Thursday, June 30, 2005
King Kong trailer and doomsaying
I’ve read a lot of different blogs lately about the new trailer for Peter Jackson’s upcoming King Kong remake. Many of them show the expected enthusiasm, but a good number of them complain about substandard CGI, bad acting from Jack Black, and a “lack of originality."
To which I say: what the heck are you talking about?
Complaints about the Star Wars prequel trilogy I can understand. Those pictures sucked despite promising trailers and top-notch effects. (Though I will still defend The Phantom Menace as the sort of hyperactive kid’s flick that Lucas was born to make.) But to dismiss Jackson's cinematic career as a whole and to decry Lord of the Rings as "a fluke" based on 30 seconds of a trailer that doesn't happen to fit your preconceived notions of an updated classic? Some folks could do with a trip to the dictionary, where they might find themselves listed under the word "hubris."
I'm not saying Jackson can do no wrong (personally I couldn't watch more than about the first thirty minutes of Meet the Feebles), but sometimes the internet buzz machine really gets me down.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
The Armstrong Williams NewsHour
That doesn't mean the right's new assault on public broadcasting is toothless, far from it. But this time the game is far more insidious and ingenious. The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense. If you liked the fake government news videos that ended up on local stations - or thrilled to the "journalism" of Armstrong Williams and other columnists who were covertly paid to promote administration policies - you'll love the brave new world this crowd envisions for public TV and radio.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Giant popsicle terrorizes New York
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Howl's Moving Castle
My wife and I caught the late show of Hayao Miyazaki's newest opus at the neighborhood theater, and I was a bit surprised to find them showing the Japanese-language print with English subtitles. Didn't Disney spend a good chunk of money on a star-studded English dub? Ah well, no matter -- I actually prefer seeing anime in the original language. It is a pleasure to hear the tones of Japanese dialogue with a storybook, uh, "videotrack." Actually, it was kind of a strange experience to be seeing a Miyazaki film for the first time in a theater instead of on a grainy, fan-subbed VHS or bootleg DVD. Scott and I have long been champions of Miyazaki's work, so it's nice that Disney has facilitated the import of his work to such an extent.
The story in this picture is along the same lines as Spirited Away; lots of magical goings-on and some personal intrigue. I was somewhat taken aback to see that the original source material was not only a novel, but a Western novel. The story fits in quite well with the Studio Ghibli style, however -- very little is as it seems, but in the end love and courage prevail over greed and violence. This is perhaps one of Miyazaki's lesser pictures, with neither the grandeur of Princess Mononoke nor the homespun charm of My Neighbor Totoro, but even Miyazaki's inferior efforts tower over most other movies.
I'm sure Scott and I will get around to reviewing Howl's Moving Castle for Stomp Tokyo eventually, but I encourage you to get out to see it in theaters if your local megaplex has been kind enough to book it.
Teddy Ruxpin is like mad digital, yo.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
What to do with 2000 Superballs?
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Homestar Runner Live
The brothers Chapman (Matt and Mike) seem relatively at home on stage at the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Austin. At first Mike forgoes his provided chair for the relative comfort of the bare stage, chatting with audience members and occasionally with the puppet version (voiced by Matt) of their beloved creation: Homestar Runner.
I’m no Homestar aficionado, but I’ve seen a good number of the cartoons (which play solely on the Homestar Runner web site ) over the last five years and I once played the stupid Trogdor video game until my fingers cramped up. (Fortunately it was a really slow day at work.) The people who fork over ten bucks each for the Homestar Runner Live show, however, are hard core. They can belt out the lyrics to “Everybody to the Limit” and reference obscure characters like Thnikkaman without hesitation. On Friday night as we stood in line (before realizing that our tickets were for Saturday night) we even spotted a guy dressed as Homestar. In other words, they are as frighteningly obsessive as any other rabid fan community, so the show is energetic, silly, and fun.
The show opens with a DV-cam sketch of Homestar Runner enjoying the sights of Austin, complete with a stop by the Frost Building—or rather, a view of the Frost Building from far enough away that Homestar is able to use it (in forced perspective) as a nosehair trimmer. Matt and Mike greet the crowd with friend & collaborator Ryan Sterritt in tow and, after a couple of quick introductory live-action bits (including a bit of Strongbad Karaoke), the house settles down for an evening of communal cartoon viewing on a big screen instead of the usual computer monitors. No matter that we’ve seen nearly all of the episodes before (though there are a few unreleased goodies). It is the experience of sharing the Homestar obsession with each other and with the creators that matters. Everyone there speaks the same twisted language—and if you aren’t drinking the HR Kool-Aid when you walked in (like my wife Christina, who’d never seen a Homestar cartoon), well at least you know who Trogdor is when you walk out.
Homestar Runner is one of the first motion picture success stories purely of the Internet. Amazingly but perhaps understandably, the Chapmans see no reason to change that. It’s likely that they could parlay their animation success into a TV series or even a feature film, but they claim to prefer the more spontaneous feel of the web. So long as there’s a new Strongbad cartoon every week or so, who’s going to argue?
How very Star Trek
Friday, June 10, 2005
Important information about beer
Thursday, June 09, 2005
My pledge to Fox
I have not been a regular watcher of the show, though I really enjoyed the first couple of discs of the first season's DVD set. Therefore, as a reward for their decidedly un-network-executive-like behavior, I make this pledge to the programming directors of Fox: I will watch Arrested Development in its third season, without fail. (Consider the Tivo Season Pass set.) I hope you'll do the same.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
One more Apple / Intel link
Switching to Intel: developers speak out
"For us and our users it means basically -- nothing much."
Monday, June 06, 2005
Apple-Intel deal - what's the fuss?
If you read technology industry news with any regularity, chances are you’re going to be hearing a lot over the next few days about Apple’s announcement that they will begin using Intel processors in Macintosh computers, switching away from the PowerPC processors manufactured by IBM. (Apple, Motorola, and IBM joined forces in the early 1990s to design and manufacture the PowerPC chips.) There’s a lot of gossip and misinformation about what this really means, but here are the highlights as I understand them. These are in no particular order.
Apple achieves speed parity with Windows manufacturers. This is probably one of the best reasons for the switch. Apple has long had to combat the perception that its computers were slower (when in fact they were often faster) because the clock speeds at which PowerPC chips run are often lower than their Intel counterparts. Apple called this the “megahertz myth” and did their best to educate users to the fact that what actually mattered were the number of instructions a processor could run per second. Unfortunately the perception remained and the megahertz myth became a gigahertz gap, especially when IBM couldn’t produce PowerPC G5 chips at the clock speeds they claimed they would be able to, on the timetable they predicted—to the point that the fastest Macs actually were slower than the fastest Windows machines. (How they compared in actual efficiency of the operating system and software performance, I don’t know.) Perhaps more importantly, IBM has yet to produce a G5 that runs at a temperature low enough to be installed in a laptop computer. With the switch to Intel chips, Apple can match any competitor’s chip speeds.
In theory, an Intel Mac could be dual-booted into Windows. This is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the switch for me, and I suspect for most users once they really think about it. Previously, if you wanted to run Windows on a Mac, you were stuck with the awful Virtual PC emulator to do so. With an Intel processor in the box, there’s no reason that Apple couldn’t allow for Windows to also be installed to run natively on the computer. You couldn’t run them side-by-side of course, and there are some definite technical and financial reasons Apple might not want to allow such a thing. If they did, however, it would be a lot easier than it is now. There are already versions of Linux that run on Apple hardware, so it’s not as if no one’s ever thought about doing this before.
Buying a Mac will be a tricky proposition for the next year or so. Personally I was hoping for some new hardware announcements, particularly in the notebook arena, but that didn’t happen. Now I’m left wondering how long I’ll be able to stick it out without a new laptop, and what PowerPC products we’ll see announced between now and the time the new Intel Macs begin shipping. I think there will be a large number of holdouts—people will obviously want to delay their new computer purchases until the new machines appear. There’s no reason to believe, however, that the next operating system (announced as “Leopard,” if you’re the kind of person who digs the jungle cat monikers) and even the one after that won’t run on PowerPC chips. The question is whether third-party vendors will always offer two versions of their software. I’m not even sure that will be necessary—will there be “fat binary” applications that automatically detect which architecture they’re using?
For the most part, end users won’t notice the difference. Honestly. Do you notice when your car dealership starts selling cars with Goodyear tires instead of Firestone? This is just as much of a non-issue to the average Mac user. Some people will care, some people will notice, but overall it’s a lot of bitching and moaning about nothing.
SeV iPod Spoof Commercial
Check out the SeV iPod Spoof Commercial.
Friday, June 03, 2005
iPod on the cover of the New Yorker
Thursday, June 02, 2005
RentAnime: Local boys make good
Rebates up to $200 on Apple Computers - thanks Dealazon!
I found this deal thanks to the amazing new Dealazon site, which searches Amazon for its best deals and spotlights them. Very cool.
Mad Hot Ballroom
The film follows the progression of a ballroom dancing competition course held among 5th graders in public schools in the boroughs of New York, but it's quickly apparent that it's not a film about the dancing. Very little time is spent focusing on technique or history or even how well the kids are doing; it's mostly about the way the program changes the way these children think about themselves and how they interact with each other, and with their teachers.
A young teacher named Allison breaks into a teary monologue about her little "ladies and gentlemen." She knows that these ten year-olds are on the cusp of losing their innocence, but watching them assume some of the posturing of adulthood, she can see glimpses of the people they might become. Across town Yomaira guides her talented team in a Dominican neighborhood with a stern but affectionate manner. All over New York, teachers like these break away from standardized tests and engage in a different sort of instruction that may be no less important.
Of course we fall in love with some of the more precocious kids: the kids who love to dance regardless of their proficiency, the kids whose mouths spout no end of outrageousness, and the kids who stumble aimlessly about when asked to change partners. When teams are eliminated from the competition we feel their loss from the film sharply. But this too is part of what the competition and the film teach us: life is full of change.
I suppose one could watch the film with only an eye towards the laughs, and there are plenty. Children moving in the stylized sexuality of the merengue are an amusing sight, no matter how what sort of dancers they become. After enough exposure and some reflection from their teachers, however, we understand that this program could well mean the difference between a happy life and a life of disappointment. These young hoofers are learning foxtrot and swing, but they are also learning who they are.
Anyone who loves New York will appreciate that the city is as also character in the film. If you have a yen to visit NYC, you'll sigh wistfully at the subways, architecture, and street life woven into the movie. While I can certainly see this class being taught in a different setting, I'm not sure it would have quite the impact, either as a picture or on the lives of the kids.
You can see the first six minutes of Mad Hot Ballroom at Apple.com.
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" Trailer
Evil Dead 2 gets the "Book of the Dead" treatment
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Duffy eventually did make Boondock Saints for a smaller budget with another production company, but it didn't make any money until it became a cult hit on DVD. A pleasant twist of the knife for the audience is the fact that Duffy's agency failed to get him a share of the video profits.
According to the IMDB, Boondock Saints II is in production. Will Duffy eventually make good and become
Entries are pretty frequent, but who cares?
More to the point: he got a book out of previous entries?