the days of GFW Radio, Jeff Green wrote a spoof video game preview on April fools. Apparently he cut too close to the bone, in that nearly no readers realized it was a joke and continually emailed 1Up, asking when Cudgel of Xanthor would actually hit shelves. A couple years ago, Green built upon the idea for his NaNoWriMo novel, writing a story set in Xanthor, but also set in a video game studio that was tasked with making Cudgel of Xanthor. As the game developers have to compromise and change the game to meet their budget and corporate goals, the setting of Xanthor changes, and the characters living in that setting have to fend for themselves. Green claims he'll release the book at some point, and heck, I'd read that.
At one point during the essay, the handwriting changes four different times. Brian wrote, "We found out that each of us is a brain," and then someone else wrote "an athlete," another wrote "a princess," another "a basket case..." Why did you guys do this? It's weird.
You're not all of these things. Brian, you have no athletic ability. "Bender" certainly isn't a brain. "Bender" isn't an athlete either, because he backed down after I threatened him physically in the supply closet. Your essay doesn't make sense.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on February 13, 2013 at 09:37 PM .:
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
It's been a busy couple weeks here, so here's some interesting stuff I've seen on teh internets recently:
The Honor System - An excellent look at the Teller half of Penn & Teller, as well as the theft of magic tricks (or illusions or whatever you want to call them). There's some neat intellectual property twists going on here, notably the fact that it's difficult to protect this sort of thing because suing might "require the magician to reveal too much about his trick in public, making the very act of protecting magic one of the easiest ways to destroy it." But the article gets way deep into the weeds of the magic con too, witness this bit:
Among his many works, Steinmeyer wrote Hiding the Elephant, his best-selling history of magic. In it, he writes that the best tricks are a "collection of tiny lies, in words and deeds, that are stacked and arranged ingeniously." Like jokes, tricks should have little plots with a twist at the end that's both implausible and yet logical. You shouldn't see the punchline coming, but when you do see it, it makes sense. The secret to a great trick isn't really its method; the method behind most tricks is ugly and disappointing, something blunt and mechanical. (When Penn & Teller have famously exposed a trick, they've almost always invented a ridiculously poetic method and built the trick around it; by making their art seem more intricate than it is, they force the audience to assume that the rest of their tricks are equally complex. Penn & Teller's exposures are really part of an elaborate con.)
Schrader thinks she's perfect for the role. Not everyone agrees. Schrader wrote "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver" and has directed 17 films. Still, some fear Lohan will end him. There have been house arrests, car crashes and ingested white powders. His own daughter begs him not to use her. A casting-director friend stops their conversation whenever he mentions her name. And then there's the film’s explicit subject matter. Full nudity and lots of sex. Definitely NC-17. His wife, the actress Mary Beth Hurt, didn't even finish the script, dismissing it as pornography after 50 pages. She couldn't understand why he wanted it so badly.
As someone on twitter noted, this article about the film is likely to be more entertaining than the film itself.
Ryan Gosling Interview - I have to imagine that doing press tours can get to be incredibly monotonous for stars, having to always repeat the talking points of their movie, sell, sell, sell. But every once in a while, an actor or director lets loose and acts goofy and it's awesome.
That really skinny old scientist dude says anything from an animal will give you cancer. But a super-ripped 60 year old with a best-selling diet book says eat more butter with your crispy T-Bone and you’ll be just fine as long as you stay away from grains. Great abs beat out the PhD so you end up hanging out on a forum where everyone eats green apples and red meat and talks about how functional and badass parkour is.
You learn that basically, if you ignore civilization and Mark Knopfler music, the last 10,000 years of human development has been one big societal and nutritional cock-up and wheat is entirely to blame. What we all need to do is eat like cave-people.
A Simple Walk Into Mordor - So some nerds realized that the actual, real life, distance between where they filmed the Shire and where they filmed Mordor (particularly Mount Doom) is only about 120 miles, and they thus resolved to fly to New Zealand, get dressed up in capes, put on fake hobbit feet, and actually walk that distance (the title being a play on Boromir's infamous "One does not simply walk into Mordor" line). Since they're city-folk, they get up to all sorts of jackassery whilst traversing the countryside and interacting with animals and locals and whatnot. Very entertaining. There's four videos, and they're all pretty fun.
Videology: Dear Loyal DVD Customers - An interesting look at how one independent NY DVD rental store is looking to remain vital and relevant in this day and age of streaming and Netflix and so on:
A couple years ago, it became terribly obvious that a video store in this day and age was not something that could flourish on its own anymore, especially in New York City, let alone Williamsburg. We tried a lot of different things, some that were successful (No Late Fee Plans!), others not so much (delivery… a valiant effort). But in the end it came down to a singular decision: change or close.
With a collection of over 30,000 movies and many regular customers, shuttering our doors was not an option. So we came up with a plan. It was risky and expensive and we could be running ourselves even further into the ground, but there was nothing left to lose. Times had changed. Netflix and iTunes and Amazon and Redbox… well, they became our direct competition and that was a tough battle. So we decided we’d offer something that they can’t: a movie lover’s paradise, right here in Brooklyn.
The place sounds pretty cool...
Wolfenstein 3D Online - The original Wolfenstein 3D is available to play for free online. It's a classic, though clearly showing its age. I can't believe that I still remembered all the secrets on the first level... I even managed to get to that purple secret level. Heh.
And that's all for now. If all goes well, look for the kickoff of 2012 movie recapping with the announcement of the annual Kaedrin Movie Awards nominations next Sunday. Last minute recommendations/category suggestions welcome!
Posted by Mark on January 13, 2013 at 07:00 PM .:
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Recent discoveries by Kaedrin's chain-smoking monkey research squad:
Posted by Mark on December 12, 2012 at 10:36 PM .:
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
I'm rather busy being thankful for things, so for now, just a few linkys to keep things interesting:
Windows 95 Tips, Tricks, and Tweaks - The tumblr of the week is a rather unnerving mixture of bland Microsoft dialog prompt language and Cronenberg-style body-horror (with the occasional Stephen King variant). Sample awesome:
The Genre Fiction v. Literature Debate - Yeah, that old saw. Alyssa Rosenberg identifies the core conceit behind the debate, one that is duplicitous but cleverly rigged in favor of "literature". They're playing a shell game of sorts. In truth, there are good books and bad books (genre or not).
But what you haven't likely seen is the story behind it and it's author (incidentally, the author is not Lee Winfrey, as the pic above implies (see the original linked post for some context)). It's nothing dramatic or anything, but I'm glad someone's gone to the trouble of figuring it out and properly attributing it.
And that's all for now. Have a happy Thanksgiving!
Posted by Mark on November 21, 2012 at 08:30 PM .:
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Belated Link Dump
Time was shorter than expected last night due to unforeseen events at work and yet another Nor'easter. A thousand pardons for not posting. So here are a few things I found interesting on the internets of late:
Michael Myers on Twitter - James from Cinemassacre (AKA the Angry Videogame Nerd) took it upon himself to create this twitter account and fill it in as if Michael Myers was tweeting during the events of the first two Halloween movies.
Star Wars Duel of the Fates Sing-Along - Ok, so the video I had saved for this featured pictures as well as words, but was apparently removed by the user. Don't know why, but it looks like there are a lot of other videos that do similar things. These don't make me laugh quite so hard for some reason, but hey, give it a shot. It's still kinda funny without pictures.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I'm about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off, and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables. When my guests come over it’s gonna be like, BLAMMO! Check out my shellacked decorative vegetables, assholes. Guess what season it is-fucking fall. There's a nip in the air and my house is full of mutant fucking squash.
Of House Belcher - I don't know how anyone could form the idea for this single-serving niche-site, but apparently someone thought it would be a good idea to put Bob's Burgers quotes over Game of Thrones screenshots. Result: Brilliance. (Dumbest fancy-pants Tumblr navigation ever though)
That's all for now. Should be on-target for Sunday.
Posted by Mark on November 08, 2012 at 06:34 PM .:
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Podcasts are weird. I often find myself buried under hours of great podcastery, I can barely keep up. But then every once in a while, like this past weekend, I abruptly run out of things to listen to. Oh sure, there are plenty of backup things or middling podcasts that I can fall back on, but I like to look forward to stuff too. Here are some recent podcasts that I've checked out, some great, some I'm not so sure about.
Radio Free Echo Rift - This has quickly joined the highest ranks of the regular rotation. Full disclosure, Mike and Don are real life friends, but they've actually put together a really well crafted podcast. They talk about comic books and movies and such, but even when they're talking about something I'm not familiar with, I find I'm usually still interested (I mean, I'm not a big comic book guy, but I still find their talks in that realm interesting). Recent highlights include a podcast discussing the typical three act structure of films, then applying that to a remake of an old semi-obscure Disney movie. Two half-hour episodes a week so far, and they also make their own comics (though none are available right now). Oh, and I'm told they'll be discussing a voicemail from me in today's podcast, so hop to it.
Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit (SVU) - Filmspotting Original Recipe has long been a Kaedrin favorite, and this spinoff podcast focuses on movies available on online streaming services. The hosts are Alison Willmore and Matt Singer, whom you may recognize as the hosts of the long-defunct IFC News podcast. The format generally consists of a long review (which, since this is streaming, is never a new release and often easy to play along with), some picks to complement that movie (whether it be a genre or director or whatever), and some other streaming picks. They also do this thing where they give each other a number, and they have to tell the other what movie is that number in their Netflix Instant queue. Awesome. This is a bi-weekly podcast, but it's a solid addition to the regular rotation.
The Hysteria Continues - It's getting to be that time of year again - time to fire up some horror movie focused podcasts, and this one seems heavily focused on slasher films. However, these shows are enormous. Most shows are over two hours long, some even hitting three hours. Most of it isn't a discussion of the movie of the week, and I do feel like there's a little dead weight in the show, but this time of year, I'm totally down for podcasts like this.
Well, that's all for now. Happy listening. I think we'll be returning to X-Files land on Sunday (would have done so tonight, but blogging software woes over the past couple days have drained the time available)...
Posted by Mark on September 12, 2012 at 09:51 PM .:
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Yet more links from the depths of the internets:
For all criticism is based on that equation: KNOWLEDGE + TASTE = MEANINGFUL JUDGMENT. The key word here is meaningful. People who have strong reactions to a work—and most of us do—but don’t possess the wider erudition that can give an opinion heft, are not critics. (This is why a great deal of online reviewing by readers isn’t criticism proper.) Nor are those who have tremendous erudition but lack the taste or temperament that could give their judgment authority in the eyes of other people, people who are not experts. (This is why so many academic scholars are no good at reviewing for mainstream audiences.) Like any other kind of writing, criticism is a genre that one has to have a knack for, and the people who have a knack for it are those whose knowledge intersects interestingly and persuasively with their taste. In the end, the critic is someone who, when his knowledge, operated on by his taste in the presence of some new example of the genre he’s interested in—a new TV series, a movie, an opera or ballet or book—hungers to make sense of that new thing, to analyze it, interpret it, make it mean something.
I may have more to say on this in the future, but to me, the general idea of criticism boils down to context (which, I suppose, could also be termed Knowledge). Critics put a given work of art in context, whether that being the context of the society in which it was produced/released, or the context of other films that have tackled the same themes, and so on...
The Slow Death of Netflix - Shamus does a good job detailing what is bad about Netflix's Watch Instantly feature. Namely, that nothing I ever want to watch is available on instant.
I want to stress that I’m not cherry-picking here. I really am looking for a movie and I really am getting bupkis for every single attempt. There are good movies here, but not many, and I’ve pretty much seen them all by this point.
I’ll go for a couple of weeks without checking Netflix. Then when I come back I’ll check out the “what’s new” lineup and find it almost unchanged. As far as I can tell, their library of streaming content is shrinking.
I can think of exactly two occasions when I've decided that I wanted to watch a movie, checked Netflix, and found that it was actually available on streaming. One was Groundhog Day (which was actually unavailable for a while, but came back recently) and the other was Gambit, a movie that was specifically recommended because it was available, but which is no longer available at all (even on DVD). Of course, this ultimately has less to do with Netflix than it does with the Studios, who are so hellbent on defeating pirates that they don't want to make movies conveniently available for anyone (thus creating more pirates). Someday, someone will figure out how to make streaming work with a wide selection, and it will be glorious. Alas, I don't think that will happen anytime soon. Ten years? Maybe. But probably not.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on September 05, 2012 at 08:56 PM .:
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Yet more links plumbed from the depths of the internets:
I'm not going to sit here and act like I didn't sometimes not read assigned books for class in high school. Even though it's referenced once in my book, the book you're avoiding reading, I've never actually read "The Scarlet Letter." So I'm sympathetic to your plight. But I think you'll find there's a ton more sex, swearing, and drugs in my book than anything else you have been or will be assigned in high school, and I don't mean in the way your teacher will tell you "You know, Shakespeare has more sex and violence than an R-rated movie!" I mean it's all there, in terms you will readily understand without having to Google them. Plus not once to I refer to anything as a "bare bodkin" or anything like that.
Bat Man of Shanghai - One of a series of Batman shorts set in a 1930's era Shanghai, this clip is pretty darn awesome. Not sure if the Cartoon Network/DC Nation will be producing a lot of this, but it's quite stylish and well produced...
"Scary Smash" - Written By A Kid Ep 1 - So basically, these guys ask a 5 year old kid to tell them a story... which they then went ahead and filmed, getting Dave Foley and Joss Whedon to star in it. Fantastic.
Some Boats in a Race - So some Irish dude took it upon himself to provide his own color commentary to the Olympic sailing race. I'd have posted this earlier, but the IOC keeps getting the videos taken down. This copy seems to have been up for a little while, but check this out and make sure you watch all the way until the end. There's a twist!
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on August 29, 2012 at 09:57 PM .:
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
I'm on vacation this week, so here we've got some links I slapped together on Sunday. Actually some good stuff here though.
Trading Places: How Winthorpe and Valentine Pulled It Off - Trading Places is one of my favorite movies of all time, but I never quite understood what the heck was going on at the end of the movie. Of course, it works well enough, but my nerdy mind is constantly trying to figure out the exact mechanisms that were driving the price of FCOJ up or down. I never quite understood how Winthorpe and Valentine were selling at the beginning of the session, but buying later on. It's sorta the opposite of the buy low, sell high paradigm we're all familiar with. As the linked post explains, it turns out that they're selling short - selling contracts they don't yet hold. This would be risky, as they have to buy contracts later on to fulfill their short sell obligations... but since they knew the crop report, they knew the price would be significantly lower, so they made out like bandits. It's estimated that they made $250 million. Interesting stuff, and of course, there's a bit of Hollywood exaggeration going on here, but it's still nice to know what's going on at the end of the movie.
If The Movie "Inception" Happened In Actual Dreams - One of the big complaints about Inception is that the dreams don't really feel like real dreams. I never really cared about that - real dreams get kinda boring pretty quickly - but this comic is a pretty great parody of the concept.
Manos: The Hands of Fate Video Game - The worst movie of all time made into a 8-bit video game? Sure, why not. This is apparently real, and will be coming to the iOS and presumably other devices soon. It actually looks about a billion times better than the movie.
Posted by Mark on August 01, 2012 at 10:44 AM .:
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
It's actually been quite a while since the last link dump, so here's a few things I've found interesting on the internets recently:
Science Fiction Movie Classics as Pulp Novels - Artist Tim Anderson has created a trio of fake book covers for classic science fiction movies, and he has absolutely nailed it. Each cover is evocative of both the movie and cheap pulp novels, something that would be easy to screw up, but it's perfect here. Don't you just wish there really were a series of Rick Deckard novels?
Front Page Films' Batman Series - Some of the Batman parody videos are old and you've no doubt seen them, but they've been releasing new ones in the leadup to the new movie, and they're all fantastic. In essence, they make Batman out to be a total moron who infuriates and confuses his opponents into losing. To my mind, though, nothing beats the Riddler video.
Lois interviews Miles - For all, uh, one of you that have read Bujold's Vorkosigan books, here's a dialogue between the author and her character (originally done in preparation for Cryoburn).
To be a face - I have absolutely no knowledge or interest in professional wrestling, but MGK actually manages to make it interesting in this quick post on the face/heel dichotomy.
That's all for now. With luck, I may return on Friday for some Dark Knight Returns thoughts (if not Friday, then Sunday)...
Posted by Mark on July 18, 2012 at 09:08 PM .:
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Promethean Link Dump
I certainly had my issues with Prometheus, but I also must admit that it does strike a nerve. There are isolated sequences of sublime beauty or wrenching tension, but they're not held together by anything substantial. I think the movie is stupid, but it's at least interesting stupid, which is why I think the film has become so divisive. It's got such a well calibrated sense of stupid that it actually makes you want to talk about it, which most dumb movies don't manage. Even if you're just cataloging the movie's many flaws, you're still engaged with it in a way you don't with regular bad movies.
This movie is a special kind of bad, and as such, there's a lot of interesting discussion surrounding the film. As I mentioned in my previous post, it seems like everyone is talking about this movie, even folks I wouldn't normally expect. For instance, every podcast I listen to on a regular basis has devoted a segment to Prometheus, even the ones that aren't solely focused around movies. Extra Hot Great, Filmspotting, /Filmcast, Reasonable Discussions, Slate Culture Gabfest, NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour, The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show, and probably a bunch of others have all done so. But there's a ton of other discussion surround the film that I also wanted to point to, in case you were jonesing to read about the film, which I admit is kinda fun, even if I didn't love the movie:
Prometheus Unbound: What The Movie Was Actually About - So this guy on Livejournal (!?) has a pretty thorough discussion of the movie and it's philosophical and mythic underpinnings. Lots of interesting stuff here, but as is the case with a lot of things, I'm glad a lot of this is subtext:
From the Engineers' perspective, so long as humans retained that notion of self-sacrifice as central, we weren't entirely beyond redemption. But we went and screwed it all up, and the film hints at when, if not why: the Engineers at the base died two thousand years ago. That suggests that the event that turned them against us and led to the huge piles of dead Engineers lying about was one and the same event. We did something very, very bad, and somehow the consequences of that dreadful act accompanied the Engineers back to LV-223 and massacred them.
If you have uneasy suspicions about what 'a bad thing approximately 2,000 years ago' might be, then let me reassure you that you are right. An astonishing excerpt from the Movies.com interview with Ridley Scott:
Movies.com: We had heard it was scripted that the Engineers were targeting our planet for destruction because we had crucified one of their representatives, and that Jesus Christ might have been an alien. Was that ever considered?
Ridley Scott: We definitely did, and then we thought it was a little too on the nose. But if you look at it as an “our children are misbehaving down there” scenario, there are moments where it looks like we’ve gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, "Let's send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it." Guess what? They crucified him.
Yeah. The reason the Engineers don't like us any more is that they made us a Space Jesus, and we broke him. Reader, that's not me pulling wild ideas out of my arse. That's RIDLEY SCOTT.
As I said, I'm pretty happy this wasn't explicitly referenced in the movie, but it's fun to read about it on some dude's blog like this.
Seriously guys? Cinema trips with my pals are better prepared than this. No one thought to ask what they’d be doing when they signed up for a 4 year round trip to a new planet? The money must be really good. ...
As we’ve discussed, this is probably the most slap-dash, ill-prepared scientific mission ever. No one really knows what to expect, and they only carry out atmospheric analysis on arrival to let them know if they can step out onto the surface without dying instantly. On the upside, they have gorgeous space suits to go out in (costume designer and long-time Scott collaborator Janty Yates deserves high praise). Holloway is the spitting image of Commander Shepard of the Normandy in his suit, which I liked for no clever reason.
It's time, probably long past time, to admit that Ridley Scott is nothing more or less than Tim Burton: a visual stylist at the mercy of others to offer his hatful of pretty pictures something like depth. If either one of them ever made a great film (and I'd argue that both have), thank the accident of the right source material and/or editor, not these directors, whose allegiance is to their own visual auteurism rather than any desire for a unified product.
That's a bold statement... but I can't really fault it.
Well there you go. Interesting stuff. Stay tuned for some Redshirts action on Sunday.
Posted by Mark on June 20, 2012 at 09:34 PM .:
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Yet more interesting stuff from the depths of the internets:
Reset Your Password - Poor usability conquered through persistence. Unfortunately for those of us who work in the industry, none of our users will be so persistent. "Your password can not contain any references to jazz slang." Heh.
Movie Simpsons - A tumblr consisting of comparative screenshots from movie references in The Simpsons. The current post is actually one of my favorite references of all time - the picture above the bed is such a bizarre detail from the original movie that I love how they parodied it in The Shinning.
Mark Malkoff's Netflix Challenge - This guy wanted to get the best possible value out of his Netflix subscription... so he watched over 250 movies in a month. He even gets celebrities to show up and do live commentary for their movies (which does bring up one issue with the current streaming situation - no special features!)
That's all for now!
Posted by Mark on June 13, 2012 at 07:49 PM .:
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
It's that time again, here are some interesting things I've seen on teh internets recently:
PKD in OC - Gregory Beneford has some remembrances of Phillip K. Dick that are pretty awesome:
I met Philip K. Dick in 1964, and it struck me how funny he was. I had just read The Man in the High Castle, and expected a rather dour sort. He had a way of comically falling out of a chair. At dinner he smoked a cigar and ate spaghetti simultaneously.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on June 06, 2012 at 10:32 PM .:
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
So now that I've more or less exhausted the archives of my other recent discoveries, I'm looking for some new blood. Here's a few that I've checked out recently, though I'm pretty sure only one or two will become part of the regular rotation:
Hollywood Babble-On - One of Kevin Smith's Smodcast network shows. I long ago lost interest in the general Smodcast (around the time Smith started smoking pot a lot and refused to talk about Zack and Miri Make a Porno) because it was a little too meandering and often boring. It sounded like this one had a little more structure though, so I thought I'd check it out. Unfortunately, it made a horrible first impression. I feel like the entire first half of the show (40 minutes or so) was devoted to reading fan letters, which was excruciating. It's also a show that's recorded before a live audience, and it's pretty clear that they're playing to that audience and not the podcast. Once the show starts, it gets a little more interesting. I'll probably give this another chance, but I'm guessing it won't be something I look forward to every week.
Doug Loves Movies - This is a podcast from comedian Doug Benson (of Super High Me fame) and is also a little on the meandering side, especially at the beginning. Oddly, it's another show that is recorded with a live audience, and that shows through at the beginning of the show. Fortunately, that doesn't last 40 minutes, and Benson does have some defined segments, most notably including the The Leonard Maltin Game, which is awesome and a lot of fun. He also seems to be pretty good at getting solid guests to appear (I really enjoyed the Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Kate Micucci episode, for example). I've only listened to a few episodes, but this could be something I grow into.
NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour - This is very much like the Slate Culture Gabfest, so if you like that, you'll probably like this. It's basically the same format: the hosts talk about two major topics of recent pop culture, then talk about their favorite things of the week. Again, I've only listened to a few episodes, but I can already tell that I'm going to burn through these archives rather quickly and make this into a weekly listen.
How Did This Get Made? - Another comedian show (notably lead by Paul Scheer), this one is pretty interesting. It basically revels in the glory of bad movies, which is something I actually find endearing and fun... but only really when I've also seen the movie they're talking about. Fortunately, I'm a huge movie nerd and have actually seen a reasonable portion of the bad movies they're talking about. Some of the stuff they pick on is mainstream, but there's also some real obscure gems and Weird Movie of the Week caliber films they talk about too. Fun stuff, but not something I can really rely on...
And that's all for now. At this point, I've actually got a pretty good stable of reliable podcasts to look forward to every week:
And there are a few others that I hit up every now and again. Still, every so often, I find myself out of compelling stuff to listen to, so I'm always on the lookout for new stuff.
Posted by Mark on May 30, 2012 at 09:22 PM .:
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Apologies for the extended absence from the blog, but there were technical difficulties that have since been resolved and tonight was a busy one, so here are some fun links I've run across recently:
Do you think it signifies a lack of imagination to picture characters as popular film and television actors? Sometimes there are a lot of characters to keep track of, or you're really tired from a long day of tax law, and can't picture one in your head so you just go, "Okay, Sir James is Tom Hardy." And then later when they describe Sir James as tall, with flaxen hair, aren't you like "Noooooo, ignoring! Tom Hardy" ?
Pixar Studio Stories - Apparently some of the recent Pixar blu-ray releases have had these awesome anecdotal stories from pixar on them, and they really are wonderful stories. Well worth your time.
Pentagon Declines to Loan Joss Whedon a Fighter Jet - Apparently Whedon wanted to get some military assistance for the Avengers, but the Military had some questions: "“To whom did S.H.I.E.L.D. answer? Did we work for S.H.I.E.L.D.? We hit that roadblock and decided we couldn’t do anything..." Seems fair, but as Josh Gross puts it: "And any comic fan will tell you, that's a dumb reason with an obvious answer. S.H.I.E.L.D. answers to Nick Fury, and Nick Fury answers only to his optometrist. Duh." Brilliant.
Posted by Mark on May 23, 2012 at 10:26 PM .:
Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Is it time for more links? Yes, I think it is.
Magic Burger Crystals - Amazingly weird but fascinating video depicting a product with a bunch of plastic molds and packets of crystals. If you follow the instructions, you end up with a tiny meal - two burgers, some fries, and a soda. I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be eating a burger (including bun and cheese) that was grown out of microwaved wet crystals, but apparently it is edible and tastes like a real burger. It is, of course, from Japan. (via Chizumatic)
More on DRM and ebooks - After Charlie Stross's last musings on ebooks, in which he recommended that publishers remove DRM in order to compete with Amazon's monopolistic position in the market, it seems that Tor books announced that they will be removing DRM in order to compete with Amazon's monopolistic position in the market. Ok, they didn't actually say that, but it was an encouraging move, and Stross goes into some more detail about DRM and ebooks. As always, an interesting read.
Biometric Passports Make it Harder for Undercover CIA Officers - An interesting and probably unintentional effect of requiring biometrics when people enter your country. Technologies like iris scanners are cleaner than fingerprints, and they work faster, and they hurt spycraft: "For a clandestine field operative, flying under a false name could be a one-way ticket to a headquarters desk, since they're irrevocably chained to whatever name and passport they used." Huh.
In Comfortable Retirement, and Getting Tired of It - Trevor Pryce played in the NFL for 14 years. He's now 36 years old and retired. And bored. I always wondered what these folks do after their (usually shorter than 14 year) career has ended, and I guess this is the answer. I also wonder if I would fall into the same category if I were to retire in a couple of years. My fear is that I'd be a little like Peter from Office Space and be happy doing nothing. I suspect I'd figure something out though.
Wanderlunch - College Humor sent someone to Dubai so they could eat that disgusting looking Pizza Hut thing with mini cheeseburgers in it. I don't know whether to applaud this or do a facepalm.
Posted by Mark on May 09, 2012 at 09:09 PM .:
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
I like podcasts and listen to many different ones, but it seems that the ones that I actually look forward to are few and far between. Here are a few recent additions to the rotation:
Extra Hot Great - This has been my favorite recent discovery, and over the past couple months, I think I've burned my way through their entire archive (80 episodes, plus a crapton of "Mini" episodes). Great personalities and commentary, a solid format with some inventive segments, and plenty of fun. A typical episode starts with a quick discussion of a recent TV series or movie (incidentally, tons of spoilers, so be forewarned), followed by some miscellaneous segments (my favorites being "I am not a crackpot" where people lay out their crackpot ideas, and "The most awesome thing I saw on television this week" in which Kim Reed gives a hysterical plot summary of the most ridiculous shows that she apparently watches a lot of), and then The Canon, in which someone presents a single television episode for induction into the Extra Hot Great Canon. The Canon is a surprisingly well rounded affair, with lots of variety and really in-depth discussions. The folks on the podcast are actually quite discerning in their judgement, and it's always interesting listening. Each podcast ends with a "Game Time" segment, during which you realize that these people know way more about television than you (or, well, me). It's more television focused than my usual preferred podcasts, but I love it anyway. Very fun and interesting stuff. Highly recommended!
Onion AV Club Reasonable Discussions - The Onion somewhat recently revamped their podcast and it was really great. They discuss music, movies, and television, and they're usually pretty insightful folks. They don't quite have a big format like Extra Hot Great, but it's still an interesting podcast. Alas, they seem to be on something of a hiatus right now (no podcast in about a month). I hope they do bring it back though, as it was solid.
Slate's Culture Gabfest - I think this might be the most pretentious thing I have ever heard, but it's actually pretty approachable, even if they sometimes let loose with a massive wave of elitist snobbery from time to time. I probably disagree with them more often than not, but they tend to tackle interesting subjects from week to week. Another podcast without formally defined segments, but they usually have three culturally significant things to discuss, and end every episode with an "endorsement" of something they enjoyed during that week.
That's all for now....
Posted by Mark on April 25, 2012 at 10:19 PM .:
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
I'm gonna be taking a trip to The Cabin in The Woods tonight, so time is sparse, thus some linkys for you:
It’s certainly true that using Word for simple text like email or blog posts is overkill, in much the same way that using a jet engine to drive your lawnmower is overkill. What’s peculiar is that rather than using simpler tools for their simpler tasks, these people have declared that the more complex and capable tool is "obsolete" and "must die". This attitude betrays a type of phobia towards technology that I suspect has grown more prevalent as our technology interfaces have become increasingly more "dumbed down".
I mostly agree with Aziz. While I haven't used Word (or a Word processor in general) in my personal life in years, I use it every day at work, and the notion that you can't use Word to collaborate is bonkers. It may not be the best tool for that, but it's certainly not something that needs to die. An interesting post...
Books: Bits vs. Atoms - Those who have enjoyed my recentbloviating about ebooks will probably get a kick out of this... better organized... take on the subject (that being said, we cover a lot of the same ground).
What Amazon's ebook strategy means - Speaking of ebooks, Charlie Stross clearly lays out why Amazon is dominating the ebook market, how the publishers shot themselves in the foot by practically insisting that Amazon dominate the market, why it's a bad situation to be in, and how publishers can take some steps in the right direction. Hint: get rid of DRM, you dummies! There's a lot of lawsuits and wanking in the book and ebook industry right now, and it's tempting to take sides with Amazon or the publishers or Apple or whoever, but the more I read about it, the more I think that everyone is to blame. So far, this hasn't really impacted us consumers that much, but it certainly could. Here's to hoping these folks get their heads bolted on straight in the near future.
Gabe's PAX Post - Gabe from Penny Arcade helps run huge video game conventions that are explicitely targeted towards players (most conventions are about general technology or development, and are targeted towards journalists or developers). As one of the creators and organizers, Gabe has to deal with all sorts of crap, and he covers a few of these, including a little prank he played on a troll, and a vexing problem concerning boobies (aka the perennial Booth Babe issue). Read the whole thing, but the key graph is this:
How about all of you that hate me get together and have your own conference. I need you to decide if half naked girls are empowered or exploited because I’m doing my fucking best here and it’s apparently always wrong. I swear to God I don’t understand how I’m supposed to know if I’m promoting the patriarchy or criminalizing the female body.
As Steven notes, this is a cry for help. I wish I had answers, but fortunately, I'm not in Gabe's position. I can just treat people equally and be happy with that.
That's all for now. Also, go Flyers.
Posted by Mark on April 18, 2012 at 07:09 PM .:
Sunday, April 08, 2012
Happy Easter everyone. Time is short so here are some quick links:
The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On - I forget where I found this (Kottke, I think), but they noted that the video seriously channels the style of Wes Anderson, and it does. It's also a mildly interesting story (and a really pretty poster).
Posted by Mark on April 08, 2012 at 08:01 PM .:
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Well, tonight was beer club, so I'm not quite in shape to do anything particularly detailed. Here are some interesting links I've run across of late:
Titles in search of a script - So apparently Stanley Kubrick used to keep a running list of potential ideas for movies called "Titles in Search of a Script". Some examples:
(Five vehicles for Sharon Stone. Partition Magic was the name of a software package in the days of DOS that almost allowed you to run two programs concurrently.)
ONLY MINISTERS OF THE THIRD REICH MAY USE GREEN INK
(Stanley read somewhere that this was, in fact, true. He thought it would make a great art house double bill with Wim Wender's 1971 film, The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick.)
COFFIN NOT INCLUDED
(A 1940s noir thriller. When I was researching props for the morgue scene in Eyes Wide Shut I had a catalogue from a company that supplied funeral parlour equipment. One of the illustrations showed a bier with a coffin on it. The caption read: "The Excelsior Bier (coffin not included.)")
SOME LIKE IT COLD
JACK THE SNIFFER
(An intriguing double-bill for forensic science buffs.)
And lots of others. I would totally see all of these movies.
Weyland Industries - Not a lot of stuff her just yet, but fans of Aliens will get a kick out of this website, which features, among other things, a spoof of a TED Talk given by Sir Peter Weyland.
Future Doorknobs or Lack Thereof - John Scalzi does this thing every year where he answers reader questions, and this guy asks him a hysterically funny question:
It appears to be a near-universal assumption by science fiction writers, directors, and producers, that there exists a set of precipitating events leading to our complete abandonment of doorknob technology. Do you share this assumption? Would you be willing to speculate on the reason for this assumption, or on the nature of the developmental pathway? Do you foresee any significant downsides, should this eventuality come to pass?
Awesome question and Scalzi comes up with a decent answer.
Well, every picture that I’ve done has originally gotten an ‘X’ here in the States. But you have to understand that I live in Ontario, Canada, which used to be the most liberal province and now is the most restrictive. So I have to agree, or let me amplify what John [Carpenter] was saying. When I came down here to talk to the MPAA about ratings, it was still a relief compared with what happens in Ontario, which is where they take your picture. They take every print. And they cut it. And they hand it back to you and they say this is your new movie. They keep the pieces that they’ve taken out—and you go to jail for two years if they’re projected, if you put the pieces back. And that’s real censorship.
That's all for now!
Posted by Mark on March 21, 2012 at 09:19 PM .:
Sunday, March 04, 2012
Again Link Dump
It hasn't been a while since I've done one of these (in fact, I just did one a few days ago), but I'm doing another one anyway. Because I feel like it and you're going to like it, that's why.
An Open Letter to Chris Dodd - Eric S. Raymond lays down why SOPA/PIPA/ACTA annoys the "technologists" in a concise and well articulated fashion.
I can best introduce you to our concerns by quoting another of our philosopher/elders, John Gilmore. He said: "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."
To understand that, you have to grasp that "the Internet" isn’t just a network of wires and switches, it’s also a sort of reactive social organism composed of the people who keep those wires humming and those switches clicking. John Gilmore is one of them. I’m another. And there are some things we will not stand having done to our network.
I'm not sure I 100% agree with everything he says and I'm virtually certain that Chris Dodd won't read this (or understand it if he does), but I do think it's well written and insightful.
Loss by Elisha Cooper - Notably because she (apparently Elisha is a guy - my bad!) coins a new German word and it's fucking brilliant:
Schtolenfünken is the German word that describes the feeling of letdown and disappointment that occurs when people we think are good (cyclists) do bad things (steal my wheel), and yes, I made the word up.
Pronunciation Manual - So there's this thing on YouTube where people post these videos that explain how to pronounce certain words or names, like famous German mathematician, Hilbert (That's for you Mike, if you're reading this). Then there's Pronunciation Manual, which does the same thing in the same format, but is completely wrong and completely hilarious. I have spent at least an hour listening and relistening to the videos on this channel, and it was glorious. Some favorites: Chipotle (this one now pops into my head all the time, for no reason), Haute Couture, Zach Galifianakis, Schadenfreude (we should get that guy to try and pronounce "Schtolenfünken"), Tag Heuer (which I wouldn't mind actually knowing the pronunciation of... and yes, that's also available.) and Bruschetta. Unfortunately, there are multiple folks contributing to the channel, and some are much more creative and funny than others. For example, this entry on Thesaurus strikes me as dumb and uncreative, and Panties is pronounced correctly, even if the guy saying it is being incredibly creepy. Actually, I'm pretty sure that most of my favorites are the same guy... Anyway, there's also Renunciation Book, which has the skinny on how to pronounce McDonald's Glyph.
Shopping For Idiots - Two guys go shopping for non-existent items and have to explain these ridiculous items to people who work at the store. For the most part, the people who work at the various stores are unflappable. Some example items: fancy boy lip glitter, ankle grease, disposable slacks, non-alcoholic whisky, Mormon disco ball, and, of course, a toddler sized shark cage.
Reset Button: Megatextures - Shamus continues his sporadic video series explaining minutia of video game technology, and it's, as always, a really interesting take on something that could be really dry and boring.
That is all for now. You are excused.
Posted by Mark on March 04, 2012 at 05:56 PM .:
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
It's been a while since I did one of these, so here's some links recently unearthed by my chain-smoking monkey research squad:
The Witch Watch - Most of the folks who read this blog probably also read Shamus, but just in case you don't, Shamus just released his first novel, The Witch Watch (well, technically, he wrote a few other things first, but I think he's hoping to make a career out of this now). It's available in various digital formats right now, but there will be a print edition available starting on Friday. I actually started reading this last night, and I'm quite excited to pick it up again tonight (this is one reason you're getting a link dump tonight instead of something more substantial). Main character Gilbert is instantly likeable despite the fact that he's a rotting corpse, and there's suitably mysterious circumstances surrounding his awakening. Fantasy has never been my favorite genre, but I really like this book so far (according to my Kindle, I'm about 15% done)... Anyway, check it out!
Echo Rift - While I'm plugging my friends' creative works, check out this web comic book about a dimension-hopping Rabbitoid Knight. I'm not huge into comics, but there seems to be a limited subset of the web comic community that are doing things like this - narrative storytelling as opposed to comedic comics. It's excellent stuff, and well worth checking out.
Cost of Living - I saw this great short film at Fantastic Fest (posted about it here) and now it's available online. Well worth a watch, especially for video game fans. Make sure you watch through to the end of the credits.
Extra Hot Great Podcast: Eggybread Wonderlatch - One of my recent podcast discoveries, this particular "mini" episode kept me laughing for pretty much the entire 5 minute duration. Half the fun is the inflection and cadence the guy has when rattling off alternate names. Fans of Benedict Cumberbatch (British actor who plays Sherlock Holmes on the most excellent Sherlock BBC series) will certainly get a kick out of this (again, only 5 minutes long).
The Death and Return of Superman - Well made analysis of that weird time in comics when every character was being killed (including Superman) and then magically came back to life. And how ridiculous all that is. Not sure who is really responsible for this, but the guy narrating is pretty good, and the live-action recreations are actually done by a lot of celebrities. And are absolutely awesome.
That's all for now. Go forth and multiply.
Posted by Mark on February 29, 2012 at 07:11 PM .:
Wednesday, February 01, 2012
As I compile my top 10 list and design my next homebrew, my chain-smoking monkey research squad has found some things that might interest you:
Freetail Brewing's response (.pdf) to a Cease and Desist order is hysterical. Apropos of the T-Rex trying site, check out the PS here ("Please enjoy this drawing of a T-Rex waving white flags, which was suggested for inclusion by my attorney.") It's not quite the most epic response letter ever, but it's still pretty awesome.
Burgled in Philly - Interesting story of a burglary in Philly where the victims got their stuff back by lying to the police while manipulating one drug dealer to lie to another drug dealer. A ringing endorsement for lies.
Manos in HD - So someone has taken on the improbable task of restoring Manos: The Hands of Fate - generally regarded as the worst movie ever made. The film rose to cult status when MST3K featured it in one of their episodes (one of the highlights of the series, IMHO). Amazingly enough, the restored footage looks pretty incredible.
Posted by Mark on February 01, 2012 at 07:50 PM .:
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
As I spend some time compiling nominations for the 6th Annual Kaedrin Movie Awards (a thorough and comprehensive process that takes weeks!), my chain-smoking monkey research squad has run into some other fun things you might be interested in...
Facial Hair and Presidential elections - The other day at lunch, I wondered aloud why so few presidential candidates have beards or facial hair of any kind. As with all discussions of marginalia, we naturally turned to the internet and found this stunningly detailed account of facial hair and elections. Author Nicholas Whyte is also pretty free-flowing with the snark, making it quite the humorous read:
Only five US presidents have sported full beards, and another four had moustaches of varying degrees of glory. These were all during the half century run of the dozen Presidents between Lincoln and Taft, of whom only Andrew Johnson and McKinley were clean-shaven.
Probably owing to Lincoln, the "Republicans have historically been the hairier party." And Democrats... well:
The Democrats have never had a properly bearded candidate. Their losing candidates in 1864, 1868 and 1872 had really stupid beards - one a wee tuft combined with a luxurious moustache, the other two with grotesquely extended sideburns meeting below. The only successful Democrat who even went as far as a moustache was Grover Cleveland, who won the popular vote three times running in 1884, 1888 and 1892. (Cleveland lost the electoral college in 1888 to Benjamin Harrison, so far the last American President with a proper beard.) The hairiest Democrat was Winfield Scott Hancock, whose huge moustache did not help him in the 1880 election, and Democrats with moustaches lost in 1864 and 1904.
Really excellent work here, with everything you could ever possibly want to know about facial hair and presidential candidates. I love the internet.
The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown - Well, yes, I work for a retail website so you bet your arse I can't wait for people to get off this horrid browser, but that's not why I'm linking to this site. The reason this is hysterically funny is that the site is actually run by Microsoft. (hat tip to Dave)
My Top Ten Top Ten Top Ten list - Yes, it's a top ten list consisting entirely of links to other top ten lists... of top ten lists. Have I mentioned that I love the internet?
The Best Things We Read All Year - Yeah, there are a lot of good things to read in here. I hope you have some time, because you're going to be reading these for a while.
The 20 Unhappiest People You Meet In The Comments Sections Of Year-End Lists - Speaking of lists, here's a fairly comprehensive list of the types of annoying comments you're likely to get. If you're popular. None of my lists ever seem to generate comments from the likes of:
11. The Person Who Thinks You Were So Close. "I like all these picks, but you ranked The Descendants as your #4 and Martha Marcy May Marlene as your #5, and they should be the other way around. FAIL."
I'm not quite Harry The Hipster-Hater, Who Really, Really Hates Hipsters (as I'd never leave a comment like that), but I'm pretty close, because fuck those hipsters.
How Pixar screwed up cartoon cars for a generation of kids - Boy, critics really had a great time ridiculing Cars 2 this year, and many have pointed out the absurdities of anthropomorphizing cars (to the point where it's becoming a bit boring to do so), but I can't believe this is the first time anyone's pointed out this particular incongruity:
The eyes of anthropomorphized cars are the headlights, not the windshield.
And there's no exceptions here. Having a cartoon car with the eyes in the windshield is wrong, just wrong. And that includes you, too, Pixar.
And that's all for now. If my crack squad of chain smoking monkey researchers stays on track, you may see the nominations for the 2011 Kaedrin Movie Awards on Sunday. But who knows. Brilliant researchers sometimes work in strange ways.
Posted by Mark on January 04, 2012 at 07:35 PM .:
The Simpsons Christmas Cards - Happy Holidays, Peace on Earth, And a Morphistic Quiznox to our Allies on Rigel 7. Also, seeing Maggie all growns up is really weird.
That's all for now. Have a great holiday!
Posted by Mark on December 21, 2011 at 07:44 PM .:
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
As usual, just some interesting stuff I've seen on the internets lately:
It Happened to Me: A Serial Killer Wrote Me a Letter - Julieanne Smolinski humorously relates the story of how she came to be pen pals with Richard Ramirez (the Night Stalker!). As it turns out, "Evil uses floral stationery." (I was going to do a pull quote from her first letter to Ramirez, but I decided that the whole article is too good and you should really read the whole thing.)
Can I Stream It? - A pretty useful service, except for the fact that for most movies the answer is "no". Still, if you ever find youself itching to watch Tango & Cash, this will tell you that yes, it's available on Amazon Prime Instant Viewing. Yay?
Kevin Smith's Army - Sam Adams (not the beer guy) takes the gloves off and badmouths Kevin Smith pretty hard here. To my mind, Smith stopped being amazingly funny when he started smoking pot a lot. I'm not a smoker myself, but I don't normally have a problem with stoner comedians (indeed, I quite enjoy bad stoner comedies from time to time). Now he's just occasionally funny, and he certainly seems to have a lot of issues with people criticizing his work. On the other hand, this article comes off as somewhat childish. And Red State, Smith's latest movie, isn't a comedy. Of course, it's not that insightful either (and other movies have tread the same ground better), but it was an interesting exercise for Smith. While I don't think he's had a tremendous career, he's also only put out one legitimately bad movie (Cop Out), and he's got an excuse there: he didn't write the script. I'm actually somewhat interested in his next (and purportedly final) movie (the one about hockey or something).
Star Wars Talk to Your Kids PSA - This is an old one, but it's damn funny and will hit home for anyone who has played a part in introducing someone young to Star Wars. In my mind, there's no question. Start with the original trilogy and hold off on the prequels as long as possible. Then again, my nieces seem to love the prequels. Even Jar Jar! Gahh! It makes me think that 30 years from now, my niece will be bemoaning that her kids like the Star Wars sequels from the 2020s. Or something.
Tiny Legs of Fire - Uh, yeah, I don't know how to describe this. A bizarre compilation of weird clips. Well worth watching though.
timeu.se: What Do People Do All Day? - An interesting data visualization that aggregates data from twitter, plotting various keywords against the time they are mentioned most on twitter. Perhaps not the most rigorous of data sets, but a fun tool to play around with.
Floppy Music - Imperial march - Man, some people go to extraordinary lengths to make Star Wars references. Still, I was impressed at how well these guys were able to imitate the Imperial March theme with floppy drives...
Innovation Starvation - I think I'm contractually obligated to post about any new Neal Stephenson writing, so here you go. It's an interesting article, and it speaks to something that kinda hits home for me. One of the reasons I took up beer brewing as a hobby was that most of my creative endeavors ended up being accomplished in the digital world. Sometimes, though, it's good to actually get hands on with stuff and make things out here in meatspace.
Hobo Signs - It turns out that homeless people have an absurdly detailed symbolic language for marking territory. Things range from warnings ("A crime has been committed here. Not a safe place for strangers") to advice ("A doctor lives here. He won't charge for his services") to, well, maybe bad advice ("There is alcohol in this town"). Interesting stuff.
Interview with Hank Azaria - A surprisingly interesting interview. I particularly enjoyed his story about working with Pacino in Heat:
I don't know if you remember, but I say something like, "I don't know why I got mixed up with this stupid broad," and he says [Does a loud, spot-on Pacino impression.] "'Cause she's got a great ass!" He just screams it. And that was the line, but Al kind of yelled it for the first time, and he did it so completely out of nowhere that it scared me. So much so that I just went, "Jesus!" Not in character, just as Hank. I got frightened, and I went, "Jesus!" And then Al improvised [As Pacino.] "I'm sorry. Something happens to me when I think about a woman's ass." Or whatever it is that he said. And that actually made it into the movie! Michael Mann told me not to improvise, and the one line that I said that wasn't scripted made it in there because… I don't know, I guess because it was a good moment. Because I was scared of Al. [Laughs.]
Well, I think that's all I got for now...
Posted by Mark on November 09, 2011 at 09:47 PM .:
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
6WH: Link Dump: Other Halloween Movie Marathons
As you might expect, I'm not the only one drinking fiendish pumpkin beers and watching all sorts of horror films in preparation for Halloween. Here are a few blogs I follow that have been playing along with the season:
Six Weeks of Halloween - I would be remiss if I didn't call out kernunrex first, as he's the whole inspiration behind my own 6 week marathon. As usual, he's putting me to shame with the sheer quantity of his movie watching and reviews. Definitely a must read during the season.
Final Girl's Shocktober 2011 - Stacie's been listing a couple of her readers' favorite characters each day, often (but not alwasy) with some sort of connection between the two featured characters. Fun stuff, as always.
Need Coffee - Widge and the gang are hamming it up, as usual, for their 32 days of Halloween. They seem to be featuring a lot of audio features in addition to the typical movie reviews and funny shorts/trailers that typically punctuate October horror marathons. Always worth following.
Horror Movie a Day - In reality, October is just the month in which a bunch of bloggers aspire to become a pale imitation of Brian Collins, who watches and reviews a horror movie every single day, all year round, and has been doing so for over 4 years. I'm in awe of his dedication.
Hey Look Behind You - Nikki has been doing her thing this month as well, including her usual focus on horror shorts.
And I think that just about does it for now. Stay tuned for some more horror goodness on Sunday. Not sure if it will be haunted houses or another slasher calendar, but it's going to be awesome either way.
Posted by Mark on October 19, 2011 at 09:42 PM .:
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Interesting links from the depths of the internets:
The Greatest Pizza Box on Planet Earth - On Wednesday, I talked about a podcast called the Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin show, and one of the folks he interviewed was this guy Scott, who does tours of NY city's pizzarias. It's a great episode of the podcast, and this guy is clearly passionate about his pizza. I stumbled on this video where he discusses pizza boxes, and one of the more advanced boxes that doesn't make the pizza soggy while still keeping it hot (and which also is reusable).
Elijah Wood - 7 Minutes in Heaven - I wasn't expecting much out of this, but it's pretty damn funny. Also, it's a ripoff! Only 4 minutes long! Anyway, some funny discussion about furries, boobs, Frodo, and home depot.
Practical Tips on Writing a Book from 23 Brilliant Authors - Some of it is relatively obvious ("write every day!"), but then, it probably still needs to be said. From what I've seen, a lot of aspiring authors spend a lot of time worrying about the business end of things - agents, publishers, and the like - without really writing a lot. But what do I know. Still, interesting reading.
The Un-Gone - Interesting science fiction short. I like it, and it has an interesting idea at its core, but the conflict is a bit overdone, implausible, and pessimistic. That sort of thing isn't always bad, but most filmic versions of SF seem to be that way, which is bad. We need more SF movies that get the whole SF sense of wonder that is so prominent in SF literature.
Darth Vader Goes to Disneyland - I should impose a moratorium on cute Star Wars and Super Mario Brothers links, I think. Still, they're fun sometimes.
Just a note that I'll be traveling this week and thus there won't be a post on Wednesday. See you next week!
Posted by Mark on July 31, 2011 at 08:34 PM .:
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
As per usual, interesting links from the depths of the internets:
Anthrax Redux: Did the Feds Nab the Wrong Guy? - Detailed article chronicling the 7 year investigation of the Anthrax attacks of 2001. I find these sorts of devil-in-the-details type of articles fascinating. It turns out that investigating crimes is, like, really hard! Seriously, though, it's a fantastic article. Wired magazine impresses me more and more these days.
Our Valued Customers - A blog consisting of actual quotes from customers at a comic book store. In comic form! Also, people are weird.
Game of Thrones Violin Cover - At first it seems like a simple recording of a guy playing the Game of Thrones theme on his violin. Then it gets more complicated. Then it gets, like, 10 times more complicated. Well played.
Three arguments against the singularity - Charlie Stross is such a Debbie Downer. In all seriousness, if you follow all the links in his post, you'll be busy for hours, and it's actually pretty interesting, dense stuff. As usual, I'm not really convinced by any of it, but interesting nonetheless.
That's all for now.
Posted by Mark on July 13, 2011 at 10:38 PM .:
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Yeah, it's Wednesday and I didn't realize it, so here are some links:
This Guy Has My Macbook - So this guy's laptop is stolen, but he has some sort of tracking app on the computer, so he puts up a website with all sorts of pictures, etc... of the guy who stole his laptop. The site goes viral, ends up on Good Morning America, who calls the police, who eventually contact the guy, find the thief, and return the laptop. Heh.
Hey You! What Song are you Listening to? - This vid of a guy accosting people on the street in NY and asking them what they're listening to has been making the rounds, but since a 5 second clip in the video led me to download a Black Keys album, which I'm really enjoying, I guess I should link the vid.
"Well, we hadn't collected enough data to be sure of what was going on until just now." Right. This is the chairman of
*statistics*. "Anyway, I asked one of the geostatisticians to look into it--"
"--yes, and she's produced a map showing the radius within which we can send email to be slightly more than 500 miles. There are a number of destinations within that radius that we can't reach, either, or reach sporadically, but we can never email farther than this radius."
It turns out that the users weren't as stupid as it seems. Refreshing.
My Drunk Kitchen - So you remember when you discovered Iron Chef, and you're like, wow, I have no idea what half those ingredients are, but I really want to try all that crazy food their making. Then you see the EpicMealTime guys, and you're like, Wow, that's kinda awsome, but I don't know if I'd actually want to eat it. Then there's My Drink Kitchen, which looks fun, but yeah, I would never want to eat anything made on that show.
Restroom Video Game - Dammit Sega, this is why you can't have nice things. Then again, I'd play this.
We bought EVERYTHING in a store - A bunch of hipsters buy out a corner grocer in NY. Reading the story behind it is actually pretty cool, though almost insufferably artsy-fartsy.
Posted by Mark on June 22, 2011 at 10:11 PM .:
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Doing a bit of belated Spring Cleaning and computer upkeep this weekend, so not a ton of time. Thus, links:
Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for "illegally petitioning" the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.
The process of grinding out credits in online gaming is referred to as "Gold Farming" and there's a surprisingly large black market for this sort of thing. Don't want to actually work to get up to Level 70 in WoW? Just buy a character! Interestingly, the subject of Gold Farming looks to be a big part of Neal Stephenson's forthcoming Reamde... (hat tip Haibane.info)
US & UK Covers Unveiled for Neal Stephenson's Reamde - Speaking of which, the covers for Reamde have recently been released. A close look at the US cover and the way the letters in Reamde are colored indicates that it is indeed a play on the frequently used computer filename, readme (the icon on the US version also helps). I rather like the minimalist nature of the US version, but the UK version is... awful. I'm not entirely sure why the US version feels the need to triple-hyphenate the name "Stephenson", but whatever.
Tips on Using the Toilet - I've created a special delicious tag for videos like this: "idontknowwhatthefuckisgoingoninthisvideo" (In this case, it's not disgusting or even really that weird. It's just, like, too earnest. Or something.)
That's all for now. Have a good holiday.
Posted by Mark on May 29, 2011 at 06:57 PM .:
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Recent tales of adventure on the internet:
Conan - Otaku kun's thoughts on the upcoming Conan reboot. While I'm no expert on the subject, I do have an inordinate fondness for the original Schwartzenegger films (yes, even Destroyer, which I recognize as objectively horrible, but love anyway) and there seems to be much truth in Otakun's post. But the real kicker is his last line, which is a brilliant reduction to the core issue here: "Are we in for EMO Conan? Or will we see him punch a camel?"
Hobbes And Bacon - What a wonderful idea. Calvin and Hobbes, the next generation! (also via Otaku kun). Also: naming your child Bacon? Brilliant.
Obi-Wan Kenobi Is Dead, Vader Says - Pitch perfect parody of NYT, among other nerdier pursuits. It's the little details that really make it great - particularly the sidebar. Also, as Jonathan Last points out, don't skip the comments, which are almost equally brilliant. "Why won't Lord Vader show us the body?!" (Particularly funny because there is no body.) "Alderaan was an inside job!" And so on. Heh.
Spin Around - Why hasn't this camera angle been used in a movie? Like, perhaps, Conan.
The more you spend on bureaucracy, the less control you have directly over your Empire. The less you spend on bureaucracy, the more you have to tighten your grip, and the more star systems slip through your fingers.
So, the Emperor and Tarkin focus on making one really huge, high-impact investment: The Death Star. They throw in Alderaan as part of that investment. This doomsday weapon will supposedly free up their resources to spend less on administration, personnel and infrastructure, and continue to function without a Senate. It seems like a big investment until you realize how much they save by not actually having a functioning government.
Gymkhana - No, not the 80s action movie about a gymnast saving the world from the Parmistan threat (that was Gymkata, not Gymkhana), this video is all about crazy driving skills. Would probably make a fun video game...
This Year - A great idea for a blog. This is basically a guide to older podcasts, calling out the highlights and funny moments or insightful commentary for each year of the podcast. Right now, they're working on the old 1up Yours podcasts, as well as Adam Carolla's podcast and a few others. It seems to be a relatively new thing, but if they keep it up, it could be a great resource.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on April 17, 2011 at 09:54 PM .:
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Just some interesting links, as per usual:
Saturn Cassini Photographic Animation - A movie composed solely of images from the Cassini probe. No CGI or other animation techniques needed. Just photographs shown in a logical progression to give the impression of a movie. (via Haibane)
Diary of a Part Time Monk - Beer nerds like to tell tales of how monks would participate in a Lenten fast, subsisting only on beer (or "liquid bread"). Well, this guy decided to live the dream. He gave up food for lent and is only drinking beer for sustenance (with, of course, all the proper guidance from doctors, etc...)
Futurama NES Game - Ever wonder what a Futurama video game would be like if it were made in the NES era? Yeah, me neither, but this is still a pretty funny video.
The genius of Batman is that it pretends to be realistic, it lets us convince ourselves that with enough money and training, we could become Batman, too. But it's still fantasy, it's just a fantasy that is more compelling and convincing and thus more fun.
Because I have an unhealthy obsession with Neal Stephenson novels, the above quote made me think of this passage from Snow Crash:
Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.
So apparently, the "genius of Batman" only really applies to men under 25. Or something. Hey, speaking of realism and fantasy:
Science Fiction vs. Science Fantasy: Us cool science fiction nerds like to occasionally take a dump all over fantasy. We'll even use the term fantasy as an insult sometimes. But who are we kidding? John Scalzi actually makes a good point:
...everything you can possibly label as "science fiction" is in fact just a subset of a larger genre, which is correctly called "fantasy." This is because science fiction -- along with supernatural horror, alternate history, superhero lit, and the elves-and-orcs swashbuckling typically labeled "fantasy" -- is fundamentally fantastic. Which is to say, it involves imaginative conceptualizing, does not restrain itself according what is currently known, and speculates about the nature of worlds and conditions that do not exist in reality. It may gall science-fiction fans to think of their genre as a subset of fantasy, but it is, so calling a film "science fantasy" is in most ways redundant.
Of course, by that definition, every fictional story ever written could potentially be considered fantasy, but still, it's an interesting point. However, I think part of the reason science fiction nerds are so protective of their subgenre is that they generally appreciate things like plausibility, scientific rigor, and internal consistency. In my experience (which, I'll grant, isn't exhaustive), Fantasy doesn't really do any of those things. "Magic" doesn't work for me unless there are serious limitations.
A Superman Post: Since I'm totally geeking out on superheroes, fantasy, and SF, I might as well keep it going with as good an explanation of the appeal of Superman as any:
Superman isn’t Superman because of some tragedy which informed his growth. Pa Kent does not die because of a failure on Clark’s part - indeed in most versions of the story, Pa dies when Clark is already Superman. Clark’s knowledge of Krypton doesn’t make him a superhero either; again, this is something he finds out later, too late to traumatize him. Clark is Superman because he decides to be Superman without being prompted. That’s more complex and nuanced a story than “somebody did something to me.” Superman’s story, which informs his entire character, is one of someone who chooses to be good of his own free will and agency, with no influence other than moral upbringing. That’s both more compelling than the “somebody did something to me” origin most superheroes have and more difficult to work with.
Lots of great stuff in that post. It's a shame that the movies almost never really capture this.
Ken Jennings on Reddit: Read the comments. Jennings is way funnier than you'd expect. Aside from the fact that his username is WatsonsBitch, a good sample is this response:
yamminonem: Will you be the leader of the Resistance against Watson once he starts to control Skynet? Please, and thank you.
WatsonsBitch: Once we are all working in the slave-pits together, I will try to put in a good word for you all. I will be like the old Barnard Hughes character in Tron, who remembers the Master Control Program when it was just accounting software.
Posted by Mark on March 09, 2011 at 08:10 PM .:
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Link Dump & Notes
Just some interesting links and some notes about upcoming posts and whatnot:
First, an announcement! The Oscars are this Sunday, and in accordance with tradition, I will be liveblogging the event, as I have for the past 7 years (!) Feel free to stop by and leave some comments! Previous installments here: [2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004]
An update on Game Dev Story! I've finally figured out how to hire a "Hardware Engineer" and thus was able to create my own console. Well, I found this DIY Gamer page, which explains it:
Perhaps the biggest secret in Game Dev Story, bagging a hardware engineer is simple - if expensive - stuff. The idea is to level up one of your staff to the max in every type of role. This can be done with a combination of development points and Career Change Manuals (from the salesman). Level your chosen character up to level 5 in whatever role they’re in, then use the Career Change Manual to swap their job to something they aren’t already level 5 in.
Level them up to level 5 in this role, then repeat until they are level 5 in every available role. Now use the Career Change Manual on them once more, and the Hardware Engineer role will now be available for selection. Choose this, and you’ll then be able to develop your own console.
Sweet. Of course, I'm now paying this person almost $2 million a year in salary, but hey, I got to create a console. And according to my records, my company has over $1 billion in reserve, so I should be all right (this is what happens when you sell 30-40 million units of each game). I still think there's a lot of room in this concept for a deeper dive into some of these details (for instance, shouldn't I get licensing fees from other developers who want to release games on my console? How about competition with other consoles? And so on...) but for a game that cost $0.99, I've had a blast.
The Boy Who Stole Half-Life 2 - I never heard of this until now, but it's an interesting story of some kid who stole the source code to Half-Life 2 before it was released. Very interesting stuff.
That's all for now. Look for my Oscar picks early on Sunday. Updates after that will most likely begin when the show does (I really hate the damn red carpet crap, but sometimes I'm on a bit early anyway).
Posted by Mark on February 23, 2011 at 07:00 PM .:
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Time is short, so just a few things I've found interesting lately:
Star Wars Fan Documentaries: I realize that the phrase "fan documentary" probably made you throw up a little in your mouth, but these amazingly comprehensive movies are actually quite well done. They're built on top of the base of the Star Wars movies themselves, but they feature all sorts of production notes, commentary from cast/crew, and are even sometimes re-cut with alternate takes, deleted scenes, concept art, and original audio. Creator Jambe Davdar must have spent years pouring through Star Wars minutiae to put this together. I haven't watched all of the videos (there's a lot of them), but so far, it's great stuff.
Game Dev Story - An iPhone video game about... well, making video games. A meta video game, if you will. I don't play a lot of iPhone games, but I heard the guys talking about it on Rebel FM a few weeks ago and it was only $0.99 so I figured I'd give it a try. It's kinda addictive, despite the fact that the critics never rate my games well.
Space Stasis - I haven't read this yet, but it's an article by Neal Stephenson, so I'm looking forward to it (apparently a new novel is coming this year as well, though the news has been suspiciously quiet about that so far).
Posted by Mark on February 09, 2011 at 10:59 PM .:
Sunday, January 30, 2011
I had a busy weekend, so here are some interesting links I've run across recently:
Awesomest Action Movie Ever: I see short clips of amazingly weird movies like this all the time, but they never actually tell you what the movie is. Granted, it's probably not going to be available in the US or Netflix, but still, it would be nice to know.
The Thomas Beale Cipher: Gorgeous animated short about a guy who is on a treasure hunt (I think). It's based on a real story, a set of three ciphertexts created by the titular Thomas Beale. The ciphers still haven't been solved, nearly a hundred years later. Some believe that the story is a hundred year old hoax, others contend that there is about $65 million in buried gold treasure out there somewhere. The filmmaker seems to have also embedded 16 hidden messages in the film, though I haven't really looked to hard for any of them (I did a cursory search to see if anyone else had found them, but came up short).
Excitebike Shop: It used to be that you'd only see videos like this for the classics like Super Mario Brothers or Zelda, but lately, I've been seeing a lot of Excitebike parodies. Weird.
Snowy Trench Run: Another amazing video that would have gone unseen without the internet.
Fake Criterions - Spot on parodies of the Criterion Collection cover art, though honestly, some of the imitations fall a bit flat. Still, well done. (Update: Apparently Tumblr is down! Hopefully it will be back shortly.)
Funky Forest - After School Club (NSFW) - I seriously hesitate to even post this. I have no idea what the fuck is going on in this video. It's quite possibly the weirdest thing I've ever seen. And I've seen some weird shit. You know what, don't click on this link. Seriously. Some things can't be unseen.
So there you have it.
Posted by Mark on December 05, 2010 at 07:24 PM .:
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Some fine links we should all be thankful for:
Software Props - Interesting science fictional interfaces made available in flash, including the interface for the Sentry Guns from Aliens and the Death Star power meter. There are only a few here right now, but apparently this guy is working on some new ones (including the motion tracker from Aliens).
Tweet of the Week: @DeathStarPR "He's more machine now than man, twisted and evil," said the guy who chopped off his arms & legs, then left him to burn alive. #StarWars
That's all for now. Have a great Thanksgiving!
Posted by Mark on November 24, 2010 at 11:15 PM .:
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
A few interesting links from the depths of teh interwebs:
Singel-Minded: How Facebook Could Beat Google to Win the Net - Wired's Ryan Singer makes an interesting case for Facebook to challenge Google in the realm of advertising. Right now, Facebook only advertises on their site (in a small, relatively tasteful fashion), but it's only really a matter of time until they make the same move Google did with AdSense. And their advantage their is that Facebook has much more usable data about people than Google. The operative word there is "usable", as Google certainly has lots of data about its users, but it seems Google's mantra of "Do no evil" will come back to bite them in the ass. Google's promised not to use search history and private emails, etc... to help target ads. Facebook has no such restrictions, and the ads on their site seem to be more targeted (they've recently been trying to get me to buy Neal Stephenson audio books, which would be a pretty good bet for them... if I hadn't already read everything that guy's written). This got me wondering, is targeted advertising the future and will people be ok with that. Everyone hates commercials, but would they hate them if the ads were for things you wanted? Obviously privacy is a concern... or is it? It's not like Facebook has been immaculate in the area of privacy, and yet it's as popular as it ever was. I don't necessarily see it as a good thing, but it will probably happen, and somehow I doubt Google will take it for long without figuring out a way to leverage all that data they've been collecting...
If We Don't, Remember Me: Animated gifs have long been a staple of the web and while they're not normally a bastion of subtlety, this site is. They all seem to be from good movies, and I think this one is my favorite. (via kottke)
The Tall Man Reunites With Don Coscarelli for John Dies at the End: I posted about this movie back in 2008, then promptly forgot about it. I just assumed that it was one of those projects that would never really get off the ground (folks in Hollywood often publish the rights for something, even when they don't necessarily have any plans to make it) or that Coscarelli was focusing on one of his other projects (i.e. the long-rumored sequel to BubbaHo-Tep, titled Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires). But it appears that things are actually moving on JDatE and some casting was recently announced, including long time Coscarelli collaborator Angus Scrimm (who played the infamous Tall Man in the Phantasm films), Paul Giamatti and Clancy Brown. This is all well and good, but at the same time - I have no idea what roles any of these folks will play. None seem like the two leads (David and the titular John). Nevertheless, here's to hoping we see some new Coscarelli soon. I think his sensibility would match rather well with David Wong (nee Jason Pargin). (Update:Quint over at AiCN has more on the casting and who's playing what)
Posted by Mark on November 17, 2010 at 09:16 PM .:
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
It's hard to believe, but it's been over two months since the last link dump, so here goes:
A radical pessimist's guide to the next 10 years: Author Douglas Coupland makes a series of 45 predictions about how technology and society will change each other. Some are interesting, some are way off, but most are interesting nonetheless. A few samples:
3) The future is going to happen no matter what we do. The future will feel even faster than it does now
The next sets of triumphing technologies are going to happen, no matter who invents them or where or how. Not that technology alone dictates the future, but in the end it always leaves its mark. The only unknown factor is the pace at which new technologies will appear. This technological determinism, with its sense of constantly awaiting a new era-changing technology every day, is one of the hallmarks of the next decade.
10) In the same way you can never go backward to a slower computer, you can never go backward to a lessened state of connectedness
34) You're going to miss the 1990s more than you ever thought
Experiments in Blind Tasting: I've been getting into beer in a big way this year, and one of the things I find a little amusing is the way a lot of people seem to review their beers. They always seem to have these amazingly well attuned taste buds, picking up the most subtle of flavors easily. Sometimes I think I'm missing something, and sometimes I think they're just making it up. This article covers a course intended for beer judges, and it's a apparently quite a challenge. The key graph:
We were then given a batch of three unidentified black beers, and told to write notes on them, then attempt to guess the beer styles. After tasting the three we were asked one by one to read our notes on the first one, all of which went along the lines of "roasty, caramel, maybe a bit neutral". The shock was considerable when we were told that it was, again, Ringnes Pils, this time with some black colouring added to it. Every single one of the 10 participants claimed to taste roastiness in the beer, and not one of the 10 so much as came near the idea that this might be a pilsener. An interesting example of the sense of taste being affected by visual signals.
I knew it!
Kaedrin Beer Blog: Hey, did I just mention that I was getting into beer in a big way? Well yeah, I started a beer blog. I have no idea if it will last or how often I'll update, but so far, I've been updating a pretty good clip. And it being me, of course there's a little movie talk going on as well. I'm open to any comments or suggestions about the blog, and if you're a designer, I need to come up with a nicer looking headline than the default template orange text thing I've got up there now.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on November 03, 2010 at 08:50 PM .:
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Yes, there have been a lot of these lately. At this point I figure I should just stop apologizing for it and embrace it. So here you go, links:
Echo: LoadingReadyRun has been at The Escapist for a while and they can be hit or miss, but some of their more recent videos are really great stuff. Split Decision and A Stitch in Time are pretty good too.
Right on Cue: Ta-Nehisi Coates responds to Andy Rooney: "Rooney ends this with a jibe that notes his ignorance of Lady Gaga is fine, because kids are ignorant of Ella Fitzgerald. I suspect that he gives himself too much credit." Heh. His notion of "Digging In The Crates" is an interesting one and I think he may be right.
F**k You: Cee Lo Green's profanity laden song is pretty great. And of course, the follow up videos have begun... Also of note, this song, which is completely unrelated, but awesome.
Sun Chips Bag: These videos are all over the place at this point, but this one's pretty well executed, precisely because the guy doesn't say anything.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on August 25, 2010 at 07:37 PM .:
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Interesting stuff seen lately:
Wikipedia's Lamest Edit Wars: Amazing list of recurring edits on Wikipedia. Should we mention House MD's lack of asian diversity (8,000+ edits and counting). Should "wee" link to the Nintendo Wii or to the article on urine (20,000+ edits and counting)? A goldmine of almost unintentional hilarity.
Extra Credits: If you're not familiar with Daniel Floyd and James Portnow (and now Allison Theus), they produced a series of great videos about video games on YouTube and are now part of The Escapist, posting new videos every Thursday (instead of twice a year, as they were doing before!) I don't know that I always agree with them, but it's always interesting watching.
Double Feature: I was getting sick of my current lineup of podcasts, so I started looking around for some new movie podcasts and found this one, which is pretty good stuff (and a large back catalog for me to work through). Any other good movie podcasts I should be listening to? (Besides Filmspotting, Creative Screenwriting, Filmically Perfect, Left Field Cinema, and The Treatment? I already know about those!)
That's all for now, see you Sunday.
Posted by Mark on August 18, 2010 at 09:08 PM .:
Sunday, August 08, 2010
I have about 5 posts brewing right now, but none are quite ready for the show, so here are some links in the meantime.
In Praise of ‘Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers’: Alexandra Heller-Nicholas mounts a vigorous and surprisingly convincing defense of what most people consider to be a mediocre entry in an unimpressive series. I love reading film criticism like this, though I have to admit that reading this post is probably more entertaining and interesting than watching the movie itself. As a slasher sequel, I suppose you could do a lot worse than Halloween IV and I will happily admit that the ending was oddly effective in its own way, but it's ultimately not that great of a movie (especially when it invites comparison to one of the greatest horror movies of all time). I haven't seen the movie in about 10 years, but it's probably better than the Zombie reboot series, right?
I Write Like: David Foster Wallace, apparently. Mayhap I should finish off Infinite Jest sometime. Actually, it looks like they updated the algorithm. I still get mostly Wallace, but I'm also getting lots of other folks (Lovecraft, James Joyce, etc...) which is a bit strange. I mean, I write like everybody! I'd like to know more about how they determine the key indicators for each writer.
Those snooty Academy Awards! Why do they always nominate obscure art films? In 20 years, nobody will remember them. When the films of today have stood the test of time, they’ll have been forgotten. The films people will remember, see, and cherish are the ones that dominate the box office!
The public is stupid! Every year they turn the most mindless drivel into cash cows. But the fame these movies have will not endure. When the films of today have stood the test of time, they’ll have been forgotten. The films people will remember, see, and cherish are the ones that win Academy Awards!
These claims are obviously at odds with each other. They can both be false, but they cannot both be true, except in cases where the movies that win at the box office are also the ones garnering awards attention.
He then goes into a relatively thorough examination of the Oscar Nominees and Top Grossing films for each year, going back to the beginnings of the Oscars. Fascinating stuff.
KFC Drive-Through: Doublelicious all the way. You know, the great thing about laughter is that it just happens. You don't have to think about it or explain it, which is a good thing, because I have no idea why I laughed so much at this.
The Typewriter: I think Joe Wright just found the soundtrack to his new movie.
South of the Border: Natural-Born Shillers: Karina Longworth on Oliver Stone's new "documentary" in which Stone pals around with various South American dictators (such as Hugo Chávez): "South of the Border's subjects are masters at cooking bullshit, and Stone just eats it up." Ouch.
That's all for now.
Posted by Mark on July 07, 2010 at 09:31 PM .:
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Yet Another Link Dump
Apologies for all the recent link dumps. Time has been short. More meaningful content to return shortly. In the meantime, enjoy:
2 Guage Shotgun: When I was in high school, I really hated Biology. So after the class ended, my dad and I took my notebook up to our range. Fearing that the 12 guage shotgun wouldn't do, we broke out the 10 guage and proceeded to annihilate the notebook. Some scraps around the edges remained, but otherwise, it was pretty thoroughly destroyed. Now, these guys have a 2 guage shotgun and manage to pretty much vaporize half a board of clay birds. Supposedly the gun was mounted to a boat and used for hunting duck, but I don't really understand. What good is a vaporized duck (or a duck riddled with shot)? I guess if you have a large flock and a longer range, it would work, but still. Amazingly powerful gun.
Cardboard Mechanics Installation: Sometimes when I watch these videos, I wish there could be an easy way to keep tabs on the people that made them. Did they ever amount to anything? What did they end up doing with their lives? In this case, it's clear that the creators have a pretty thorough understanding of mechanics and how to get things working, but what are they going to do with all that knowledge (besides make a video like this)?
The History of the Typewriter: As told by Michael Winslow, of Police Academy fame. I have to wonder how close he actually is to the real thing (I wish they would've included that for comparison's sake, but then, I guess the video is long enough as it is).
Kinect Dance Central: In case you don't feel enough like a total idiot playing the Wii, check out Kinect! Almost as funny, the description of the video: "nerd can't contain the funk" No, I suppose he can't.
Posted by Mark on June 16, 2010 at 09:47 PM .:
Sunday, June 06, 2010
A busy weekend and the Flyers storming back in the Stanley Cup finals means less time than usual, so here's a few links that I've found interesting lately:
Subway To Start Tessellating Cheese: Remember when I posted this comic a while back? It's apparently from 2007, and according to what appears to be an internal weekly newsletter, Subway will begin tessellating cheese on its sandwiches. A consumer triumph.
Trailers From Hell: This has been around for a while, but it's well worth checking out for movie fans (it tends to lean towards horror, but it's not exclusively that genre). Basically, it consists of a bunch of famous directors doing a commentary on the trailers of their favorite films. While some well-known movies are featured, there are tons of obscure films as well. The people doing the commentary tend to be horror director mainstays, including Joe Dante, Kaedrin favorite Don Coscarelli, Edgar Wright, Eli Roth, John Landis, and a bunch of others.
Heist!: An intriguing bank robbery in Buenos Aires that Hollywood should be paying attention to...
On the afternoon of (Friday!) January 13, four gunmen walked into the Banco Rio in Acassuso (part of greater Buenos Aires) and took the staff and customers hostage. There was a tense six hour long siege by the police, expertly handled by the robbers - they let each hostage call home, so that family members showed up at the scene; the calculation was that the police would be more reluctant to storm the building immediately if hostages' relatives were watching. They made sure to release three hostages right away as a gesture of goodwill, but of course the three released included the security guard and police officer already in the building. While one of the robbers stayed on the phone, negotiating with police, the remaining ones got busy cracking open safe deposit boxes. Towards four in the afternoon, the police delivered six pizzas and some bottles of soda, the fruit of all those hours of negotiation, which the robbers passed along to the hostages. And then they went silent.
After about an hour of no contact and no news, an elite police bank-storming squad stormed the bank, only to find a group of bewildered hostages sitting scared in the smoke. There was no trace of the gunmen.
I love the cat-and-mouse games robbers play with the police in situations like this, and this one has a few exchanges of that going on...
Pulsate: This thing had me transfixed for much longer than it should have. My favorite thing to do was to position my mouse in the center of the space and click several times in succession, creating a series of concentric rings. Then I'd move the mouse to one of the corners (quickly, as you have to do it before the original set of rings makes it there) and do another series of rings. Do it for a couple other corners and presto! You've got an Aphex Twin song.
Soviet Space Center: A photo tour of a decommissioned Soviet Space Center. The post isn't in English, but the photos are great.
Nothing New to Report: At first, I thought this was the same newspaper, over and over again, but there are probably tons of copies of the same one in use in Hollywood. I can almost guarantee it's due to the fact that someone had to clear all the stories in the newspaper once, and never wants to pay for the rights again. Understandable for what should be a throwaway prop.
That's all for now. Possibly something more substantial next week!
Posted by Mark on June 06, 2010 at 05:07 PM .:
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Yet Another Link Dump
Sorry for all the link dumps, but I've not been feeling especially inspired as of late. Anyway, some interesting stuff I've seen recently:
The Enemy Within by Mark Bowden: You wouldn't think that the story of a computer worm would be this interesting, but it is.
The struggle against this remarkable worm is a sort of chess match unfolding in the esoteric world of computer security. It pits the cleverest attackers in the world, the bad guys, against the cleverest defenders in the world, the good guys (who have been dubbed the “Conficker Cabal”). It has prompted the first truly concerted global effort to kill a computer virus, extraordinary feats of international cooperation, and the deployment of state-of-the-art decryption techniques—moves and countermoves at the highest level of programming. The good guys have gone to unprecedented lengths, and have had successes beyond anything they would have thought possible when they started. But a year and a half into the battle, here’s the bottom line:
Posted by Mark on May 12, 2010 at 07:00 PM .:
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
You know the drill - some interesting stuff I've seen lately on teh interwebs:
Robot Exoskeleton: Power Loader: Towards the beginning of the video, some text starts scrolling across the screen that says "This is the power loader. The prototype robotic exoskeleton is designed to allow the wearer..." and I totally thought the next screen was going to say something like "... to act like Ripley at the end of Aliens!" but alas, the video was serious.
A Sincere Letter of Thanks to Roger Ebert: Ebert trolled the video game industry again last week with his long-standing assertion that video games can't be art. Kevin Beverage from GameSpy brilliantly skewers both Ebert and the general response:
Noting the content drought on many game enthusiast websites, you selflessly decided to peel the crusted top off of the cesspool that is the games-as-art debate, to present us gamers with the opportunity to wallow in our own intellectual feces for a solid week-and-a-half. And with bony fists raised in impotent rage and eyes fixed unflinchingly on our navels, we took up the call.
Acting on an impulse from an incredibly complex forebrain that has evolved over millions of years, Atkinson then took note of the Bugles' amusing conical shape and placed one on each of his opposable thumbs like little wizard hats.
Super Mario Crossover: Awesome concept - play Super Mario Brothers with other NES classic characters, like Samus, Simon Belmont, Link, etc... Awesome idea, and well executed too. I kinda wish I still had a gamepad for my computer though (and that it would work for this)...
Posted by Mark on April 28, 2010 at 08:26 PM .:
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Yes, another one.
Dear Subway, Inc. - I always thought they shaped the cheese like that because they didn't want to use as much cheese. This guy has a somewhat more optimistic outlook.
The Videogame Car - Apparently it's much harder to drive like that in real life than it is in GTA4.
Why records DO all sound the same - The unknown knows of the music industry. In all seriousness, it's pretty interesting how modern music mixing and mastering techniques are used to smooth out and "louden" music tracks.
5 Year Old Baseball Star - This kid is better at baseball than I ever was, and he's only 5. He can consistently hit an 85 mph pitch (since he's so small, he actually gets pushed backwards).
Transformers Crossover - This felt vaguely infuriating until I realized that it was Anikin Skywalker, not the real Star Wars.
Auto-Tune Some Pizza - How is it that Auto-Tune never gets old. Ok, well, it does, but still, this was pretty funny.
Yeah, so, sorry for the gratuitous link dumps of late. Just not especially inspired right now. Hopefully something more interesting on Sunday.
Posted by Mark on April 14, 2010 at 09:04 PM .:
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Perhaps I've been doing these a bit too often lately, but here are a few interesting links I've seen lately:
...Blanchard slowly approached the display and removed the already loosened screws, carefully using a butter knife to hold in place the two long rods that would trigger the alarm system. The real trick was ensuring that the spring-loaded mechanism the star was sitting on didn’t register that the weight above it had changed. Of course, he had that covered, too: He reached into his pocket and deftly replaced Elisabeth’s bejeweled hairpin with the gift-store fake.
It was two weeks before anyone realized that what was on display was actually a fake bought at the on-site gift-store. The article is great stuff. (via Galley Slaves, who also has some interesting comments about Wired magazine and editor Chris Anderson's willingness to run stories like this...)
Archer: Why was I not informed of this show?! It's like The Venture Brothers, but for James Bond (rather than Johnny Quest). This show definitely owes a lot to the Venture Brothers, and it's perhaps not quite as good, but it's still quite funny.
Birdemic: Shock And Terror Official Theatrical Trailer: "A towering achievement in human creative expression." - IMDB User Review (via CHUD, where Devin notes "every so often, ineptitude and fate converge on the event horizon of cinema's black hole (read: anus) to produce an experience so bafflingly sucky and confusing it borders on the remarkable")
Press X to Jason: I suppose this is a bit of a spoiler for anyone who wants to play Heavy Rain, but I have to admit that it's pretty funny (besides, you won't really get it until you play the game). I eagerly away the inevitable sequel: Press X to Shaun.
Actual PC Games: Well, to be honest, Stalin vs Martians sounds pretty awesome.
Are You Fun to Follow on Twitter?: Tammy Erickson takes the not-so-original assertion that "most people's tweets are neither interesting nor fun to read" and makes an interesting argument about what kinds of tweets actually do work. In short: "Individuals who are most skilled at using this peculiar 140-character medium are those who do notice the small details of life, who capture the moments that others of us miss, who slow down to watch and listen while most race on, and who personalize the events they see." She makes use of a great anecdote along the way. In case you were wondering, I'm not especially interesting on Twitter.
Cinema 4D tutorial - Balls Mapping on Vimeo: Sometimes you read a headline and think you have to be misinterpreting what it means. In this case, your mind might not go there, but the video certainly does. And it is hilarious.
That's all for now. See you Wednesday...
Posted by Mark on March 21, 2010 at 04:31 PM .:
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Entertaining material from the web, or lazy blogging? You decide!
Best Action Scene of All Time?: I don't know about that, but it's pretty awesome (and pretty damn funny too). Alas, it does not appear to be available on DVD. Damn you internets! Why do you torture me so!
The Losers Looks Like a Winner: As CHUD notes, "The Losers looks like a better movie version of The A-Team than The A-Team movie." That sounds about right. On a related note, does anyone else think it would be funny if Katee Sackhoff was hired to play Face in the forthcoming A-Team movie? No? Just me? Huh.
Posted by Mark on February 24, 2010 at 08:59 PM .:
Sunday, February 07, 2010
I'm wiped out from playing football in 2 feet of snow this morning (going to be sore all week), eating all day, and gambling on trivial things during the Superbowl (I correctly chose the under in the "mentions Hurricane Katrina" but that got offset by taking the over on "number of times Archie Manning appears onscreen" and I ended up losing by 1 point in the overall contest). So here are a few things I've seen recently. Enjoy.
How To Report The News: Newswipe's absolutely brilliant takedown of the conventions of the television news story. It's only got 1 million views! But it fits with some of the other links in this post, so there.
The One and Only Right Review: Shawn Elliott's sarcastic video game review is pretty funny. On a slightly related topic, I've recently discovered the GFW video game podcast archive, which is something of a treasure trove. In it's heyday, it was an amazingly fun podcast. In fact, it probably deserves it's own bullet point:
GFW Radio Compilation: This is a pretty good place to start, and it's 4 hours of good stuff. Going through the archives at 1up is a bit difficult (note that most of the best talent had left by the end, so the ones that show up when you subscribe in itunes or the like are mostly not the best episodes), but once you get back to 2007 and early 2008, it's pretty great (not that I've listened to all of those, but still). While ostensibly a video game podcast (for PC gaming, no less), that only really represents a fraction of some episodes. They joke around about tons of topics and other geeky culture. It's very great stuff. Geekbox is ok but not quite as great as GFW, and Out of the Game is also pretty good, but they don't seem to post those very often (last episode was in early December).
Well, that's all for now. Top 10 movies of 2009 will probably be posted next week, if I can manage it...
Posted by Mark on February 07, 2010 at 11:22 PM .:
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Yet Another Link Dump
Interesting stuff seen on the web recently:
Good Copy Bad Copy - Interesting documentary available for free online. It's about copyright and remixing and mashups and whatnot. It's got some interesting info in it, but it kinda trails off into different areas as it proceeds... but those areas are interesting too. The Brazilian mashup scene seems to be quite interesting in its own right, but that's probably a different documentary than what this one is trying to focus on...
Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal - A few years ago, I posted about this story of the guy who figured out that the seemingly random blinking lights on the Press Your Luck gameshow were actually not so random. He ended up winning over $110,000. This 11 part documentary goes into detail on exactly how he did it, and is a fascinating watch.
I don't know how to describe this without giving the joke away, but I want to go on a mission to institute something like this in my work cafeteria.
Disney's James Cameron's Pocahontas Avatar - I've seen Avatar twice. The first time, in a regular 3D theater, I found myself enjoying it despite a lackluster story. The second time, in IMAX 3D, I found myself much less willing to forgive the story. I don't want to make this post a review of Avatar, but I think this is a movie that will depreciate over time, especially once we get used to the effects. A lot of critics will be eating crow over this, I think. Interestingly, critics who waited a while before posting their thoughts on the film seem to have a more considered reaction to the film. Dennis Cozzalio's review is one of the best I've seen, and he addresses this subject in his post too. To me, it's not that the film is derivative (so was The Matrix, and I loved that) and it's not that I don't necessarily agree with all the politics. It's just that it's all executed so poorly. Gah. I should write a proper review at some point, but I fear I won't get around to it.
Is it ethical to eat plants? - Whenever I talk to someone about vegetarianism, I would always make a half-hearted joke about how plants are alive too and that the only real difference is that they're rooted in place and unable to even attempt escape. Well, it turns out that there is a rather nuanced argument to be made that if you don't eat meat on ethical grounds, you also need to account for the ethics of eating plants. Plants act in a surprising way to external threats, often engaging in activities you would normally only ascribe to more intelligent animals:
Plants can’t run away from a threat but they can stand their ground. “They are very good at avoiding getting eaten,” said Linda Walling of the University of California, Riverside. “It’s an unusual situation where insects can overcome those defenses.” At the smallest nip to its leaves, specialized cells on the plant’s surface release chemicals to irritate the predator or sticky goo to entrap it. Genes in the plant’s DNA are activated to wage systemwide chemical warfare, the plant’s version of an immune response. We need terpenes, alkaloids, phenolics — let’s move.
... Just because we humans can’t hear them doesn’t mean plants don’t howl. Some of the compounds that plants generate in response to insect mastication — their feedback, you might say — are volatile chemicals that serve as cries for help. Such airborne alarm calls have been shown to attract both large predatory insects like dragon flies, which delight in caterpillar meat, and tiny parasitic insects, which can infect a caterpillar and destroy it from within.
Posted by Mark on January 20, 2010 at 07:09 PM .:
Sunday, January 03, 2010
Just a few interesting links I've run across recently:
This review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace has been making the rounds everywhere, but it really is brilliant stuff. Clocking in at around 70 minutes, the review goes into every detail, meticulously and hilariously tearing apart the story. I wasn't sure what to make of the funny voice and the dead wife references, but by the time I finished the review and went back and watched his reviews of the next generation Star Trek movies (which are uniformly bad (update: the movies are bad, not the reviews)), I think I kinda like it. In any case, this guy has clearly done a lot of work on these reviews. The amount of archival footage he pulls makes me wonder just how much time he's spent watching the extras on various DVDs. In a lot of ways, the Star Trek reviews are even more impressive in that respect, as he pulls from the entire run of the TNG series, in addition to the movies. Anyway, the other notable thing about these videos is that I now crave pizza rolls, for the first time ever.
A couple of other funny reviews of bad Christmas movies: Santa With Muscles (which has to go on my Holiday Horror list next year) and Santa's Slay (which I actually enjoyed... clearly moreso than the reviewer, though I wouldn't call it great or anything).
I’ll tell you what happens in Demon’s Souls when you die. You come back as a ghost with your health capped at half. And when you keep on dying, the alignment of the world turns black and the enemies get harder. That’s right, when you fail in this game, it gets harder. Why? Because fuck you is why.
I go back and forth on whether or not I want to play this game. Reviews like this (and there are a lot of them) make me think I'll immediately hate the game. Other times, like during the recent Brainy Gamer podcast, it feels like I'd love the game. Perhaps I'll just wait for the price to come down or rent it or something.
That's all for now. Happy New Year!
Update: It appears I forgot to actually include the link to the Demons Soul's review. It's there now. Also, added a quick clarification about the Star Trek reviews...
Posted by Mark on January 03, 2010 at 08:32 PM .:
Friday, December 18, 2009
12DC - Day 5: Friday is Holiday List Day
Even though it is infrequently observed, Friday is list day, so here's a couple lists...
Not So Random 10
Holiday music generally gets overplayed, but let's see what comes up:
Shostakovich - "Suite #2 For Jazz Orchestra - Waltz #2"
Vince Guaraldi - "Linus and Lucy"
Bobby Helms - "Jingle Bell Rock"
Weezer - "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"
John Lennon - "Happy Xmas"
Tchaikovsky - "The Nutcracker Suite"
Gary Hoey - "Carol of the Bells"
Bruce Springsteen - "Merry Christmas Baby"
Vince Guaraldi - "Christmas Time Is Here"
Sufjan Stevens - "Come on! Let's Boogey to the Elf Dance!"
Yeah, so some of those are reallly overplayed, but what the hey.
Holiday Link Dump
Faux Fire - Do they still put that fireplace thing on TV these days? I don't think they do, which makes this site fun.
13 Days of Christmas - Those Needcofee folks have upstaged me by doing a whole extra day of Christmas (and have been doing it for several years too).
Well, that's all for now. Stay tuned for what passes as a Christmas tree around here as well as Egg Nog madness.
Posted by Mark on December 18, 2009 at 07:57 PM .:
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Link Dump - Video Edition
Just a few interesting links I've run across recently:
Seeing Science Through Fiction: A talk with Neal Stephenson, Lee Smolin and Jaron Lanier at the Quantum to Cosmos festival. They talk about lots of interesting stuff. Also of note is a panel discussion featuring the same folks and more, though that one isn't as interesting (and is preceded by some awful babbling). In other Stephenson news, he does have a book coming out... in 2011. It's supposed to be titled REAMDE, though no one seems to know what it will be about (there is speculation that it might have something to do with deliberately mispelling "readme", a commom filename).
The Legend of Neil: So this is pretty old, but I just found it. It's about Neil, who was playing Zelda and accidentally got transported into the game. Moral of the story, don't drink and play Zelda. It's pretty funny, with lots of in-jokes and dirty humor.
How habitable is the Earth?: Charlie Stross attempts to argue that a planet like the Earth would not be considered habitable from the perspective of prospective interstellar colonists. The point of the post is a good one (Earth would only be habitable to humans for a fraction of its existance), but the specifics of his thought experiment are rather dumb.
I want you to imagine that, instead of being a perplexed mostly-hairless primate reading a blog, you're the guiding intelligence of an interstellar robot probe. You've been entrusted with the vital mission of determining whether a target planet is inhabitable by members of your creator species, who bear an eerie resemblance to H. Sapiens Sapiens. To gauge the suitability of the target world you've been given an incubator that can generate decorticated human clones — breathing meat-machines with nobody home up top. When you get to the destination you're going to transfer them to the surface and see how long they survive. If it can make it through 24 hours (or one diurnal period), congratulations! — you've found a potential colony world; one so hospitable that a naked and clueless human doesn't die on their first day out.
His first strike against Earth is that 78% of the planet is covered in water, and that randomly dropping "meat-machines" on the planet will cause most of them to drown. Is it just me? Am I the only one who thinks that's dumb? Prospective interstellar colonists would be looking for a planet that looks like the one they came from. Human beings have well established conditions for comfortable living, that's obviously what we'd look for. The planet we're on now seems to work reasonably well, so if we found a planet where a small percentage of the surface is really habitable, that's still pretty good. Also, he finishes off his post with a note that there's only a 1% chance that a prospective interstellar colonist would consider Earth a good planet. Well, isn't 1% ok? Sure, it's astronomically small... but we're talking about astronomy here! Ultimately, he's making a good point, but the rhetorical strategy here... I just didn't care for it...
The cumulative picture of the human condition that has emerged since opening night is dominated by sadism, guilt, violence and despair, a panorama of pessimism notable for its exhausting rigor and relentless consistency. ...
This year’s New York Film Festival can be understood as an unusually powerful and disciplined presentation of an aesthetic ideology we might call festivalism. There is some irony in the name, since a central tenet of festivalism is an abiding skepticism about the nature and value of fun. That’s not what movies are for!
But the festivalist mentality does not simply rest on a taste for depicting or witnessing human misery — social, sexual, economic and psychic. Rather, the embrace of such harsh thematic content reflects a commitment to a dogma of artistic obduracy. T. S. Eliot said of modern poetry that “it must be difficult,” an imperative defiantly reflected in a program, harvested mostly from other festivals, that pushes the boundary between the challenging and the punitive.
"Festivalism." I like that. Rather, I like the word. I don't really enjoy what it represents. The only thing it doesn't really capture is how "Independent" films also seem to traffic in the same sort of thing. I really miss the middle ground films that had mainstream appeal, but were independently produced by genuinely talented artists. We catch glimpses of this sort of thing from time to time (Paranormal Activity is a recent example), but they seem to be much less frequent.
A Conversation on Blogging Ethics and Online Film Journalism with C. Robert Cargill, Devin Faraci, and Peter Sciretta: Great audio conversation that was originally planned to be a 20 minute thing but which ballooned into a 2 hour epic. I think the one thing missing from the conversation is, well, not to belittle the industry, but there isn't really that much to report in the movie business. People read these sites more for commentary than just news. Finding out who is cast in the next Twilight picture might be news and it might bring in hits for your site, but ultimately, that's not a big story and it doesn't take as much effort to uncover than, say, an intrepid reporter who breaks a story on the Police pushing drugs at a local beach. That reporter has to go undercover, investigating the beach, taking trips to Utah to follow leads, impersonate doctors and maintenance workers, and so on, to get the story. I love Devin Faraci, and he does set visits and travels to film festivals and whatnot, but the types of stories he makes out of that sort of thing are entertaining more because of his perspective than the actual facts of what he reports. There's a big difference between that and the beach drug story... In any case, it's a fascinating discussion, and well worth a listen (they get into a lot more than I'm talking about here).
Video Games Video: Interesting little video covering, well, kinda sorta the early history of video games, with original animations and set to technoey music. A fun watch.
Posted by Mark on November 04, 2009 at 05:51 PM .:
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Just a few links I've found interesting recently:
Quentin Tarantino's Top 20 Movies Since 1992: In preparation for Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino helped program a week of movies on Europe's Sky Channel. He hosted the series and talked about movies, including a list of his 20 favorite movies released since he started directing:
Battle Royale (incidentally, I would never have pronounced Fukasaku properly)
Anything Else (really?)
Blade (note: no, it's not thatBlade, this one.)
Dazed & Confused
Joint Security Area
Lost In Translation
Memories of Murder
Police Story 3
Shaun of the Dead
It's an... interesting... list. Some no brainers in there, and some really odd choices too. But odd choices are what makes a list like this interesting and worth compiling in the first place, right? I'm positive most of these movies wouldn't show up on a list that I compiled, but then again, I'm not an amazing filmmaker. On the other hand, when considering how many movies Tarantino no doubt watches, I find it hard to believe that this list would not change drastically from day to day. Heh.
Fast Food Mafia: A group of sketches that imagines fast food mascots as if they were notorious crime bosses. Ron "The Don" McDonald looks like an alternate design for the Joker.
Great Moments in Physics: Even though I know most examples of this type of story are probably false, I love reading about them...
Posted by Mark on August 26, 2009 at 07:45 PM .:
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Just a few links to stuff I've enjoyed recently:
What If Greedo Really Shot First?: It doesn't get much geekier than the Star Wars fan outrage over Greedo shooting first in the special edition Star Wars films, but somehow this IO9 post manages that feat with no problems (via Batrock).
The Farewell Dossier: I'm always fascinated by those Cold War espionage stories, and this one's a doozy. Essentially, the Soviet Union needed some software to run their newly procured oil pipeline hardware. The US had such software, but wouldn't sell it to their rivals, so the Soviets simply stole it... not realizing that the US had sabotaged the code.
The orchestrated subterfuge was one of the most successful US inter-agency efforts ever undertaken, and it was executed with such skill that it was never detected. Some condemn the deliberate explosion as thinly veiled terrorism given the lack of an open war with the Soviet Union, while others insist that ill-gotten goods are the plunderer’s problem. In any case, it clearly demonstrates that software piracy can have very serious consequences.
A little while ago, Yahtzee reviewed inFamous and Prototype, two similar games, by comparing them to one another. In the end, the two games ended in a tie, so Yahtzee suggested a humorous and presumably rhetorical tie-breaker: "which of the two studios could produce the best image of the rival game's main character wearing women's lingerie." Amazingly, the two game studios in question complied. The results are... funny. Take a gander.
Number of trips to Starbucks: approximately 18,200
Once again, Coke beats Pepsi. Score. There are some other interesting stats included as well
How to Hack Your Brain: This is apparently part 1 in a longer series... this one focuses on sleep and how inefficient our standard schedules are (most of the time spent in a standard 8 hour sleeping session is not spent in REM sleep, which is the most important part). I would love to try the extreme Uberman polyphasic schedule, which calls for a total of only 2 hours of sleep a day (but evenly spaced in 20 minute increments throughout the day), but it does not seem feasible in a normal working schedule. I suspect there's something more to this subject though and it probably warrants closer examination.
Asian Poses: I'm not sure a lot of these are uniquely Asian, but then, some probably are. I particularly enjoyed Nyan Nyan. (via Kottke)
Posted by Mark on July 29, 2009 at 08:21 PM .:
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
A few interesting links I've run into recently:
Easy Solutions #1: This is easily the most brilliant yet demented thing I've read in a long time. My favorite part is the subtle ways in which the devious story you concoct are supported by longstanding film franchises. For example: "If she questions this flaw in your time travel logic, because you cannot change the past, simply reference Back to the Future."
Eternal Monsters of Filmland: Devin Faraci makes an argument that the current rash of horror movie remakes is not new and is indeed indicative of a modern set of eternal monsters, placing Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Kreuger alongside such horror mainstays as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy (this classic trio has literally hundreds of movies to their name, including dozens of remakes and reboots). The big thing holding back the modern trio? Copyright. An interesting idea.
KHAAN! The Greatest Syllable Ever Told: This article about a "15-minute meticulously re-spliced creation in a never-ending loop" of William Shatner's infamous cursing of Star Trek villain Khan features a 2 minute excerpt from the film that is mesmerizing...
McQuarrie says only after finishing the film and preparing to do press interviews about it did he and Singer realize they both had completely different conceptions about the plot.
"I pulled Bryan aside the night before press began and I said, 'We need to get our stories straight because people are starting to ask what happened and what didn't,' " recalls McQuarrie. "And we got into the biggest argument we've ever had in our lives."
He continues: "One of us believed that the story was all lies, peppered with little bits of the truth. And the other one believed it was all true, peppered with tiny, little lies. ... We each thought we were making a movie that was completely different from what the other one thought."
I think I've always considered it more of a mostly true, peppered with little lies, but the neat thing is that it probably works either way...
Kevin Smith Part 1 : Sellling Out And Salty Language: What can I say, I'm a sucker for Kevin Smith interview type stuff, and there are several followups to this one. In addition, I love those Evening With Kevin Smith DVDs and have watched them multiple times (the first set is brilliant, the second is not as much, and the third, well, he spends like 45 minutes answering a question about his dogs, which started to grate at about the 20 minute mark. Anyway, the first Evening is highly recommended if you like Smith's brand of raunchy humor.)
Carousel: Utterly amazing short film by Adam Berg (no credits on IMDB at this time) consisting of "an epic ‘frozen moment’ cops and robbers shootout sequence that included clowns, explosions, a decimated hospital, and plenty of broken glass and bullet casings." It's kinda hypnotic... amazing stuff.
That's all for now. Stay tuned for more Friday the 13th madness on Sunday...
Posted by Mark on May 13, 2009 at 08:11 PM .:
Sunday, April 19, 2009
It's actually been a few months since a link dump, so here are a few interesting links:
Uncomfortable Plot Summaries: This is everywhere lately, but it's very funny. My favorites include LotR ("Midget destroys stolen property.") and how every Neil Gaiman movie features pretty much the same plot summary. Actually, these remind me a lot of the classic Rinkworks Movie-A-Minute ultra-condensed movies.
Video Game Documentaries: They Keep On Coming: Speaking of Playing Columbine, it seems that video game documentaries in general are becoming more and more common. This post at Spout features a bunch of upcoming documentaries, some of which sound very interesting...
The GAF Collection: The folks over at the NeoGAF video game forums have a photoshop thread where people post photoshopped game covers in the style of the Criterion Collection (perhaps continuing a trend from a few months ago). Some great stuff here, including several great covers for Shadow of the Colossus, Flower, and Metal Gear Solid, among many others.
DeepLeap: A mildly addictive single player word game (along the lines of a scrabble, but without a board). My high score is only in the 400 range or so, but it's a lot of fun...
Craig Needs a Friend: I'm not sure how to describe this one, but this Craig guy is hilarious, as is his mode of communication.
Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable: Clay Shirky's musings on the current state of the newspaper business. I can't think of the last time I actually read a newspaper. I remember at one point last year, someone bussed some inner city high-schoolers into my neighborhood and guilted us all into buying a subscription to the Philly Inquirer (apparently, the Inquirer would help pay college tuition for the high schoolers based on how many subscriptions they sold or something). However, I generally found myself grabbing the paper right from my doorstep and placing it in the recycle bin on my way out (i.e. most of the time, it didn't even make it into my house).
That's all for now. Coming up on Kaedrin, it seems I haven't gotten over the whole Six Weeks of Halloween horror movie marathon, so expect to see some more slashers and SWH style posts in the near future (not six weeks worth, but just a few to tide you over for the next half year or so).
Posted by Mark on April 19, 2009 at 06:38 PM .:
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Link Dump & Notes
Hooray for link dumps. Everyone likes link dumps! Right? RIGHT?
6th Annual Oscar Liveblogging on Sunday! Yes, I know, the Oscars are a boring, essentially meaningless awards show in which a bunch of self-congratulatory Hollywood insiders pat themselves on the back for making crappy movies. But that's precisely why I liveblog it - it's much more interesting that way! I suppose the fact that I get drunk every year helps too (it's not my fault, really! Have you ever seen those music performances on the Oscars while sober?). It's also one of those rare occassions where a live event coincides with my blogging schedule, so I feel obligated to oblige. Anyway, feel free to drop by and join in. Previous installments are here: [2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004]
What's the deal with all the fake, retro-style book covers for other media like Movies and VideoGames? Not that I don't love them, but it's just odd that they just started kinda happening lately... Here are two of my favorites. The Highlander poster is hysterical, while the Mirror's Edge poster calls to mind the old-style Criterion Collection art.
Alternate History Search Results: John Scalzi does a live reading of his story, and it's pretty funny! It reminded me of Wikihistory, a hilarious story written in the style of an online message board for time travelers.
Posted by Mark on February 18, 2009 at 07:10 PM .:
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Link Dump: Top 10s and Some Nitpicking
Time is short, so here are a few links to end of the year movie lists and the like. Still not sure when I'll get to my top 10, but it probably won't be this week.
The 2008 Top Tens - Movie City News collects and aggregates 286 top 10 lists, ranking the movies by number of list mentions and a weighted version that considers how high on each list a given movie was ranked. The top 5 movies on the list are WALL-E, The Dark Knight, Slumdog Millionaire, Milk and The Wrestler. Not a bad list, though at most, only two of those will be appearing on my list. One nitpicky frustration - why on earth did they put all the data in images? It makes it a lot more difficult to find a movie you want to know about.
The 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2008: An interesting list of the underdistributed, sometimes underrated films of last year. Except for Speed Racer, which was horrible. Honestly though, this year's list isn't as good as last year's list, which I take as just another sign that 2008 was not a particularly good year for movies.
jim's ten best favorite movies of 2008: the movie - Jim Emerson's top ten is presented in the form of an 8 minute montage of clips from his favorite movies. I was able to name 4 of them (probably because I haven't seen the other 6, and I have to say, I didn't see anything in his clips that indicated that I was missing anything). Kind of a stereotypical critic's list... but I'm greatly looking forward to his 2nd annual Exploding Head Awards (that's a link to last year's awards - he hasn't posted this year's yet).
Speaking of Jim Emerson, he's been doing some spectacular nit picking (don't miss Part 2) on The Dark Knight, particularly with the first sequence in the film which culminates with a school bus merging with other school busses. If you still haven't seen The Dark Knight, don't read his posts! They will put you in the wrong frame of mind to watch the movie (or any movie, for that matter - at least, any movie you're watching for the first time). Now, these are nitpicks, but I do believe that Emerson has a point. I love the movie, and I'm sure regular readers wouldn't be surprised that it will be my top movie of the year, but it isn't perfect. There are several sequences that cheat in one way or another, whether it be through editing or awkward camera angles or any other number of filmmaking tricks. Emerson's argument boils down to a question of whether the filmmaking tricks employed in TDK impair suspension of disbelief. I would say that when I view a movie, I have a certain sense of moviegoing goodwill. When I watch a movie, I want it to be good, I want to be sucked in and immersed in the world a film creates. But sometimes there are things that happen in a movie that are simply unbelievable. These movies knock you out of the movie's world and force you to recognize that you're actually sitting in a theater (or on a couch, or whatever). These moments work against my moviegoing goodwill. Usually a single moment won't do it - it's a culmination of things. After a while, my goodwill runs out and the movie simply can't recover. The Dark Knight obviously grated on Emerson. He found himself wondering about all the details of the various things that were being presented to him. He claims this was a sorta unconscious effect. He knew he didn't like the movie, but couldn't explain why until he'd seen the movie a few more times on DVD/BR, where he could really dig into it. That's when he started noticing all of the shots or edits that worked against his suspension of disbelief. Now, I didn't have that problem. Indeed, I've seen the movie 5 times since it came out, and while a couple of things jumped out at me during my first and second viewing, I didn't really start to think about it until the 5th viewing, at which point some of the imperfections became more clear. But even then, it wasn't enough to ruin my moviegoing goodwill. Even reading Emerson's well thought out objections, I find that I can see his point without granting that it ruins the movie or the suspension of disbelief that is required to watch it. I'm interested by this sort of thing, because I think people like the movies they like for less rational reasons than we're willing to admit. There are a lot of great movies that I can nitpick to death, but still love anyway. So when I find myself trying to explain why I dislike a movie with something like "Well he fired 8 shots out of that there revolver! You can't do that!" or "...giant humanoid robots really don't make any sense" I think what I'm really trying to say is that the movie did not pull me in and immerse me in it's own world. The frustrating thing about this is that I think this can be dependant on mood. Context matters, and there are certainly times when I'm muchmore willing to suspend disbelief than I would normally be... and vice versa. Well, I've babbled on long enough, so I'll just leave it at that for now.
Didn't mean to get off on that tangent there. That last subject is perhaps something I'd like to revisit at some point, but it will not be tonight...
Posted by Mark on January 28, 2009 at 08:30 PM .:
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
For obvious reasons, time is a little short these days, so here are a few links I've found interesting lately:
Still Life - This is a rather creepy short film directed by Jon Knautz. It has a very Twilight Zoney type of feel, and a rather dark ending, but it's quite compelling. Knautz went on to make Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer... alas, that film, while containing a certain charm for the horror aficionado, isn't quite as good as this short.
Zero Punctuation: Assassin's Creed: I've seen some of Yahtzee's video game reviews before, but while they are certainly entertaining to watch, I've never quite known whether or not they were actually useful. It can be a lot of fun to watch someone lay the smackdown on stupid games, and Yahtzee certainly has a knack for doing that (plus he has a British accent, and us Americans apparently love to hear Brits rip into stuf), but you never really know how representative of the actual game it really is. Well, after spending a lot of time playing around with Assassin's Creed this week, I have to say that Yahtzee's review is dead on, and hilarious to boot.
A Batman Conversation: It's sad and in poor taste, but I bet some variant of this conversation happened quite frequently about a year ago.
MGK Versus His Adolescent Reading Habits: Look! I'm only like 2 months behind the curve on this one! MGK posts a bunch of parodies of book covers from famous SF and fantasy authors (I particularly enjoyed the Asimov, Heinlein, and even the Zahn one).
Books as Games: I realize most of my readers also read Shamus, but still, this faux-review of Snow Crash if it were created as a video game before it became a book but in the present day (it, uh, makes more sense in his post) is pretty cool.
Posted by Mark on January 07, 2009 at 08:56 PM .:
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Another Link Dump
I try not to make a habit of just throwing up a bunch of links, but when time grows short, it's difficult to give certain subjects the thought and attention they deserve. I've started a couple of posts, but they're both turning out to be monsters. One is a review of Neal Stephenson's latest novel, Anathem, which I finished this week and have been thinking about a lot. It might take me a bit to sort through it all. The other is a discussion of ratings systems for movies - a subject that seems relatively simple at first, but which grew more complicated the more I thought about it. Unfortunately, I was traveling for most of this weekend, so I didn't have much time to devote to either of these ideas... and this week promises to be busy as well. In the mean time, here are a few things I've run across lately that are worth watching or reading:
The Website is Down: This is a hysterical 10 minute video that featues a bunch of supposedly true stories from tech support hell. Supposedly a sequel is in the works, but this one is pretty funny in itself.
The Last Lecture: Ostensibly a talk about achieving your childhood dreams, this talk wound up being much more (the childhood dreams angle is what he'd call a "head fake"). It's actually quite heartbreaking when I think about it. The talk is given by Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who specialized in Virtual Reality. He was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer about a year before he gave this talk, but during the presentation, he is extremely upbeat and humorous, choosing instead to focus on his message rather than his medical situation. He died this past summer, which is why watching this video now is a bit heartbreaking. It's a long video, but it's well worth a watch.
Authors @ Google: Neal Stephenson: While promoting Anathem, Neal Stephenson stopped off at Google for a Q&A that turns out to be quite interesting (as usual)... Another long video, but interesting if you're a Stephenson fan.
The Dukes: A new indie heist movie? Why have I not heard of this until now? It sounds great though... Consider this near the top of the list I posted about the holiday movie season. Hopefully, I'll find some time to go see it this week...
Crosstalk: The state of horror cinema: Noel Murray and Scott Tobias of the Onion A.V. Club discuss the state of horror cinema as of October 2006. Things haven't changed too much, but I've been thinking a bit about the state of modern American horror films (another potential post that I haven't spent enough time thinking about and researching), so I found this discussion interesting.
So there's at least two and a half hours of compelling video content there as well as some light reading. Light posting will probably continue through Wednesday's post (which I believe will be a recap of a ridiculous discussion I had with my friend Roy at a discussion board - let's just say it involves aliens and breakdancing)... Next Sunday's post may be a bit light as well, but we'll see. That's all for now.
Posted by Mark on November 23, 2008 at 07:06 PM .:
Sunday, November 09, 2008
It's been a little while since the last link dump, so let's see what's queued up in my del.icio.us account:
Saw V hit theaters this Halloween and seems poised to make the Saw franchise the top-grossing horror franchise of all time (in unadjusted dollars). I have to admit that I lost interest towards the beginning of Saw III, but I don't really get the hatred this series seems to have garnered by critics and horror fans. I think Dellamorte over at CHUD brought up an excellent point a few weeks ago:
IF YOU GREW UP IN THE 1980'S YOU CAN'T COMPLAIN ABOUT THE SAW FRANCHISE: If you think the Saw films are shit, but have a soft spot for Friday the 13th Part V: The New Blood, or any Nightmare on Elm Street sequel past the third film, or pretty much any of the Halloween sequels, then you can't suggest that the rapid-fire sequels that have been born of the 21st Century deserve to be ridiculed any more than the rapid-fire releases of the 80's.
Exactly. I actually thought the first Saw was a pretty good movie. The sequels seem to be repetitious and unoriginal, but so what? Weren't most of the the 80s horror movies (especially slashers) repetitious and unoriginal? And didn't they get the same sort of curt dismissal as the current crop of remakes and "torture porn" films? To me, part of the joy of horror movies is that even when they're bad, they're good. Sure, that won't work for everybody, but some movies aren't made for everybody. The other movie series Dellamorte mentions in his post is the High School Musical series, which I have absolutely no interest in... and that's ok. The only thing that does bother me a bit about the Saw series is that studios seem to have ceded Halloween to the series instead of trying to challenge it with new and interesting movies like Trick 'r Treat (or so I've heard, because I can't find this thing anywhere!) There's probably a lot to be said about the state of modern American horror movies, but I don't think it's as clear-cut or simplistic as this sort of discussion usually tends to play out. I suppose the studios are still focused on remakes and reboots, but there are still plenty of interesting American efforts going on (it would perhaps be nice if those movies didn't have so much trouble getting made or distributed though). This seems like fodder for a longer post...
A Cartoon-off between XKCD and the New Yorker. Hilarious. I think the New Yorker cartoonist really gave XKCD a run for his money, though it should be noted that XKCD was deprived of one of the key components of its success (the alt tag!)
PG Porn - James Gunn, who directed the excellent horror flick, Slither, recently started this series of short films that are basically porn films without the sex. Basically, some typical porn plotline starts up, complete with bad dialogue and stilted acting, then something horrible happens. The first episode, titled Nailing Your Wife, stars Nathan Fillion (of Firefly/Serenity and I suppose I should also mention Dr. Horrible fame) and real-life porn-star Aria Giovanni. It's kinda twisted, but darkly funny. Amusingly, it seems to have caused something of a controversy because some people can't comprehend black comedy.
Enter the Octopus: Another geeky themed blog, with particular focus on books. I was wondering how on earth he managed to do his Bookosphereposts so frequently... then I saw this. It's understandable though, and it's still a fun blog.
That's all for now.
Posted by Mark on September 10, 2008 at 07:49 PM .:
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Link Dump and Quick Hits
Just a few links that have caught my interest lately.
Denise Jones, Super Booker by John Scalzi: The idea of superheroes and the legal system has been done before, from Watchmen to The Incredibles, but Scalzi takes it a step further here in this short story. It basically takes the form of an interview, and is quite funny:
Q: So you’re saying that if Chicago were attacked by a sewer monster or something, the mayor would have to go through you to get help from ArachnoLad.
A: No, Chicago keeps ArachnoLad on a retainer. The Evening Stalker, too. Most large cities have one or two super beings under contract.
Heh. Also amusing is the story behind the story, which apparently took 13 minutes from completion to publication. Speaking of Scalzi, I'll probably be writing some reviews of his novels at some point in the near future, including his latest, Zoe's Tale (which I just finished and liked, though perhaps not as much as his other novels).
They're Made Out of Meat by Terry Bisson: Another short story. It's been floating around the web for a long time, but it's brilliant, so if you haven't read it, check it out.
Kids: Neptunus Lex has a conversation with one of his daughter's friends. The highpoint is when they talk about Top Gun. Heh.
Posted by Mark on September 03, 2008 at 08:11 PM .:
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The Thing Goes Zombie
I generally try to avoid just posting a video, but this is awesome:
Amazing stuff. Has stop-motion animation always been this prevalent? From mainstream (Robot Chicken) to amateur (the vid above, and maybe the Marvel vs. DC stuff), it seems like I'm seing more and more stop-motion these days. [Thanks to Roy for posting the vid on 4k]
Posted by Mark on August 27, 2008 at 08:55 AM .:
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Well, I lost power for a good portion of the day, and it's looking like I might not have much time tonight, so here are a few links:
After the Coup by John Scalzi: A short story that takes place in the Old Man's War universe. I haven't read it yet, but it looks interesting.
2008 US Movie Box Office: Interesting chart of 2008 movies, arranged by weekend gross. As you might expect, the first weekend is almost always the largest for any given film. You can see the various spikes as well, notably the Batman spike.
Libra: I've been messing around with this application which lets you catalogue your library of books, DVDs, music, etc... It's a neat little program, though it clearly needs some work. For instance, it crashed about 10 times while I entered my DVD library into it, and it also seems to crash every time I search for "Cryptonomicon." The search results were also very strange, and I found myself sometimes having to find the item on Amazon first, then using the ASIN to find it in Libra. It would also be nice if it used a richer data source as well, because you really don't get much meta data with it. You can add tags to each item... but you have to do it manually. Probably not something I'll maintain, but it's interesting, and it provides a neat export functionality - see my DVD collection here (Some DVDs still not entered, but this is a good portion of what I have).)
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on August 10, 2008 at 03:55 PM .:
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Link to Someone New: Web Comics Edition
I've recently run across some interesting webcomics, so I figured it was time for another edition of linking to someone new:
Theater Hopper: Topical, movie-themed comic. The latest one features a rather obscure reference, but most of them are great, and he's apparently been doing this for over 5 years (sooo, I'm a little late on this one, but it's good anyway).
Stolen Pixels: Ok, I cheated. I already linked this, but how can I not link to Shamus' new, video-game themed comic? Great stuff so far. Now featuring legitimate webcomic navigation!
That's all for now.
Posted by Mark on July 23, 2008 at 08:10 PM .:
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Time is short this week and I will be travelling this weekend so no entry on Sunday (perhaps one on Tuesday when I get back). Anwyay, here are some links to chew on while I'm away:
Directors' Cameos in Films: This is an interesting collection. Some directors are very subtle with their cameos, some are not so much. Some work well and fit into the movie, others stick out like a sore thumb. For my money, no one does a cameo better than Hitchcock. Often, they're difficult to find, but sometimes they take on added meaning and symbolize an important theme (for instance, Hitch downing the champagne in Notrorious (scroll down)).
Interesting color coded map of generic names for soft drinks. I tend to use soda or Coke (interesting that a specific brand is often used as a "generic" name for soft drinks)..
That's all for now. Again, probably no entry on Sunday, as I'll be out of town with no access to internet...
Posted by Mark on June 04, 2008 at 10:44 PM .:
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Link to Someone New: Philly Film Fest Edition
You know the drill. Blog reading often becomes a closed loop where you find yourself constantly reading and linking to the same group of blogs. I'm as guilty as anyone (plus, I have a tendency to not link other blogs at all), so in an effort to combat the blogging equivalent of inbreeding, here are links to several blogs I've never linked before, all of whom have also been blogging about the Philadelphia Film Festival (for reference, see my posts):
Melissahead saw a bunch of movies that I didn't see (and one that I did).
Futuregirl had a little more overlap with my schedule, but also some that I didn't see, including Film Noir, a rotoscoped animation film, which was something I wanted to see but couldn't find the time for...
Philly Chit Chat attended several of the events and big screenings with guests... and took lots of pictures too!
David Dylan Thomas saw lots and lots of films and has a significant overlap with my schedule... plus a whole lot more (including some that I wish I found time for, like Vexille) We seem to have similar tastes, with the potential exception of The Wackness....
That's all for now. If you have a blog where you've been writing about the PFF, feel free to let me know...
Posted by Mark on April 16, 2008 at 06:29 PM .:
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Time is short, so just a few interesting links that I've run accross recently:
Wikihistory: So what would happen if time travel was invented a hundred years from now? Why, time travelers would start an internet forum... among other predictable things. Hilarious.
Agent to the Stars: John Scalzi's first novel was originally published online, and it's still there. I actually haven't read it yet, but I think this might be the only Scalzi SF book that I haven't read (and I've enjoyed all the others...)
She and her daughter have “meat parties” when Mr. Benson goes out of town, she said.
The Sports Guy Glossary: I'm not a huge sports fan, but I have come to love Bill Simmons. Even when he's writing about a sport I absolutely hate (i.e. Basketball, unless it's Villanova basketball, in which case: Go 'Nova!), I'll read it. There are some times when it's all sports, but most of the time he's making so many pop-culture references that it's entertaining. This page has lots of his classics, including sporty stuff like the Ewing Theory (to be renamed the Tiki Barber Theory) and stuff almost completely unrelated to sports, like the Guidelines for Underrated Movies.
CES 2008 panel on SF influence on technology: The panel features Neal Stephenson, Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway and other neat stuff), Lucy Lawless (she's a Cylon!), and Walt Mossberg (journalist). Interesting stuff...
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on March 26, 2008 at 08:35 PM .:
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Link Dump: SF Edition
I have a few ideas of longer type posts, but nothings gelling at the moment, so here are a few links I've run across lately:
Mind Meld: Today's SF Authors Define Science Fiction - It's an interesting question, and there are lots of interesting answers here (don't miss part 2). I tend to favor a more broad definition that some of the authors, something akin to John Scalzi's or David Louis Edelman's definitions. It's hard to say though. How does one classify something like The Baroque Cycle. The whole thing takes place in the distant past, and there's not much in the way of scientific speculation (the characters are speculating I guess, but we're not), but it's clearly got a handle on science and technology and Stephenson is clearly a SF writer. I don't know that a definition that excludes The Baroque Cycle is a bad one, but I'd kinda like mine to do so.
Fledge is a Singularity Skeptic - My problem with the singularity is that no one really knows what it would look like. We can speculate and doing so makes for fun SF, but still, I share Fledge's skepticism for a lot of it:
The proponents of AI argue that if we just add levels of complexity eventually we will have something approximating the real thing. The approach is to add more neural net nodes, add more information inputs, and [something happens]. But my sense of the human brain (which is partly religious and partly derived from my career as an MRI physicist specializing in neuroimaging) is that the brain isn’t just a collection of N neurons, wired a certain way. There are layers, structures, and systems within whose complexities multiple against each other.
I'll say that I think a singularity is possible, but I have no idea when. I'm pretty sure it won't be happening in the next 15 years, as Verner Vinge has speculated. Of course, he freely admits the possibility of singularity failure...
Posted by Mark on March 02, 2008 at 08:08 PM .:
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Link to Someone New
It's that time again. I had planned to do a big review of an Anime movie I saw, but time is short, so I figured it's time to send some traffic (all 7 readers) towards some new corners of the internets (at least, they were new for me!). Enjoy.
SciencePunk has an interesting post about Zombies and the science of siege warfare. This post reminded me of something that always bothered me about the movie 28 Days Later... (a film I like a lot, despite what follows here). In that film, the "Rage Virus" is frighteningly fast-acting. An infected human succumbs to the virus within only 30 seconds. This is all well and good, and horrific, but it seems pretty counter to basic epidemiology. I'm not a doctor or scientist, but it seems to me that the reason diseases spread is that there is a long incubation period, wherein the host has a chance to spread the disease. This period is effectively nil for the Rage virus, so I'd think that the disease would be relatively easy to contain. At the very least, I don't see how it could leave England (I guess there's a chance, given the Chunnel and France's historically weak defenses against invaders). Of course, this detail was explained in the sequel, 28 Weeks Later, which posits the existence of carriers who are not affected (much) by the virus and actually depicts the transfer of the virus off the island. Wait, what am I saying, who watches Zombie movies and seriously considers things epidemiology or even plot holes?
That's all for now. I'm travelling this weekend, so Sunday's entry may be a bit sparse (unless I find some time tomorrow to write something up).
Posted by Mark on January 30, 2008 at 10:35 PM .:
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Link Dump: The Lost Edition
Not lost as in the TV show, but lost as in, where am I?
The Key to Reserva: Breathtaking short film (about 10 minutes) based on a "lost" Hitchcock script, directed by Martin Scorsese in the style of Hitchcock as if Hitchcock were making a movie today the way he would make a movie in the 1950s. It's hard to explain, just watch it.
Lunatic at Large: This script, commissioned by Stanley Kubrick in the late 1950s and lost when he moved to England in 1962, has recently been uncovered by Kubrick's son-in-law, who is attempting to get it made.
There were a couple of false starts. Mr. Hobbs originally approached the French company Pathé — partly because the French hold Jim Thompson in the same esteem as Edgar Allan Poe and Mickey Rourke — and after that arrangement fell through, he formed a partnership with Edward R. Pressman, a New York-based producer, and the London producers Finch & Partners. Mr. Pressman, who is expected to announce the completion of the deal today, said the film would be directed by Chris Palmer, from a finished script by Stephen R. Clarke.
The Best 19 Movies You Didn't See in 2007: (Not technically "lost" but close enough!) This sort of list is strange. After all, how does this guy know I didn't see these movies? But it's actually a good list. I'm usually pretty knowledgeable when it comes to movies, even offbeat and obscure ones, but there were a few surprises in here for me. How is it that I never heard of Fido? I've seen 6 of the films on the list, and most were pretty good. I've got a couple others coming from Netflix. Interesting.
All Movie Talk: This exceptional, now defunct, podcast is actually the source (directly and indirectly) of two of the above links. It's the only film podcast I've ever seen that even comes close to rivaling the excellent Filmspotting. It's less timely in that it doesn't cover recent releases in the way that Filmspotting does, but that really only serves to make the episodes more timeless, and I'm currently devouring their archives at a frightening rate. These guys really know their stuff, and you can really learn a lot about film and film history by listening to their show. Incidentally, the hosts are the guys behind Rinkworks, so you get a lot of funny asides and "how to" segments (for instance, I just listened to a segment called How To: Be the Slasher, a handy guide for slasher villains who don't know how to terrorize teenagers in a proper fashion). Anyway, it's a great podcast, and well worth listening to for those interested in film. It's a shame they had to close up shop, but it's certainly understandable - this sort of show has got to be a lot of work.
That's all for now. 2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards are coming (in typical Kaedrin fashion, the 2007 movie wrapup happens in 2008.)
Posted by Mark on January 02, 2008 at 09:51 PM .:
Sunday, December 09, 2007
I'm a little brain dead right now, so here are a few things that have caught my eye recently:
The High Frontier, Redux by Charlie Stross: A total buzzkill, but worthwhile reading on the likelihood (well, unlikelihood) of colonizing space. Needless to say, we won't be sending out the colony ships anytime soon. It's detailed and interesting, and there are a ton of comments.
Air Traffic Video: John Robb points to an awesome video that shows all air transportation flows over the US. It's mesmerizing.
Infringement Nation (.pdf): Interesting article on how everyone regularly commits copyright infringement without even knowing it (i.e. this is without even taking into account p2p downloads, etc...):
To illustrate the unwitting infringement that has become quotidian for the
average American, take an ordinary day in the life of a hypothetical law professor
named John. For the purposes of this Gedankenexperiment, we assume the worstcase
scenario of full enforcement of rights by copyright holders and an
uncharitable, though perfectly plausible, reading of existing case law and the fair
use doctrine. Fair use is, after all, notoriously fickle and the defense offers little ex
ante refuge to users of copyrighted works.
In the morning, John checks his email, and, in so doing, begins to tally up the
liability. Following common practice, he has set his mail browser to automatically
reproduce the text to which he is responding in any email he drafts. Each
unauthorized reproduction of someone else's copyrighted text-their email-
represents a separate act of brazen infringement, as does each instance of email
forwarding. Within an hour, the twenty reply and forward emails sent by John
have exposed him to $3 million in statutory damages.
And it goes on from their, until we reach this conclusion:
By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John's activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, he would be indisputably liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing. Such an outcome flies in the face of our basic sense of justice. Indeed, one must either irrationally conclude that John is a criminal infringer -- a veritable grand larcenist -- or blithely surmise that copyright law must not mean what it appears to say. Something is clearly amiss. Moreover, the troublesome gap between copyright law and norms has grown only wider in recent years.
I wonder how much I've tallied up as a result of quoting his article on this blog entry? In any case, it sounds like we're in need of some copyright law revisions.
Posted by Mark on December 09, 2007 at 06:30 PM .:
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Some interesting stuff going on recently:
Chainmail Bikini - The highly anticipated new webcomic from Shamus (who did the brilliant DM of the Rings comic) and "recovering goth" Shawn Gaston. The first comic is up, and it's great. If you liked DM of the RIngs, you'll like this too...
Perceptions of Risk: Bruce Schneier's post illustrates yet another failure in risk perception when it comes to bird flu (which hasn't killed anyone in North America, while the boring regular flu kills tens of thousands), similar to an old post of mine (which was inspired by Schneier's book).
Why scary games are better than horror movies: Clive Thompson's recent Wired article taps into something that I think is really true: it's much easier to get tensed up and paranoid while playing a game than it is while watching a movie.
For several years now, I've found that my favorite horror experiences aren't coming from movies any more. They're coming from games.
Why? Partly it's because films have become much less artistically interesting. With a choice few exceptions -- like the superb The Ring -- I've found that modern horror movies have been offering less and less suspense, and more and more gore. Maybe it's due to the rampaging success of Saw, which gave birth to the current trend toward torture-chic and metric tonnage of blood in scary movies.
In contrast, the best scary-game designers have quietly perfected the interplay of tension and release that makes for a truly cardiac horror experience. They have, in a sense, become even more faithful interpreters of the horror tradition movies than Hollywood directors.
In some cases, it's because the atmosphere is scary, in others it's just because you feel that your character is an extension of yourself (this is apparently much easier to achieve with video games because you are actually controlling your character - it's much more difficult to do this in movies, which are more passive). In particular, I remember thinking this while playing Aliens vs. Predator 2 a few years ago. That game absolutely freaked me out, every time I played it. Of course, that game plays on the tension established in the movies (especially the nerve wracking motion detector from Aliens), but they did a really good job of establishing a creepy (and yet familiar) atmosphere. It doesn't help that Aliens are absurdly fast and come from surprising directions. I might just have to reinstall that game...
I Feel So Special: James Grimmelmann had a paper break into the top 10 downloaded papers at a legal website. It was downloade 12 times. "To put that in perspective, this video of a hamster eating Cheerios was viewed ten thousand times in an hour yesterday." Hehe.
That's all for now...
Posted by Mark on September 09, 2007 at 05:42 PM .:
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
As has been fashionable lately, time is short this week, so just a few links: